ISSUED MOTU PROPRIO
BY THE SUPREME PONTIFF
MAIOREM HAC DILECTIONEM
ON THE OFFERING OF LIFE
“No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends”. (John 15:13)
Worthy of special consideration and honor are those Christians who, following more closely the footsteps and teachings of the Lord Jesus, have voluntarily and freely offered their life for others and have persevered with this determination unto death.
It is certain that the heroic offering of life, inspired and sustained by charity, expresses a true, complete and exemplary imitation of Christ, and thus is deserving of that admiration which the community of the faithful customarily reserves to those who have voluntarily accepted martyrdom of blood or have exercised the Christian virtues to a heroic degree.
With the support of the favorable opinion of the Congregation for the Causes of the Saints which, in its Plenary Session of 27 September 2016, carefully studied whether these Christians are deserving of beatification, I establish that the following norms be observed:
The offering of life is a new case for the procedure of beatification and canonization, distinct from the cases based on martyrdom and on the heroicity of virtues.
The offering of life, in order that it be valid and effective for the beatification of a Servant of God, must correspond to the following criteria:
a) free and voluntary offering of life and heroic acceptance propter caritatem of a death that is certain and occurs within a brief period of time;
b) nexus between the offering of life and the premature death;
c) exercise, at least to an ordinary degree, of the Christian virtues before the offering of life and, then, until death;
d) existence of the reputation of sanctity and of signs, at least after death;
e) necessity of the miracle for beatification, that has occurred after the death of the Servant of God and granted through his or her intercession.
The celebration of the diocesan or eparchial Inquiry and the relative Positio are regulated by the Apostolic Constitution Divinus perfectionis Magister of 25 January 1983, in Acta Apostolicae Sedis Vol. LXXV (1983, 349-355), and by the Normae servandae in inquisitionibus ab Episcopis faciendis in Causis Sanctorum of 7 February of the same year, in Acta Apostolicae Sedis Vol. LXXV (1983, 396-403), except as follows.
The Positio on the offering of life must respond to the dubium: An constet de heroica oblatione vitae usque ad mortem propter caritatem necnon de virtutibus christianis, saltem in gradu ordinario, in casu et ad effectum de quo agitur.
The following articles of the cited Apostolic Constitution are thus modified:
“It is the right of diocesan Bishops or Bishops of the Eastern Rite and others who have the same powers in law, within the limits of their own jurisdiction, either ex officio or upon the request of individual members of the faithful or of legitimate groups and their representatives, to inquire about the life, the virtues, the offering of life or the martyrdom and reputation of sanctity, of the offering of life or of martyrdom, on the alleged miracles, as well as, if it be the case, on the ancient cult of the Servant of God, whose canonization is sought”.
Art. 2, 5:
“The Inquiry into alleged miracles is to be conducted separately from the Inquiry into the virtues, the offering of life or the martyrdom”.
Art. 7, 1:
“to study the causes entrusted to them, together with collaborators from outside the Congregation, and to prepare the Positiones on the virtues, on the offering of life or on the martyrdom”.
Art. 13, 2:
“If the Meeting judges that the cause was conducted according to the norms of law, it will decide to which Relator the cause is to be assigned; the Relator, then, together with a collaborator from outside the Congregation, will prepare the Positio on the virtues, on the offering of life or on the martyrdom according to the rules of critical hagiography”.
The following Articles of the cited Normae servandae in inquisitionibus ab Episcopis faciendis in Causis Sanctorum are thus modified:
“The cause can be recent or ancient; it is called recent if the martyrdom, the virtues or the offering of life of the Servant of God can be proved through the oral depositions of eye witnesses; it is ancient, however, when the proofs for the martyrdom or the virtues or the offering of life can be brought to light only from written sources”.
Art. 10, 1:
“in both recent and ancient causes, a biography of any historical import of the Servant of God, should such exist, or otherwise an accurate, chronologically arranged report on the life and deeds of the Servant of God, on the virtues or on the offering of life or on the martyrdom, on the reputation of sanctity and of miracles, without omitting anything that seems to be contrary or less favorable to the cause”.
Art. 10, 3:
“in recent causes only, a list of persons who can help bring to light the truth about the virtues or on the offering of life or on the martyrdom of the Servant of God, as well as on his reputation of sanctity and of miracles. Those with contrary opinions must also be included”.
Art. 15, a:
“Once the report has been received, the Bishop is to hand over to the Promotor of Justice or to another expert everything that has been acquired to that point so that he might prepare the Interrogatories most effective in searching out and discovering the truth about the life, the virtues, the offering of life or the martyrdom, the reputation of sanctity, of offering of life or of martyrdom of the Servant of God”.
Art. 15, b:
“In ancient causes the interrogatories are only to consider the reputation of sanctity, of offering of life or of martyrdom existing until the present and, if it be the case, the cult given to the Servant of God in more recent times”.
“In order to prove the martyrdom, the exercise of the virtues or the offering of life and the reputation of miracles of a Servant of God who belonged to any Institute of Consecrated Life, a significant number of the proposed witnesses must be from outside the Institute unless, on account of the particular life of the Servant of God, this should prove impossible”.
“The Inquiry on the miracles must be instructed separately from the Inquiry on the virtues or on the offering of life or on the martyrdom and is to be conducted according to the norms that follow”.
“Solemn celebrations or panegyric speeches about the Servants of God whose sanctity of life is still being legitimately examined are prohibited in Churches. Furthermore, one must also refrain, even outside of Church, from any acts which could mislead the faithful into thinking that the Inquiry conducted by the Bishop on the life and on the virtues, on the martyrdom or on the offering of life of the Servant of God, carries with it the certitude of the future canonization of the Servant of God”.
All that I have deliberated with this Apostolic Letter, issued motu proprio, I order be observed in all its parts, notwithstanding anything to the contrary, even should it merit particular mention, and I establish that it be promulgated by publication in L’Osservatore Romano, entering into force on the same day of its promulgation and that, subsequently, it be inserted into the Acta Apostolicae Sedis.
Given in Rome, at Saint Peter’s, on the 11th day of July 2017, the fifth year of Our Pontificate.