Vatican Diary / Those saints made as he commands
For Romero, Francis loosens the restraints of the Holy Office. For John XXIII and for a Jesuit to whom he is devoted, he goes ahead without waiting for the miracle required by the norms. In beatifications and canonizations, the pope is acting as an absolute monarch
by Sandro Magister
VATICAN CITY, July 15, 2013 – Jorge Mario Bergoglio continues to prefer calling himself the bishop of Rome and is avoiding, as long as he can, following his signature with the double “P” that stands for pope.
And he is doing so with a promptness and efficacy of curial governance that makes that of his immediate predecessors pale in comparison. With a style that recalls in certain ways that of Pius XII, who was his own secretary of state – leaving the position vacant – and was the last pontiff not to have a more or less cumbersome personal secretary, as was the case with his successors until Francis.
One field in which pope Bergoglio is making the entire weight of his personal decisions felt is that of beatifications and canonizations, which for centuries have been in the exclusive power of the supreme pontiff.
GREEN LIGHT FOR ROMERO
As has been revealed, after an audience of Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, the postulator of the cause, with Pope Francis, the congregation for the doctrine of the faith has finally given the go-ahead to the process of beatification of the Salvadoran archbishop Oscar Arnulfo Romero, brutally assassinated while he was celebrating the Eucharist.
It had been the former Holy Office led by then-cardinal Joseph Ratzinger that had blocked the cause, in part because of the influence over Bishop Romero – and above all over his boundless homiletic production – exercised by the Jesuit Jon Sobrino, a leading exponent of liberation theology whose writings have undergone censure with a notification from the Vatican congregation.
It is not clear, however, if the decision of the congregation for the doctrine of the faith to resume the progress of the cause had already been made during the very last phase of Ratzinger’s pontificate.
‘MOTU PROPRIO’ FOR THE WELL-BELOVED JESUIT
One of Francis’s decisions that is certainly personal is that of proceeding – as revealed in “Avvenire” by the journalist and friend of the current pope Stefania Falasca – with the canonization of the Savoyard Peter Faber, one of the founders of the Society of Jesus, now venerated as blessed.
The reasons for this intention are easy to identify in the evident analogy between the way in which Faber carried out his mission during the terrible period of crisis for the Church occasioned by the Protestant Reformation and the way in which pope Bergoglio today intends to fulfill the task of successor of Peter.
Faber, in fact, the historians recount, counterposed the witness of his own life and his insistence on a thorough internal reform of the Church to the theological controversies and to every illusion of being able to impose the authentic faith by force. And in doing so he earned the esteem of saints who nonetheless are considered seasoned champions of the Catholic Counter-Reformation, like Francis de Sales and Peter Canisius.
In all probability, the canonization of Faber will take place without the usual ceremony but with a simple pontifical act that will certify the so-called canonization “equivalent.”
This is a procedure ordinarily used for personages who lived in past centuries and whom the pope, by virtue of his authority, decides to elevate to the rank of saint without the miracle attributed to their intercession, which is instead necessary in normal causes.
This procedure has been used, for example, by Benedict XVI for Hildegard of Bingen, by John XXIII for Gregorio Barbarigo, by Pius XII for Margaret of Hungary, by Pius XI for Albert the Great.
POPE JOHN A SAINT WITHOUT THE MIRACLE
But the most sensational decision made by Pope Francis in this field is certainly that of proceeding with the canonization of John XXIII without a miracle being attributed to his intercession and having taken place after his beatification.
Pope Roncalli will thus balance, in fact, the other canonization foreseen, that of John Paul II. And thus will be repeated what happened in 2000 when the beatification of Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli, the pope of Vatican Council II, was paired with that of Pius IX, the pope of the antimodern “Syllabus.”
The exemption from the miracle granted by Francis to Pope John is particularly striking.
Benedict XVI did a great deal for pope Karol Wojtyla, dispensing with the norm that establishes that five years must pass after the death of the candidate for the altars in order to begin the process. But beyond this important acceleration, the procedural norms were formally respected, and two miracles had to be attributed to his intercession in order to inscribe him in the register of the saints.
But Francis has done more for John XXIII. Precisely by exercising his power as supreme pontiff, he has decreed that the miracle is not necessary for Roncalli, and that no more is needed than the enduring reputation of holiness that surrounds his figure and the “fama signorum,” meaning the graces attributed to him, which continue to be attested to (even if none of them has been canonically certified as a real and proper miracle).
In practice, therefore, Francis has exploited to the utmost the pontifical power at his disposal as head of the universal Church, in order to make a decision that seems to have no precedent as far as causes not concerning martyrs are concerned.
In 1982 John Paul II, in fact, stretching the traditional forms and practices, canonized Maximilian Kolbe – who had been beatified by Paul VI as a confessor following the two miracles required at the time – by proclaiming him a martyr of charity.
And then in 2000 he canonized 140 martyrs of China, “exempting” each of them from the miracle. The action provoked a grave crisis with the government of Beijing, in part because the rite was celebrated on October 1, the national feast of the People’s Republic of China: a decision – this latter – that was considered a “gaffe” by the nonetheless combative Cardinal Joseph Zen.
MORE THAN WITH MOTHER TERESA OF CALCUTTA
John Paul II however, in spite of a petition signed by numerous cardinals, did not grant that Mother Teresa of Calcutta should be proclaimed a saint immediately, with no more than the miracle attributed to her in the cause of beatification.
Thus Francis has granted to John XXIII that which John Paul II did not permit for Mother Teresa.
But one can imagine that the Albanian sister in heaven will not bicker over this with the pope from Bergamo.
Nor will she complain to the Polish pope for his not having exercised with her the Petrine “munus” to the highest degree, as the current bishop of Rome is doing.
English translation by Matthew Sherry, Ballwin, Missouri, U.S.A.