Saints of the Global South – where are they?

On 24 January we learned of six decrees presented by the Dicastery for the Causes of Saints and promulgated by Pope Francis.

I count three Italians, one Spaniard, one Pole and one Canadian. No doubt every single one was a person of great faith. Indeed, one was martyred “in hatred of the faith.”

What strikes me, though, is that every single one of these five Servants of God and one Blessed comes from the northern hemisphere, the Global North.

In fact, Servant of God Sebastian Gil Vilves is the one who comes from the furthest south, i.e. Palma de Mallorca in Spain, which lies at 39.6°N latitude, nearly halfway from the Equator to the North Pole!

Good news, however!

In December 2023, Pope Francis promulgated seven decrees concerning nine people of whom four were from the Global South, one from Guatemala and three from DR Congo.

But the three from the Congo were all missionary priests from France and Italy.

Moreover, five out of the nine were Italian!

Well, I don’t doubt that Italy is full of saints and that so is the Global North as a whole!

And no doubt it’s also true that, given that many churches of the Global South are still of fairly recent origin, it’s going to take time for causes from those often poor regions to make their way through the processes for beatification and canonisation.

Still, in a synodal Church that professes to be “walking with the people” and “opting for the poor,” surely it’s time for the Holy See to make these processes more accessible to people from the Global South?

Pope Francis has often championed popular religiosity.

If saints exist not for themselves but for the rest of us, then a synodal Church needs more recognised saints from the Global South!

  • Stefan Gigacz is an honorary postdoctoral associate at Yarra Theological Union and the University of Divinity as well as the secretary of the Australian Cardijn Institute.
  • First published at Synodal Reflections. Republished with permission.
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