Apostolic Letter “On his own initiative” (Motu Proprio) Given “On the Offering of Life”
Greater love has no man than this, to lay down one’s life for a friend. (Jn. 15.13)
Those Christians who, following in the footsteps of Jesus Christ and nearest to what is pleasing to him, have offered their lives for others voluntarily and freely and in this resolution have persevered until their death, are worthy of a singular estimation and honor.
It is considered clear to all that the heroic offering of life, directed and supported by charity, expresses the true, full, and most excellent imitation of Christ, wherefore it is worthy of that admiration which the community of the faithful is accustomed to reserve to those who willingly have offered up in sacrifice thier lives, falling in a martyrdom of blood, or have exercised to a heroic degree the Christian virtues.
Pursuant to the counsel published by the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, which in Plenary Session on the 27th of September, 2016, diligently investigated whether christians of this kind are worthy of beatification, we have resolved that the following norms are to be kept:
The offering of life (oblatio vitae) is a new kind of act of the path to beatification and canonization, which differs from the kinds “for martyrdom” (super martyrio) and “for heroism of virtues” (super heroicitatem virtutum).
The offering of life, in order to be fit and efficacious for the beatification of a Servant of God, requires the following:
a.) free and voluntary offering of one’s life and heroic acceptance, out of love, of certain and temporally proximate death;
b.) connection between offering of life and premature death;
c.) exercise, in any case to an extraordinary degree, of Christian virtues before the offering of life, and, thereupon, up until death;
d.) existence of a reputation of sanctity and in any case of signs after death;
e.) the necessity of a miracle, on inspection of beatification, which should occur after the death of the Servant of God and through the intercession of the same.
The celebration of the Diocesan or Eparchal Investigation together with the pertinent Positio according to the norm of the Apostolic Constitution Divinus perfectionis Magister of the 25th of January, 1983, published in the Acts of the Apostolic See, Vol. 75 (1983), 349–355, and following the Normae servandae in inquisitionibus ab Episcopis facendis in Causis Sanctorum promulgated on February the 7th of the same year, published in the Acts of the Apostolic See, Vol. LXXV (1983) 396-403), is adjusted beyond the following.
The Positio for the oblatio vitae should respond to the question (dubium) “Whether it is agreed concerning the heroic offering of life all the way to death for the sake of love and from Christian virtues, in any case to an extraordinary degree, in the event and to the effect concerning which is the present treatment.”
Let the following innovations be made in the articles of the below cited Apostolic Constitution:
To article 1:
“Diocesan bishops or Eparchs and any others possessed of equal right, within the bounds of their jurisdiction, whether through their office or at the instigation of the individual faithful or legitimate associations and their representatives, have the right of inquiry concerning the life, virtues, offering of life (oblatio vitae) or martyrdom (martyrium) and reputation of sanctity or of offering of life (oblatio vitae) or of martyrdom, attested miracles, as well as, if the case may be, ancient veneration of the Servant of God whose canonization is petitioned.”
To article 2.5:
“Let the investigation about the asserted miracles be made by the investigation concerning the virtues or concerning the offering of life (oblatio vitae) or concerning the martyrdom separately.”
To article 7.1: “That the Positiones pursue and prepare, together with external cooperators, the causes committed to them about the virtues or about the offering of life (oblatio vitae) or about the martyrdom.”
To article 13.2: “If the Congress will have judged the cause to have been instituted according to the legal norms, it will be established that the case is to be committed to one of the Relators (Relatores); but the Relator will complete the inquiry, together with the external cooperator, will make the Positio about the virtues or about the offering of life (oblatio vitae) or about the martyrdom, according to the regular norms of critical hagiography.”
Let the following innovations be made in the articles of the above mentioned Normae servandae in inquisitionibus ab Episcopis facendis in Causis Sanctorum:
To article 7:
“The cause can be more recent or ancient; it is called more recent, if the martyrdom or virtues or offering of life (oblatio vitae) of the Servant of God can be tried through the oral depositions of eyewitnesses; but ancient, when the proofs of martyrdom or of virtues or of offering of life (oblatio vitae) can be drawn upon at least from written sources.”
To article 10.1°:
“In cases both more recent and ancient, a biography of some historical moment about the Servant of God, if it exists, or, if it is lacking, a studied account ordered chronologically about the life and deeds of the Servant of God himself, concerning his virtues or offering of life (oblatio vitae) or martrydom, doncerning reputation of sanctity and signs, without omitting those which seem contrary or less favorable to the cause itself.”
To article 10.3°:
“In more recent causes only, the examination of persons who can corroborate or stand in opposition for the drawing out of the truth concerning the virtues or offering of life (oblatio vitae) or martyrdom of the Servant of God, as well as concerning the reputation of sanctity or signs.”
To article 15.a:
“Once the report has been accepted, the Bishop shall hand over to the promotor of justice or other competent man all evidences acquired up to that time, to complete the inquiries that are fit for the ascertaining and discovery of the truth concerning the life, virtues, or offering of life (oblatio vitae), or martyrdom, reputation of sanctity or of offering of life (oblatio vitae) or of martyrdom of the Servant of God.”
To article 15.b:
“But in ancient causes let the inquiries regard at least the reputation still thriving of sanctity or of offering of life (oblatio vitae) or of martyrdom, as well as, if the case may be, veneration offered in more recent times to the Servant of God.”
To article 19:
“For the testing of martyrdom or the exercise of virtues or offering of life (oblatio vitae) and reputation of signs of a Servant of God who will have been associated with some Institute of consecrated life, the notable portion of witnesses called must be external, unless, because of the particular life of the Servant of God, this should turn out to be impossible.”
To article 32:
“The inquiry concerning the miracles is to be instituted separately from the inquiry concerning the virtues or offering of life (oblatio vitae) or martyrdom and be made according to the norms that follow.”
To article 36:
“Concerning Servants of God, whose sanctity of life still lise subject to legitimate examination, in the churches all solemn or laudatory prayers are prohibited. But even outside of the church there must be abstinence from those actions by which the faithful may be induced to think falsely that the inquiry made by the Bishop concerning the life and virtues or offering of life (oblatio vitae) or martyrdom of the Servant of God, bears in itself certitude of future canonization of the same Servant of God.”
All these, which we have established by this Apostolic Letter on our own initiative, we mandate to be kept rightly and altogether, with any opponents, even those worthy of special mention, notwithstanding, and to be made of public right through the publication in the daily news, namely “L’Osservatore Romano” and from this very day to begin to be in effect and thereafter do we mandate to be reported in the Acts of the Apostolic See.
Given at Saint Peter’s, the 11th of July, AD 2017, the fifth of Our Pontificate.
translation 11 July, 2017
by Lionel Yaceczko
The Heights School,
Potomac, MD, 20707
Translator’s note: The text of the Latin translation of this Motu Proprio, which may be found on the Vatican Website (https://press.vatican.va/content/salastampa/it/bollettino/pubblico/2017/07/11/0484/01075.html#lti), differs in several ways from the original Italian version. The most salient difference will be found in the formatting, as the lettered list in Article II do not contain the same number of items in both versions, and in the number of Articles themselves, which are also formatted differently in the two versions. This is a translation of the Latin version, and is not meant to represent the Italian version.
Words emphasized in bold type are so emphasized in the original document.
Words given in italic type in parentheses are given by the translator for the sake of explanation.