Factbox: Roman Catholic Church's saint-making process

Sun May 1, 2011 6:51am EDT
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(Reuters) - The late Pope John Paul moved a major step closer to sainthood on Sunday at a ceremony that drew more than a million people, the largest crowd in Rome since his funeral six years ago.

Here are some key facts about the canonization process by which the Roman Catholic Church makes a saint:


-- Under normal Church rules, five years must pass after a person dies before the procedure for sainthood can even begin. Despite a person's reputation of holiness during his or her life, the process cannot begin until after death.

-- The reigning pope has the authority to waive the five-year waiting period. Pope Benedict put John Paul on the fast track in May 2005, just two months after his predecessor died.

-- When the local bishop begins the "cause," the candidate for sainthood receives the title "Servant of God." A "postulator" is then appointed to help gather information about the candidate. The postulator also reviews nearly every word known to have been written or spoken by the candidate.

-- One miracle is required after a candidate's death for the cause to move on to beatification. The miracle must be the result of a person praying to the candidate for intercession with God. Miracles are usually the healing of medical conditions that doctors are at a loss to explain.

-- The candidate can then be beatified and declared a "blessed" of the church. Another distinct miracle is needed between beatification and canonization, or the conferring of sainthood.

-- Parts of the Church's saint-making process go back several centuries. The procedure is detailed and often long. In the early Church, a simple acclamation sufficed.   Continued...