Governing the Roman Catholic Church, the Pope makes use of the Roman Curia, the administrative apparatus of the Holy See. Part of this apparatus are congregations which could be compared to the ministries of a government.
The Congregation for the Causes of Saints takes care of the complex process which leads to the canonization of Saints, passing through the steps of a declaration of "heroic virtues" and beatification. After preparing a case, including the approval of miracles, the case is presented to the pope, who decides whether or not to proceed with beatification or canonization.
The predecessor of the congregation was the Sacred Congregation for Rites, founded by Pope Sixtus V on 22 January 1588 in the BullImmensa Aeterni Dei. The congregation dealt both with regulating divine worship, and the causes of saints. On 8 May 1969, Pope Paul VI issued the Apostolic Constitution Sacra Rituum Congregatio, dividing it into two congregations, the Congregation for the Divine Worship and one for the causes of saints. The latter was given three offices, those of the judiciary, the Promoter General of the Faith and the historical-juridical.
With the changes in the canonization process introduced by Pope John Paul II in 1983, a College of Relators was added to prepare the cases of those declared as Servants of God.
This investigation examines and confirms (or disproves) any number of visions or miracles attributed to candidate, or of the general holiness or specific good deeds that he or she may have done while alive.
A Saint may be designated as a Patron saint of particular causes or professions, or invoked against specific illnesses or disasters.
This was the case with the sainthood of Tsar Nicholas II of Russia and his family.
At the time fixed by the Congregation of Rites an ordinary meeting (congregatio) is held in which this appointment is debated by the cardinals of the aforesaid congregation and its officials, but without the vote or participation of the consultors, though this privilege is always granted them by rescript.
When the miracles have been proved, another meeting of the Congregation of Rites is held in which it is debated once, and only once, whether or not, given the approbation of the virtues and miracles, it is safe to proceed with the solemnities of beatification.
The other meetings of the congregation (ordinary, rotal, and "upon virtues and miracles") may be as few as sixteen in the course of the year.
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