There are over 10,000 named Saints and Beati and Martyrs in the Roman and Orthodox traditions but no definitive head count.

The first references to Saints appear in Paul's Epistles - following an Old Testament tradition of honouring Prophets - when he refers to the elders in Jerusalem (Peter, James etc) as The Saints; and by the end of the First Century the infant Church was already marking out people of special merit to be Saints, such as the Apostles, Bishops and known Martyrs.

The Orthodox tradition grew up on a local basis (in spite of the power of Byzantium) and there was turmoil in the West after the fall of Rome in 453. By the 10th Century the situation was chaotic: pagan figures had been absorbed into the Christian tradition; Buddha, for example, was made into a saint; figures of legend (St. George, St. Christopher) became widely venerated.

The Roman Church codified the recognition of Saints in the 10th Century, further formalised it in the 14th and radically revised it in 1983 after the 1969 review which dispensed with many 'mythological' saints. The current procedure is this:

  1. 1. A local Bishop investigates the life of a person proposed as a Saint; the criteria are
    • Heroic virtue or
    • Martyrdom and
    • Orthodoxy of doctrine.
  2. A Vatican panel of theologians investigates
  3. The Pope proclaims the candidate Venerable
  4. The Pope declares a Candidate Blessed (beatified) after one miracle for non Martyrs; the miracle must be after the candidate's death and the result of specific intercession. Those Beatified can be venerated at a local or regional level.  
  5. The Pope declares a Saint as the proper object of veneration for the universal church after another specific miracle (for all candidates).

Canonisation does not make a saint it recognises sainthood; and in the Roman tradition the faithful pray with the Saints not to them or ask them to pray on their behalf.

The most popular are Patron Saints; here are a few modern examples:

The Church of England follows in the tradition of regional churches in creating its own Saints.

KC ii/06

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