Italian Research Seminar: John Paul II’s Canonization Policy - the Italian Case


Location: Special Collections, Hesburgh Library

The first talk in the spring 2017 series will be given by Valentina Ciciliot, a Marie Sklodowska-Curie Fellow at the Cushwa Center for the Study of American Catholicism.

The expression “canonization policy”, though not unanimously accepted by Catholic historiography, indicates the presence of a particular papal project behind canonization – one that is not just pastoral, but also political. This concept is highly applicable to the approach of pope John Paul II, who declared a significant number of “blessed” (1342, 968 men and 374 women) and “saints” (482, 375 men and 125 women) during his pontificate (1978-2005). This amount constitutes more than half of all saints proclaimed by the Catholic Church from the establishment of the Congregation of Rites (1588). The sheer numbers involved point compellingly to canonization being turned into an active instrument of ecclesiastical governance.

Additionally, the public impact that a beatification or a canonization can have on society suggests a new attempt by the Catholic Church to reinforce its presence and influence across the world, particularly through proposing specific hagiographical models related to the needs of local communities. It could also be considered that these models are designed to assert the Vatican perspective. The high number of Italians declared blessed and/or made saints strongly suggests the special interest the pope showed in the sanctity of the country. The high concentration of beatifications and canonizations of hagiographical figures from Italy can be explained only in part by the canonical system, which regulates the process of canonization. This system influences the ease to open and support a cause – most especially from a financial point of view –, if the pressure group behind the candidate for sainthood is located near the Vatican. 

The Italian Research Seminar, jointly organized by the Devers Program in Dante Studies and by Italian Studies at Notre Dame, aims to provide a regular forum for faculty, postdoctoral scholars, graduate students, and colleagues from other universities to present and discuss their current research. 

Sponsored by Italian Studies at Notre Dame and the Office of Research.

This event is free and open to the public.