Last Sunday, two former Popes were canonized and declared as Saints by the living Popes of this day. It has become a controversial issue - both among the Catholics and among non-Catholics. Many people ask why this “fast-track canonization”? The canonization ceremony which declared the late Pope John XXIII and Pope John Paul II as Saints was a historical event attended by more than one million people from all over the world.
What is the significance of canonization? Who is declared as a Saint? What is the purpose of this ceremony? Is it a recent ritual to recognize holy people? Wasthere any incident in the life of Jesus to support this event of canonization?
The Catholic Church makes the official announcement of declaring a Saint by the process called - Canonization. It is a public event to recognize that a deceased person has reached heaven. It is a long process of recognizing a deceased person as saint through studying his/her life in detail and after the confirmation of miracles that had been performed by that saint’s intercession.
What is meant by the word saint?
A saint is said to be a person who is enjoying the eternal bliss of heaven. It is a belief that the particular person has reached heaven after his/her life on this earth. It is a Christian belief that the goal of human creation is enjoying the eternal bliss of heaven after the person’s death. Whoever reaches heaven is supposed to be a saint.
When Mother Teresa of Kolkata died and the Catholic Church began the process of declaring her as a saint, people of India were saying, “We do not need any canonization ceremony to declare her as a saint since Mother is already a saint in our hearts.” When the funeral ceremonies of late Pope John Paul II were going on, the people who gathered in Rome were yellingwith a devotional shout, “Subito Sancto” which means “(he is) immediately a saint”!
Canonization is a long process of the Catholic Church which had various steps of recognition.
Jesus declared a criminal a saint, just before his death
Did Jesus Christ do anything of this sort? Can you imagine or ever thought of a thief or a criminal who was declared a saint by Jesus Christ himself? Yes, it is interesting to know about the event of Jesus declaring a thief a saint! An instant saint!
The gospel of Luke narrates this incident in chapter 23. When Jesus was crucified, there were two criminals who were also crucified on both sides of Jesus. The criminal on the left was scolding and cursing Jesus and others. But the other one on the right believed Jesus and was sorry for his mistakes. He requested Jesus to think of him (when Jesus reached heaven). He was rewarded for his faith.
The criminal on the right revealed his faith through his testimony and Jesus promised that he (the criminal) would be in heaven with him that day day itself (after their death). The criminal or the “good thief” was promised Paradise by Jesus for his repenting heart and his love for justice. Is it not a declaration by Jesus that the criminal would reach heaven as a saint?
Sainthood is not a degree or a title. It is the right of every human being to reach heaven and enjoy a life with God. It is for that every human is created on this earth.