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How Do You Become a Saint? What to Know About Canonization
(NBC NEWS) Sunday's canonization of Popes John Paul II and John XXIII is bringing attention to the complex process of becoming a saint, a highly regulated series of steps that can seem quite mysterious to those who are not devout Roman Catholics.
Here's a rundown on how martyrs and miracle-makers get into a club that is actually less exclusive than many might imagine:
How many saints are there?
It's hard to pin down an exact number, but more than you might think. In the old days, as in the first thousand years of the church's history, saints were created by popular demand. St. Ulrich of Augsburg was the first to be canonized by a pope, in 993, and the Vatican eventually took over and formalized the process.
The Vatican's Roman Martyrology says some 7,000 people have been canonized or beatified (an earlier step), but some scholars believe the total number of saints is more like 10,000.
Is it easier or harder to become a saint now?
The raw numbers would suggest it's easier, though they don't tell the entire story.
Pope Francis, who has been pontiff for just over a year, has already canonized 817 men and women, but 813 of them were martyrs from a single group of Italians who were beheaded by Ottoman Turks in the 15th Century.
John Paul II canonized 482 during the quarter-century he presided over the church, but more than 400 of those were from groups of martyrs, according to the Catholic World Report. By contrast, Pope Benedict XVI added 45 saints during his pontificate.
Does every pope become a saint?
With so many halos being handed out, you might think so. Yet only about a third of all popes are saints, and it's getting harder to make the leap the from St. Peter's throne to sainthood, according to the Pew Research Center.
Fifty-two of the first 55 popes got the nod but that pace has slowed dramatically. Only five popes have become saints in the last 1,000 years, although that will now shoot up to seven. Four more popes who died between 1878 and 1978 are in the pipeline, Pius IX, Pius XII, Paul VI, and John Paul I, but JPII leapfrogged ahead of them.
This article is an excerpt from NBC News Senior Writer Tracy Conner's original.
For the full article CLICK HERE.
CLICK HERE for the official canonization booklet from the Vatican.