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Vatican Regulates Postulator’s Role in Saints’ Causes, Seeks to Curb Conflicts of Interest

A pilgrim attends the canonization of St. John Henry Newman in Rome, Oct. 13, 2019. Mazur/cbcew.org.uk.

The Vatican has introduced formal regulations for postulators — those who help guide the process behind the declaration of a saint in the Catholic Church.

The norms are part of the reform of the administration of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, which began in 2016.

The regulations for postulators, set out in 86 points, are designed to clarify the tasks and procedures, and to prevent conflicts of interest.

Pope Francis approved the rules at the end of August, and the congregation’s prefect, Cardinal Marcello Semeraro, signed the document on Oct. 11.

In an interview with Vatican News last week, Semeraro said that “the figure of the postulator and the office he holds continue to be important and, at the same time, delicate.”

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“The new regulation just promulgated is a sign of this, the need for which has been felt for some time,” he explained. “If they take their task seriously and with an ecclesial spirit, postulators can do much for the good of the causes and of the Church.”

A postulator is the person who represents and guides a diocese or religious congregation through the beatification process, especially during its second phase, which happens in Rome.

The first phase in a cause happens in a diocese or religious congregation — usually in the place where the man or woman being considered for canonization was born or lived for an extensive period.

Postulators can be clergy, religious men or women, or lay people. According to the norms, the role can be filled by “any faithful Catholic of proven integrity, who has adequate knowledge of theology, canon law, and history, as well as the practice of the dicastery.”

Other requisites are a diploma from the School of Higher Formation in the Causes of the Saints and being under the age of 80.

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To prevent a conflict of interest, the regulations now state that cardinals and bishops who are members of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, and other officials and consultors connected with the congregation, cannot also be postulators.

The norms also dictate that a postulator may have no more than 30 open cases at one time, though an exception is made for the postulator of a religious congregation.

The rules clarify that a postulator is not a salaried employee of the Vatican, but can receive a “just compensation” for his or her work. Some postulators, such as those of religious congregations, may also choose to fulfill the role without receiving payment.

Postulators cannot be treasurers or administrators of funds donated to sainthood causes, the regulations state.

The document also says that the information gathered about the sainthood cause under investigation, which is bound together into a book called the “positio,” will remain confidential until 50 years after the inquiry concludes.

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