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Pontiff decrees that ‘offering of life’ is path to sainthood

July 11, 2017

Pope Francis has issued an apostolic letter decreeing that the oblatio vitae—the “offering of life”—has joined martyrdom and the heroic exercise of the virtues as a recognized path to beatification and canonization in the Church.

The title of the apostolic letter, Maiorem hac dilectionem (“Greater love than this”), is a reference to Christ’s words in St. John’s Gospel (“Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends,” 15:13).

The faithful who “have voluntarily and freely offered their lives for others and have persevered until death in this intention are worthy of special esteem and honor,” the Pope wrote in his motu proprio, dated and issued on July 11.

The Pope wrote that five conditions must be met for a Servant of God’s beatification under this category:

  • “the free and voluntary offering of one’s life and the heroic acceptance, on account of charity, of a certain and near death”
  • a link between the offering of life and a premature death
  • at least an ordinary exercise of the Christian virtues before and after the offering of life
  • the existence, after death, of a reputation of sanctity and of (potentially miraculous) signs
  • a miracle obtained through the Servant of God’s intercession

The Pope’s letter follows a September 2016 meeting of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, whose members offered a favorable opinion on the question of whether the offering of life should become a new official path to beatification.


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Show 3 Comments? (Hidden)Hide Comments
  • Posted by: TheJournalist64 - Jul. 12, 2017 8:08 AM ET USA

    It's hard to see that this is something new. We used to call people with these characteristics "confessors" and they remain with that designation on the EF calendar. Consider, for instance, St. Aloysius Gonzaga, who offered his life for plague victims.

  • Posted by: ElizabethD - Jul. 11, 2017 9:30 AM ET USA

    what about the CDF, were they consulted and what did they say? There is an obvious need for a sound theological undergirding of this that all the faithful can trust. If it's a good idea then such a theological explanation of the matter will only contribute to this new development. It's not necessarily obvious to all that heroic charity can exist without the heroic degree of the virtues in general. This idea really definitely requires some more development.

  • Posted by: feedback - Jul. 11, 2017 9:12 AM ET USA

    The goal of every Christian's life should be personal holiness and sainthood rather than a canonization procedure. In fact, most Saints have not been beatified or canonized by the Church. The lack of a formal canonization process never excludes the possibility of sainthood, to which everyone is being called.