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Pope Francis adds new pathway to sainthood

by Eno Adeogun

People who live a good Catholic life and lay down their life to save others will now be eligible for beatification - the first step on the path toward sainthood.

Before the change, gaining consideration for sainthood in the Catholic Church required martyrdom, living a life heroically of Christian virtues or having a strong reputation for religious devotion.

AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia

The new category, introduced in an official letter from the pope on Tuesday read: "The heroic offering of life, suggested and sustained by charity, expresses a true, full and exemplary imitation of Christ."

In his introduction to the fourth way in the form of a motu proprio (or, decree on his own initiative), the pope opens with the words of Jesus according to St. John: "No one has greater love than this, to lay down one's life for one's friends".

"Those Christians are worthy of special consideration and honor who, following in the footsteps and teaching of Jesus, have offered their life voluntarily and freely for others and have persevered in this to death."

AP Photo/Andrew Medichini

The letter also said that possible candidates must have practised Christian values in their life before their selfless act and have a holy reputation. They must also be credited with a miracle after their death.

Christians who are sainted through martyrdom - which stipulates being killed out of hatred for the faith - are the only ones exempt from being involved in a miracle.

Archbishop Marcello Bartolucci, secretary of the Vatican Congregation for Saints' Causes, said the new category aims "to promote heroic Christian testimony, up to now without a specific process, precisely because it did not completely fit within the case of martyrdom or heroic virtues", Catholic News Service reports.

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