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Speaker discusses St. John Paul II’s canonization policy

| Friday, January 27, 2017

St. John Paul II’s approach to canonization and beatification was unprecedented in its scale, Valentina Ciciliot said during her lecture “John Paul II’s Canonization Policy: the Italian Case.”

“Pope John Paul II declared a huge number of blessed, and more than half of all the saints proclaimed by the Catholic Church since the establishment of the Sacred Congregation of Rites in the 16th century,” Ciciliot said Thursday evening at Hesburgh Library.

Ciciliot, a postdoctorate fellow at the University’s Cushwa Center, said his new canonization policy was helped by expediting the traditionally long, drawn-out process.

“A direct consequence of the new legislation is particularly the possibility to start canonical processes after five years from the death of a candidate to sanctity,” Ciciliot said. “Before, it was 50 years.”

Consequently, Ciciliot said John Paul II was able to canonize more modern and relatable figures.

“Now the Church is able to compete with the heroes and stars proposed by civil society,” Ciciliot said.

Ciciliot said John Paul II’s tendency towards frequent canonizations was an attempt to provide the world with models of morality and sanctity to whom all people should aspire.

“John Paul II’s canonization policy has become one of the Catholic Church’s main instruments for the restoration of society,” Ciciliot said.

The effect of John Paul II’s canonization policy was especially profound in Italy, since a disproportionally large number of Italians were beatified and sainted. Ciciliot said she believes this was an intentional move by John Paul II to reinstate Italy as a model of Christian behavior.

“Italy is the country which more than any other has been in the past a stronghold of the Christian message,” Ciciliot said. “Now it has the task of rediscovering its evangelizing rule and representing it with all necessary force to a modern world.”

Ciciliot said John Paul II is also unique in the attention he paid to laypeople and, in particular, laywomen.

“During his pontificate, John Paul II led purely and powerfully, especially regarding women, maternity and family,” Ciciliot said.

One very prominent example of John Paul II’s focus on women is seen in his canonization of Gianna Beretta Molla, a mother who died after refusing to terminate a pregnancy she knew could result in death.

“The new saint was presented as an authentic layperson, as a woman who lived her life and her sanctity in a perfectly ordinary way, close to the experiences of any wife or mother,” Ciciliot said. “No mother of a family had been made a saint since the Middle Ages.”

Through the canonization of Molla, Ciciliot said John Paul II hoped to create a modern, ordinary saint out of a mother during a time when pro-abortion movements were sweeping Italy.

“The aim was to record a moral high ground through a wider dogmatization of moral principles to which contemporary society should refer, or else face the risk of a breakdown of civilization,” Ciciliot said.

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