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Album of saints has room for more young people, says cardinal

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VATICAN CITY — All saints are exceptional, but the canonization of 19-year-old St. Nunzio Sulprizio wasn't, if one considers how many young people officially have been recognized by the Catholic Church, said the cardinal who leads the Vatican office in charge of documenting holy lives.

Cardinal Angelo Becciu is prefect of the Congregation for Saints' Causes, an office that was established in 1588 to standardize the process used to determine which holy men and women would be recognized as saints and have their feast days added to the church's calendar.

St. Nunzio Sulprizio was canonized Oct. 14 in the same ceremony that proclaimed the holiness of St. Paul VI, who was pope from 1963 to 1978, and St. Oscar Romero, the archbishop of San Salvador, who was assassinated in 1980 while celebrating Mass.

In the 430 years since his office was established, Cardinal Becciu told the Synod of Bishops that about 160 young people — under the age of 30 — have been canonized and another 733 have been beatified or declared "blessed," which is the step before they are recognized as saints.

In the cases of another 54 young people, the church formally has recognized that they lived the Christian virtues in a heroic way; that declaration — meaning the person is "venerable" — is the first major step of the sainthood process.

Before they can be beatified, the church must recognize that they were martyred for their faith or must attribute a miracle to their intercession, which in most cases means that someone who was seriously ill prayed that the venerable young person would intercede with God and request healing.

The Catholic Church sees the miracle as a sign that the sainthood candidate really is in heaven with God.

At the Synod of Bishops, an assembly discussing "young people, the faith and vocational discernment," Cardinal Becciu said there are at least another 150 young people whose holiness is being studied. That number, he said, does not include young men and women under 30 who may be part of large groups of martyrs.

"Is that a lot? Is that too few?" the cardinal asked synod members. "The essential question, I would say, is not the number, but the message that these young people are able to transmit to their peers and the ability of the church — beginning with its pastors — to make their witness eloquent and fascinating."

The whole process leading to an official church declaration of sainthood usually begins in the diocese where a holy person lived and died. And, at the synod, Cardinal Becciu asked all the bishops who lead dioceses to "help us make the young people in heaven more visible."

Hundreds, perhaps thousands of the Catholic Church's officially recognized saints are men and women who started religious orders of priests or sisters.

Cardinal Becciu pleaded with the bishops: "Don't reserve the fast track to the altars to founders and foundresses but expand the list of young people on the waiting list."


© Arlington Catholic Herald 2018