Fr. JOHN SYMON Question—When did the form of canonisation that we know today first take place?
Miss A.M.F., York, Answer—The first Papal canonisation for which we have evidence took place in 973. At the time the normal practice was for a canonisation cause to be decided by the local bishop; he would examine the popular acclaim which a candidate had received, evaluate the evidence of witnesses and then, if satisfied, declare the man or woman in question to have been distinguished by outstanding virtues and to deserve veneration by the Church.
In these cheerfully informal times when canonise eon was achieved by the bishop's decree, clearly it counted to the honour of a new saint if the episcopal decree could be confirmed by the Pope; local civic pride would be all the greater if the Pope could be persuaded to canonise the candidate himself. Thus, almost by accident, did the process of canonisation gradually become the exclusively papal prerogative which Pope Gregory IX finally made it in 1234.
Over the centuries the rules for canonisation, and the scrutiny to which proposed candidates are subjected, have certainly not become easier. In the 16th century beatification and canonisation processes were made one of the main tasks