Martyrs, miracles and the stuff of making saints

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Floribeth Mora, a Costa Rican woman whose inoperable brain aneurysm purportedly disappeared after she prayed to John Paul II, walks past a statue of him made by Polish artist Anna Gulak as she leaves after a press conference at the Vatican, Thursday, April 24, 2014. John Paul II will be made saint together with late Pope John XXIII during a solemn ceremony at the Vatican Sunday. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)

Floribeth Mora, a Costa Rican woman whose inoperable brain aneurysm purportedly disappeared after she prayed to John Paul II, walks past a statue of him made by Polish artist Anna Gulak as she leaves after a press conference at the Vatican, Thursday, April 24, 2014. John Paul II will be made saint together with late Pope John XXIII during a solemn ceremony at the Vatican Sunday. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)

Floribeth Mora, a Costa Rican woman whose inoperable brain aneurysm purportedly disappeared after she prayed to John Paul II, walks past a statue of him made by Polish artist Anna Gulak as she leaves after a press conference at the Vatican, Thursday, April 24, 2014. John Paul II will be made saint together with late Pope John XXIII during a solemn ceremony at the Vatican Sunday. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)

Floribeth Mora, a Costa Rican woman whose inoperable brain aneurysm purportedly disappeared after she prayed to John Paul II, attends a press conference at the Vatican, Thursday, April 24, 2014. John Paul II will be made saint together with late Pope John XXIII during a solemn ceremony at the Vatican Sunday. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)

Floribeth Mora, a Costa Rican woman whose inoperable brain aneurysm purportedly disappeared after she prayed to John Paul II, is flanked by father Federico Lombardi as she attends a press conference at the Vatican, Thursday, April 24, 2014. John Paul II will be made saint together with late Pope John XXIII during a solemn ceremony at the Vatican Sunday. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)

Floribeth Mora, a Costa Rican woman whose inoperable brain aneurysm purportedly disappeared after she prayed to John Paul II, is flanked by father Federico Lombardi as she attends a press conference at the Vatican, Thursday, April 24, 2014. John Paul II will be made saint together with late Pope John XXIII during a solemn ceremony at the Vatican Sunday. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)

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VATICAN CITY (AP) — The Catholic Church makes saints to give the faithful role models. The process is cloaked in secrecy and open to criticism, given that it deals with science-defying miracles and notoriously politicized choices. In Sunday’s dual papal canonization of John Paul II and John XXIII, it also involves rule-breaking, fast-track procedures.

But saints aren’t going away anytime soon.

“Saintliness is part of the church’s DNA,” the Vatican’s current chief saint-maker, Cardinal Angelo Amato, wrote in his 2012 tome on canonization. “Through the centuries, saints have been the spiritual doorway through which humanity is directed toward God.”

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THE BASICS

The Vatican’s detailed process for making a saint usually starts in the diocese where the candidate lived or died. A postulator — essentially the cheerleader spearheading the project — gathers testimony and documentation to build the case and presents the report to the Vatican’s Congregation for the Causes of Saints. If the congregation’s experts agree the candidate lived a virtuous life, the case is forwarded to the pope who signs a decree attesting to the candidate’s “heroic virtues.”

Over time, the postulator may come across information that someone was miraculously healed by praying to the candidate. If, upon further investigation, the cure cannot be medically explained, the case is presented to the congregation as the possible miracle needed for beatification. Panels of doctors, theologians, bishops and cardinals must certify that the cure was instantaneous, complete and lasting — and was due to the intercession of the sainthood candidate. If convinced, the congregation sends the case to the pope who signs a decree saying the candidate can be beatified. A second miracle is needed for canonization.

Beatification allows for veneration of the candidate locally, say in a particular diocese or country. Canonization allows for veneration throughout the universal church.

Martyrs, or people who were killed for their faith, get a free pass and can be beatified without a miracle. A miracle is needed, however, for martyrs to be canonized.

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JOHN XXIII AND JOHN PAUL II

John Paul’s record sprint to sainthood started during his 2005 funeral Mass, when chants of “Santo Subito” or “Sainthood Now” erupted from the crowd. Bowing to the calls, Pope Benedict XVI waived the typical five-year waiting period before a saintly investigation can begin and allowed the process to start just weeks after his death.

The rest of the process followed the rules: John Paul was beatified in 2011 after the Vatican certified that a French nun suffering from Parkinson’s disease was miraculously healed after she prayed to him. A Costa Rican woman whose inoperable brain aneurism purportedly disappeared after she prayed to John Paul was the second miracle needed for canonization.

“I was scared. I just wanted to die at home,” Floribeth Mora told reporters Thursday of her state of mind after receiving her aneurism diagnosis. She said she saw a photo of John Paul in a magazine on the day he was beatified. “And from that moment I started a new life.”

John XXIII was beatified in 2000 after the Vatican certified that the healing of an Italian nun suffering from a gastric hemorrhage was miraculous.

Pope Francis, very much a spiritual son of John, waived the Vatican rule requiring a second miracle so that John could be canonized alongside John Paul.

While popes past have tended to follow the saint-making process precisely except for occasional exceptions, Francis has waived the rules now on several occasions. On Thursday, for example, he presided over a Mass of thanksgiving for a Brazilian saint he declared without the necessary miracle.

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SAINTS GALORE

John Paul declared more saints — 482 — than all

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