Pope Francis: 'Holiness is the true light of the Church'

Pope Francis greets religious sisters at a general audience Oct. 30, 2019. Credit: Daniel Ibanez/CNA.

Pope Francis said Thursday that the often hidden holiness lived out in everyday life is a true light within the Church.

“Holiness permeates and always accompanies the life of the pilgrim Church over time, often in a hidden and almost imperceptible way,” Pope Francis said Dec. 12 in the Vatican’s apostolic palace.

"We must learn to see the holiness in the patient people of God: in parents who raise their children with so much love, in men and women who work to bring bread home, in the sick, in the elderly who continue to smile," the pope said.

In an audience with the Vatican Congregation for the Causes of Saints, Pope Francis underlined the importance of recognizing the most hidden and least striking heroic sanctity, which he said is equally extraordinary as that which shines most visibly.

The Vatican congregation celebrated its 50th anniversary this year. In 1969, St. Pope Paul VI split the centuries-old Sacred Congregation of Rites into two separate Vatican dicasteries: the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Congregation for the Causes of Saints.


“The many beatifications and canonizations that have been celebrated in recent decades mean that the saints are not unreachable human beings, but are close to us and can support us in the journey of life,” Pope Francis said.

The saints are “people who have experienced the daily toil of existence with its successes and failures, finding in the Lord the strength to always get up and continue on the path,” he said.

The pope stressed that objectivity and rigor are fundamental criteria in the scrupulous examination and judgement of miracles, martyrdom, and heroic virtue in each stage of a cause for sainthood.

He said that postulators for a sainthood cause must also have an attitude of service to the truth and cooperation with the Holy See, and never let themselves be guided by economic interests.

“The causes of beatification and canonization are spiritual realities; therefore they must be treated with a marked evangelical sensitivity and moral rigor,” Pope Francis said.

More in Vatican

“The work of the congregation makes it possible to clear the field of all ambiguity and doubt, achieving full certainty in the proclamation of holiness,” he said.

On Dec. 12, Congregation for the Causes of Saints promulgated a decree regarding the martyrdom of 27 priests and sisters killed in hatred of the faith during the Spanish Civil War, including Servants of God Angelo Marina Álvarez and 19 Franciscan companions and Servant of God Sr. Isabella Sánchez Romero, a Dominican.

The congregation also approved a miracle attributed to the intercession of Venerable Maria Luigia of the Blessed Sacrament, who founded the Franciscan sisters, Adorers of the Holy Cross in Italy in 1877, and recognized the heroic virtue of an Italian archbishop Vincenzo Maria Morelli, Portuguese priest Fr. Americo Monteiro de Aguiar, Spanish priest Tommaso Suárez Fernández, Italian Fr. Giulio Facibeni, and Brazilian Sr. Mary of the Angels of St. Teresa.

In his meeting with the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, Pope Francis said that every baptized person is called to holiness.

“Holiness is the true light of the Church,” Pope Francis said.


Courtney Mares is a Rome Correspondent for Catholic News Agency. A graduate of Harvard University, she has reported from news bureaus on three continents and was awarded the Gardner Fellowship for her work with North Korean refugees.