Last week, The Vatican issued new rules for the process of determining if healings can qualify as miracles for sainthoods. The new rules cover how a panel of medical experts should scrutinise potential miracles in the future.
The move comes after Pope Francis expressed his determination to ensure the sainthood avoids any potential scandals. Francis demanded more accountability, after it was revealed that the saint-making process had raked in hundreds of thousands of euros in donations per candidate, with virtually no financial oversight.
What is a miracle?
One of the new regulations stipulates a potential miracle can no longer be presented for consideration, if it fails to pass before a board of medical experts three times. Those dealing with a presumed miracle will be sworn to secrecy and medical experts are banned from having contact with the postulator of the cause for sainthood.
In order to qualify as a miracle, two-thirds of the medical panel now need to approve a statement confirming a healing cannot be explained naturally or scientifically, such as when a cure has been found through clinical trials or those working in clinical trial services.
From now on, medical experts will no longer be paid in cash in order to safeguard against possible financial abuses.
The new rules were established by a seven-member commission, led by Archbishop Bartolucci. Their task was to update the rules established in 1983 by St John Paul II. Excluding martyrs, to be declared a saint, a person must have performed two miracles – one for beatification and another for canonisation.
How to become a saint
A person cannot be named a saint until five years after their death. This allows time for emotions to calm, so an individual’s case can be evaluated objectively.
After five years, the bishop of the diocese where the person died is able to open an investigation into the life of the individual to determine if they lived with enough holiness and virtue to be considered for sainthood. If so, the case is passed to the Pope, who decides if that person lived a life of “heroic virtue”. If the Pope agrees, they can then be called “venerable”. It is then that the person’s miracles are considered and they are eligible to become a saint.