Only the candidates who are sainted through martyrdom are exempt from performing a miracle.
Titled Maiorem hac dilectionem ("Greater Love Than This"), the document begins by citing Sacred Scripture: "Greater love has no man than to lay down his life for his friends" (John 15:13).
Previously, there were only three recognised paths by which a person could be canonised: (1) Martyrdom, (2) Living the virtues of Christian life to a heroic degree, and (3) "exceptional cases" known as "equipollent" or "equivalent canonisation", based on the confirmation of an ancient tradition of veneration of the saintliness of a person.
In addition to the free and voluntary offering of one's life, and heroic acceptance of a certain and "soon-to-come death, there must be a close relation "between the offering of one's life and the premature death of the one who offers it".
And finally, the usual requirement of a confirmed miracle springing from the intercession of the Servant of God for beatification, after his or her death, must be in place.
The new decision follows on a process carried out by the Vatican Congregation for the Causes of Saints, which asked "whether those servants of God are not worthy of beatification who, inspired by the example of Christ, freely and deliberately offered and sacrificed their lives for their brothers and sisters in a supreme act of charity".
Under the additional vitae oblatio, the person must still show Christian virtues before and until death.
Kolbe was being held at Auschwitz, the Nazi death camp, in 1941, when he offered to take the place of a fellow prisoner due to be killed.
But the pontiff has issued a decree which adds a new path. An example of this fourth avenue to sainthood might be a pious individual who becomes diagnosed with a life-threatening disease.
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