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Official act of a Christian church declaring a deceased member worthy of veneration and entering his or her name in the canon (authorized list) of saints. The cult of local martyrs was widespread in the early church, and by the 10th century church authorities were considering the need for formal recognition of saints by Rome, a change that was formalized by Gregory IX in the 13th century. Responsibility for beatification (declaring a person worthy of limited veneration) was assigned to the Roman Curia under Sixtus V (r. 1585–90). A candidate's writings, miracles, and reputation for sanctity are investigated: one official gathers evidence in favor of beatification; another (the devil's advocate) is charged with seeing that the entire truth is made known about the candidate. Canonization requires proof of two miracles subsequent to beatification. The process in the Eastern Orthodox Church is less formal; popular devotion by the faithful serving as the usual basis for sainthood.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on canonization, visit Britannica.com.