In Catholicism, beatification (from Latin beatus, blessed, via Greek μακαριος, 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 their name (intercession of saints). As far as the word "beatification" is concerned, its use probably does not antedate the fourth century, when it was introduced in the church at Carthage, but the fact 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. It should be noted that 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, though 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.
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.
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 canonisation as a saint. Unlike canonization, most theologians do not consider the declaration of beatitude to be an infallible statement of the Church.
Pope John Paul II (18 May 1920 2 April 2005) markedly changed previous Catholic practice regarding beatification. By October 2004, he beatified 1,340 people, more than the sum of all of his predecessors since Pope Sixtus V, who established a beatification procedure similar to that used today.
List of beatified people
The following is a selected list of the most well-known beatified persons. For a more complete list, see the category Category:Beatified people.
- Blessed Teresa of Calcutta
- Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha
- Blessed Pope John Paul II
- Blessed Pope Pius IX
- Blessed Brother André
- Blessed Pope John XXIII
- Blessed Damien of Molokai
- Blessed Angelico
- Blessed John Duns Scotus
- Blessed Hildegard of Bingen
- Blessed Karl of Austria
- Blessed Junípero Serra
- The Process of Becoming a Saint – article explaining the history of the process of becoming a saint at the Catholic Herald.