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Nation/World

April 25, 2014

Sainthood in a nutshell: Martyrs, miracles and the stuff of making saints

(Continued)

SAINTS GALORE

John Paul declared more saints — 482 — than all of his predecessors combined. Some of his big-name saints: Edith Stein, a Jewish-born Carmelite nun who was killed at Auschwitz and Maximilian Kolbe, a Polish Franciscan friar who sacrificed his life at the death camp so that a man with a family could live.

He also beatified a record-number: 1,338. Among them was none other than John XXIII in 2000 and Mother Teresa in 2003.

Benedict continued the process albeit at a slower clip — 45 saints under his watch — and only presided over canonizations, not beatifications. He made one exception for Cardinal John Henry Newman. Benedict beatified the 19th century Anglican convert to Catholicism during a 2010 trip to Britain.

Francis technically overtook John Paul's record within two months as pope: In May 2013, he canonized more than 800 15th century martyrs, the so-called "Martyrs of Otranto," who were beheaded for refusing to convert to Islam.

TOO MANY SAINTS?

The almost assembly-line approval of saints that started during John Paul's papacy raised questions that have been reignited with his own record-fast canonization. In his book "Making Saints," Newsweek magazine's longtime religion editor Kenneth Woodward argued that the important checks and balances in the saint-making process had been eliminated with the abolition of the "devil's advocate" — whose job was to challenge the postulator and find the holes in his case.

"Everyone involved in a canonization process now has a stake in its positive outcome," Woodward complained. He said that could result in the process being manipulated and an unworthy candidate canonized. "Without the devil's advocate, who can prevent such an outcome? And without some means of making the process public, who would know?"

Proponents of the current process insist that the checks and balances are in place with the "relator" or judge who reviews the case.

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