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In Catholicism, beatification (from Latin beatus, blessed, via Greek μακάριος, makarios) is a recognition accorded by the church of a dead person's accession to Heaven and capacity to intercede on behalf of individuals who pray in his or her name (intercession of saints). As far as the word "beatification" is concerned, its use most likely does not antedate the fourth century, when it was introduced in the church at Carthage, but the idea is certainly older. In the earlier ages this honor was entirely local and passed from one diocese to another with the permission of their bishops. This is clear from the fact that early Christian cemeteries contain paintings only of local martyrs. The history of the process is more closely examined in the article on canonization.

Some of the beatifications by bishops in the Middle Ages are almost scandalous by modern standards. For instance, Charlemagne was beatified by a court bishop shortly after his death. He was never canonized, and his veneration has been mostly suppressed, though permission is given to celebrate Mass in his honor in the cities of Aachen and Osnabrück, however without using the title of "Blessed."

Beatification primarily differs from canonization in this: that the former implies (1) a locally restricted, not a universal, permission to venerate, which is (2) a mere permission, and no precept, while canonization implies a universal precept. That is to say, beatification allows the public veneration of a person as having entered Heaven, while canonization commands it. Beatification is considered to be a step towards being declared a saint, usually following the step of being declared venerable and preceding the step of canonization as a saint. Unlike canonization, most theologians do not consider the declaration of beatitude to be an infallible statement of the Church.

Since the Canon law reform of 1983, one miracle must be proven to have taken place through the intercession of the person to be beatified, though this requirement is waived for those who died a martyr. More about the process can be found in the article on canonization.

A person who is beatified is given the title "Blessed." The feast day, however, is not universal, but is celebrated only in regions where the Blessed receives particular veneration. For instance, Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha is honored in the United States of America and Canada. The Blessed may also be honored in a particular religious order. For instance, veneration of John Duns Scotus is found in the diocese of Cologne, Germany and among the Franciscans, among other places.

Pope John Paul II (18 May 19202 April 2005) markedly changed previous Catholic practice regarding beatification. By October 2004 he had beatified 1,340 people, more than the sum of all of his predecessors since Pope Sixtus V (d. 1590), who established a beatification procedure similar to that used today. Pope Benedict XVI removed the custom which had previously called for beatification rites to be held in the Vatican with the Pope presiding; they can now be held in the location where the subject lived with a Cardinal designated to preside over the ceremony.

Cultus confirmation is a somewhat different procedure where the church recognizes the local cult, asserting that veneration is acceptable. Such a confirmation is more of an official sanctioning of folk Christianity than an active step in a canonization procedure, but the object of the cult may equally be addressed as "Blessed".[1]


PD-icon.svg This article incorporates text from the public domain Catholic Encyclopedia, available online.

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