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Ask A Franciscan: What Is ‘Equivalent Canonization’?

Pope Francis has canonized several people in what news reports have described as “equivalent canonization.” My Catholic education has not prepared me for that term! What does it mean? Why is this done?

On April 3, 2014, Pope Francis signed a decree recognizing as saints Jose de Anchieta (“apostle of Brazil”), Marie de’ l’Incarnation (“mother of the Catholic Church in Canada”), and Francois de Laval (first bishop of Quebec). The pope used this procedure in 2013 for Peter Faber (a companion of St. Ignatius of Loyola) and Angela of Foligno (a Franciscan mystic). Pope Francis dispensed with the requirement of a second miracle in order to canonize Pope John XXIII last April.

Pope Benedict XVI had used equivalent canonization in 2012 before declaring Hildegard of Bingen and John of Avila as doctors of the Church. St. John Paul II had used this procedure in 1999 to canonize Kinga (Cunegunda), patroness of Lithuania and Poland.

Last December, Cardinal Angelo Amato, who heads the Congregation for the Causes of the Saints, explained in an interview with L’Osservatore Romano that the pope can waive the usual judicial process and extend to the entire Church the liturgical cult of someone who is already beatified.

Cardinal Amato said that an equivalent canonization requires a longtime liturgical cult, the “constant and common attestation” of credible historians about the person’s virtues, and an “uninterrupted reputation for wonders” obtained through that person’s intercession.