Pope Francis grants sainthood to those who die for others

Posted July 13, 2017

With his new path to sainthood - people who give their lives to save others - Pope Francis on Tuesday made one of the most significant changes in centuries to the Roman Catholic Church's saint-making procedures.

Until now, gaining consideration for sainthood in the Catholic Church required martyrdom, living a life of heroic values or - less frequently invoked - having a clear saintly reputation.

The pope's letter means that someone who voluntarily dies in place of another person can be considered for beatification-a process that declares the subject "blessed" and which is a precursor to being made a saint-and canonization.

Though similar to martyrdom, this definition fits those Servants of God who have in some way given up their life prematurely for charity, though the circumstances may fall outside the strict definition of martyrdom, which requires the presence of a persecutor.

There are four criteria this case must meet in order to be "valid and efficacious" for the beatification of a Servant of God. In other words, Christians must venerate them as a holy person. An example of this fourth avenue to sainthood might be a pious individual who becomes diagnosed with a life-threatening disease.

Sisters of the Missionaries of Charity, stand in front of the official canonization portrait of Mother Teresa, during a portrait unveiling ceremony at The Saint John Paul II National Shrine, September 1, 2016 in Washington, DC.

However, the three pathways "don't seem sufficient to interpret all of the cases of possible saints to be canonized", he wrote, acknowledging that the new route incorporates both elements of martyrdom and living a life of heroic values, without being fully covered by either.

Chiara Corbella, a 28-year-old woman from Italy who died after refusing cancer treatment because it would harm her unborn child, would also be eligible according to an I-Media report cited by The Guardian.

Pope Francis has almost doubled his predecessor's record by having canonized 838 people so far, though 813 of them were martyrs from a single 13th-century event.