Pope Francis cannonised Joseph Vaz, the first saint of Sri Lanka

Jan 14, 2015 18:42 IST

Pope Francis on 14 January 2015 cannonised Joseph Vaz, the first saint of Sri Lanka. Joseph Vaz was beatified by Pope John Paul in 1995. Pope Francis cannonised Saint Joseph Vaz in presence of hundreds of thousands of people packed on a Colombo oceanfront during his visit to Sri Lanka.

The Pope told the hushed crowd that Vaz was an example of religious tolerance relevant to Sri Lanka.

About Saint Joseph Vaz

He was born in 1651 in Goa. He was captured as a suspected spy after he crept into the tropical island in disguise.

Vaz spent five years secretly preaching in the lush lowlands before making his way to the Kingdom of Kandy in the highland rainforests.

He was detained for nearly a year until he convinced the powerful Buddhist king that he was a priest.

King Vimaladharmasuriya II protected him from the Dutch and Vaz's reputation was further bolstered when he was said to have made rain during a drought.

Vaz remained in Kandy until his death aged 60 in 1711, by which time the Church says he had converted 30000 people and created a network of priests, almost single-handedly re-establishing Catholicism in Ceylon.

Process of Cannonisation

Cannonisation is the act by which the Catholic Church or Eastern Orthodox Church declares a deceased person to be a saint, upon which declaration the person is included in the canon, or list, of recognized saints.

Originally, individuals were recognized as saints without any formal process. Later, different processes, such as those used by the Roman Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Church were developed.

There are four steps to canonization that the saints have to go through:

Servant of God   →   Venerable   →   Blessed   →   Saint

Five years after a person dies, a bishop can request that he or she be considered for canonization. The first step is to collect the testimony of witnesses who can recount facts about the person's exercise of Christian virtues. At that point the person can be given the title of Servant of God, or Venerable.

After more investigation the Congregation for the Cause of Saints can recommend to the pope that the person be beatified. This means that the person can be honored in public worship limited to a specific diocese or area. After beatification the person receives the title Blessed.

Finally the Congregation can recommend canonization. When the pope canonizes a person, he declares that the person can be looked on as a model of Christian virtue and can be honored in the public worship of the universal church. After canonization the person who was named Blessed acquires the title of Saint.

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