Can a Pope uncanonize someone?

I know that there is a process for sainthood and the Pope can’t just wake up one morning and canonize someone (or can he)?

Suppose a Pope declares someone a saint. Could a later Pope declare that sainthood void?

If so, has it ever happened?

I remember a few years back about some questions surrounding Saint Christopher… for a while we referred to the Catholic church down the street as Mr. Christopher’s Church… but I think we was subsequently reinstated as a saint. I bet someone will know exactly what happened…

First as far as I know it is not a simple as you stated.
A Council of Cardinals reviews the candidates for Saint Hood and takes a long time before Canonizing. The Pope can nominate but does not declare Saints.

Some Saints have been stricken for various reasons.

Saint Christopher was downgraded (not the RCC term) to a Martyr from Sainthood but is still a Saint to the Greek and Russian Orthodox apparantly.



In 1969 the feast days of a number of saints, including St. Christopher and St. George, were removed from the official liturgical calendar because of lack of historical evidence about their lives. However, these saints were not “de-canonized,” and their feast days may still be celebrated locally.

I remember seeing an editorial cartoon from that time, showing a bunch of depressed looking saints on clouds, with halos and wings, looking at the paper with the news article. One of them says: “If there’s no job security here…”

From the site
In 1969, the Church took a long look at all the saints on its calendar to see if there was historical evidence that that saint existed and lived a life of holiness. In taking that long look, the Church discovered that there was little proof that many “saints”, including some very popular ones, ever lived.
So go figure.

In some cases (Christopher and George I think were among them) there was evidence of such a person having existed, but the record of exactly what DID he do to make him worthy of sainthood had become buried underneath folktales to where the Church could not point to “this is why he’s a saint”. Then there’s Saint Philomena, notable for having been canonized on the Vatican equivalent of “hearsay evidence”: The veneration was entirely based on the discovery in 1802 of an ancient tomb and relics that looked like those of a martyr, and purported miracle-works associated therewith, there having been no historic record of a martyr “Philomena” from her own lifetime or of a traditional devotion to her prior to the archaeological find itself. Yet she became wildly popular as a saint, and even though in the 1960s she lost her feast day too, to this day she is still a “Saint” – AND a darling of traditionalists within and outside the hierarchy.

As mentioned before, rather than de-canonization, what the Church does with a saint that doesn’t fit is demote his/her feasts, venerations and commemoration to local/optional/unofficial status.

As a matter of general practice, this is correct.

However, remember that the Pontiff has full, complete, immediate, and universal power in the Church. He can, if he wishes, on his own declare someone a saint.

Has that been done in the last 400 or so years?
I would be shocked to find out a Pope would do that.
I would believe anything of the earlier Popes but post Protestant movement, they cleaned up their act quite a bit.


Well, in two high-profile cases recently, the Pontiff waived the usual five-year waiting period before beatification, the first step to canonization. Pope John Paul II waived the waiting period for Mother Teresa of Calcutta (now Blessed Mother Teresa) and Pope Benedict XVI waived it for Pope John Paul II, for whom the cause for beatification is now officially open.

By the way, to correct (nitpick) an earlier statement, “A Council of Cardinals reviews the candidates for Saint Hood…” It’s not exactly a council of cardinals, although it’s headed by a cardinal. It’s called the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, and is made up of researchers, scholars, and general staff who may or may not be cardinals. Cardinal Jose Saraiva Martins currently heads the Congregation for the Causes of Saints.

Bricker has pwn3d me a couple of times on Canon Law matters, so I’d defer to him if he’s got better info, but I believe my earlier-mentioned Philomena is an example of a “modern-time” (yes, 1800s is modernity) canonization that was essentially pushed through by the then-incumbent Pontiff.

Although Popes tend to not abuse that power, they clearly will not hesitate at all to light a fire under the CCS on behalf of some cause they favor – and that is usually quite enough.

Well, on a practical note, it seems to me that once someone has been cannonized, it’s awfully difficult to get all the little pieces back together.

Ok, I was separating the speeding up of the process, from the Declaring someone a Saint without any normal procedures.
Pope JPII did not make Mother Teresa of Calcutta a saint, he just accelerated the process and sent a clear message he wanted done.

Has a Pope actually declared, “So and so is a Saint”, without review by the Congregation for the Causes of Saints?
(BTW: please understand I am not arguing, I hope to be learning from this thread)


JRDelirious is right on the money with respect to Philomena.

In 1837, Pope Gregory XVI short-circuited the ordinary process and simply declared that Philomena was a saint. The Pope said was to have personally witnessed a miraculous recovery of the critically ill Ven. Pauline Jaricot, and this miracle was attributed to Philomena.

Wow, I am amazed that a Pope would do such in such recent times.
Interesting Pope:
He was the last man (thus far) elected Pope who was not already a bishop.

The Pope banned railways in the Papal territories, calling then “chemins d’enfer” (“ways of the devil”: French for railway “chemins de fer” - “iron ways”).

The embarrassed financial condition in which Gregory left the States of the Church makes it doubtful how far his lavish expenditure in architectural and engineering works, and his magnificent patronage of learning in the hands of Mai, Mezzofanti, Gaetano, Moroni and others, were for the real benefit of his subjects.

Then from the Catholic Encyclopedia


::Homer as Henry VIII, pondering::

“I wonder if I can canonize a child…?”

I thought that Philomena, while her life and even Christianity is open to question, had been credited with several miracles of good standing. I don’t mean to defend some of her more fanatical devotees, just pointing out that with accepted miracles to her credit it’s less of a jump than it might have been otherwise to canonize her.

Well, sure, but the peculiar thing was that the usual thing for the Pope to do in such a case would have been to lean heavily on the CCS to stipulate the miracles and fast-track her Cause, rather than just ordering a canonization. So it’s an example of the Pope’s authority.

I understand. I’d meant it to be more a continuation of the discussion of the complete oddity that is Philomena, rather than a arguement of the limits of the Pope’s authority.

The Master Speaks