Home>>Articles & Slideshows>>What is the Role of the Postulator in the Process of Canonization of a Saint?

Role of the Postulator in the Process of Canonization of a Saint

A postulator is the person designated to guide the case of beatification or canonization through the juridical process required in the Catholic Church. The postulator may be a cleric, religious, or lay person, who has an understanding of the theological, historical, medical, and canonical demands that make up the process of canonization required by the Holy See and the Congregation for the Cause of Saints. The postulator must also be a person of the highest integrity so as to avoid any possible abuse or scandal in obtaining testimony and the care of the relics of the proposed saint. Further, the postulator and their staff must take an oath to faithfully fulfill their task and keep strict confidentiality.  

The “petitioner” seeking the beatification of a deceased person names the postulator of the cause of that saint. If a diocesan bishop is the petitioner, he names the postulator. Normally the postulator will work in the local chancery or at the shrine of the candidate for sainthood (if one has been established). If a major religious order is the petitioner, then the religious superior will appoint a member of that order to act as the “postulator general”. In the case of large religious orders (Franciscan, Jesuit, Carmelite, Dominican), it is common for several causes of canonization to be ongoing at the same time. Therefore, most major religious communities have a Postulator General, Vice Postulator, and a staff of who are experienced in the needs of the process. As the final stages of the process for beatification and canonization require direct interaction with several offices in the Holy See, most religious orders have the office of their postulator general located at the Order’s headquarters in Rome. 

93 RSAB25 s Giovanni Leonardi 05

Pre-canonization reliquary theca housing ex ossibus (of the bone) first-class relics of S. Giovanni Leonardi (†1609), founder of the Clerks Regular of the Mother of God of Lucca. with original authentics document issued in 1907 by the Postulator General for his canonization. He was beatified in 1861 and canonized in 1938 by Pope Pius XI.

****************

The postulator’s first, and most important duty, is to investigate the life of the person proposed for beatification. Assisted by the petitioner, the postulator does a thorough review of all collected testimony and an examination of any written documents. Then examinations are done of any miracles attributed to the intercession of that candidate, which involve experts in fields of medicine and science.  Any possible objections are fully reviewed. Finally, the postulator gives to the Holy See a biography and the official transcript of the investigation (with all evidence collected), and makes themselves available for consultation with the Congregation for the Cause of Saints.  

Finally the postulator is entrusted with the care of the holy relics of the candidate (saint), in order to promote public devotion to that saint. Postulators issue relics and their documentation, promulgate books and liturgical prayers on the saint, and keep records of further miracles worked the saint’s intercession.  

The documentation that comes with a relic is signed by the postulator or vice postulator, who is the expert on the life of the saint. The document also has the seal of the bishop or religious order who is the petitioner. The red wax seal on the back of the relic also matches the seal of the petitioner who brought the cause from the first inquiry, over many years of work, to the pope’s official declaration of beatification or canonization.