Polish accent in the Vatican

Rev. Dr. Ireneusz Skubis talks to Rev. Dr. Hab. Antoni Debinski, Professor of KUL, Dean of the Faculty of Law, Canon Law and Administration, Catholic University of Lublin.

Fr Ireneusz Skubis: - The Vatican informed about the work of the Polish canonist Professor Henryk Misztal, entitled 'Le cause di canonizzazione. Storia e procedura' [The Causes of Canonization. History and Procedure]. Certainly, this book is worth mentioning in the research activities and the life of the Faculty.

Fr Antoni Debinski: - That's true. This is a significant scientific event. The work of our scientist has been published in the series 'Sussidi per lo studio delle cause dei santi [Materials to Researches in the Causes of Canonization], volume 8, authorised by the Congregation for the Causes of Saints. This means that the work has been included in the list of publications recommended by the Congregation and applied in preparing causes of beatification and canonization. Consequently, the name of our scientist has been counted among the classical writers in this field. The book was published by Libreria Editrice Vaticana (LEV) - renown publishing house that originated towards the end of the 16th century during the pontificate of Pope Sixtus V. The apostolic constitution of John Paul II 'Pastor Bonus', issued on 28 June 1988, gave the publishing house the status of the institution connected with the Apostolic See in order to 'publish the acts and documents of the Pope and the Apostolic See' and other publications, which will 'serve faith, science, liturgy and Catholic culture'.

- What were the beginnings of the publication?

- After the new codification of canon law in 1983 by John Paul II the causes of canonization were taken out from the Code and regulated by the apostolic constitution 'Divinus Perfectionis Magister', (25 January 1983). Having this change in mind, while reforming our Faculty and taking into consideration the causes of beatification and canonization that were carried out in Poland, we decided to create the Chair of Canonization Law. The chair was given to Rev. Prof. Dr. Henryk Misztal, who was prepared to conduct research in this field. So far it has been the only university unit of this type in the world. Apart from the Catholic University of Lublin the process of canonization is not lectured in faculties of canon law as a separate subject but as part of specific canon processes. The achievements of the Chair has been significant for the past 20 years. These include many monographic works and scientific dissertations, hundreds of master's theses and 25 doctoral dissertations. The Chair organised six international symposia and has provided practical help in numerous processes of beatification and canonization in Poland. After having prepared many monographic works Prof. Misztal published the book entitled 'Prawo kanonizacyjne wedlug ustawodawstwa Jana Pawla II' [Canonization Law according to the Legislation of John Paul II] in 1997. The introduction was written by Archbishop Edward Nowak, secretary of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints. Misztal's work had positive reviews in Poland and abroad. The second edition was published. It is worth mentioning that it was translated into Czech. In December 2005, following the inspiration and encouragement of the authorities and workers of the Congregation the work was published in a slightly changed version in Italian.

- What is the subject of the publication and its scientific value?

- It is a scientific publication, specialist book, speaking simply, concerning not only processes of beatification and canonization but also the nature and role of canonization in the life of the Church. In order to present the book better I will use the words taken from the presentation of the book by one of the most outstanding and recognised expect in this discipline, Rev. Msgr. Jose Luis Guttierrez, Professor of the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross in Rome, and at the same time a long- standing relator at the Congregation for the Causes of Saints. He wrote: 'This work has presented and harmonized two aspects, which are normally discussed as separate problems in the causes of canonization. On the one hand, we find history and doctrine and on the other hand, we have a vademecum with practical instructions and formulas, which a postulator and his co-workers should use in order to fulfil the tasks they have been entrusted with in the framework of causes on the diocesan level or at the Congregation for the Causes of Saints'. The canonist also wrote, 'Prof. Misztal's book shows the line accepted in the doctrine, according to which human reasoning concerning these causes can only lead to what is to discern about the person's sanctity in the scientific and sensory way (external cognition), however without reaching to his internal world. Since it is obvious that legal verification of sanctity can only lead to a moral certainty referring to the virtues, the certainty which should satisfy those who are called to express their vote in this subject and not to seek utopian absolute certainty, which in the very nature of things cannot be achieved in this matter.' This moral certainty, attained in hearing of evidence, serves only as one voice in the harmony of voices that lead to the final decision of the pope. As we know the papal pronouncement concerning canonization is also based on the voice of the people of God, which is the common repute for sanctity (fama sanctitatis), and on the miraculous phenomenon, recognised as inexplicable in the light of laws of nature, which has taken place through the intercession of a given candidate for canonization (vox Dei).

- What are the new elements that this publication contributes towards the world science?

- So far it has been the only extensive and complete commentary on the binding law, concerning not only adjective law (rules of procedure) but also substantive law (nature and essence of sanctity) of the institution of canonization in the Catholic Church and in the Orthodox Churches. It is worth mentioning that this study goes far beyond ordinary manuals by presenting the roots and nature of canonization in the context of ecclesiology and post-conciliar law. The author shows that canonization, miracle and sanctity belong to the nature of the Church, which lives and grows thanks to them, and leads to the community of saints, which the creed calls 'the communion of saints'.

- So the publication of the work of the Polish canonist in the Vatican is a special event for the Faculty. Will it be noticed somehow in the life of the Faculty?

- Undoubtedly, this is the first publication of our scientist, which constitutes a considerable contribution towards the world science as far as its contents and official edition under the patronage of the Congregation are concerned. The Italian edition will make it more accessible for all those interested in the issues of canonization. The book shows the Polish contribution to the international doctrine of canon law, one of the reasons being that it quotes Polish authors who are not always known because of the language barrier. As for the Faculty we are going to organise an international academic session (with the participation of Roman professors), during which the book will be presented and Professor Henryk Misztal will deliver a lecture addressed to a wider audience in order to present the contents of the book and above all to present the creator of the new law and at the same time promoter of canonized sanctity - the Servant of God John Paul II, whose anniversary of passing to the House of the Father is approaching. - On behalf of the editorial board of 'Niedziela' I would like to congratulate to the Author of the Italian publication in the much prestigious publishing house. I congratulate to the Faculty of Law, Canon Law and Administration of the Catholic University of Lublin, where Prof. Henryk Misztal works.

'Le cause di canonizzazione. Storia e procedura'; Autori: Misztal Henryk; Libreria Editrice Vaticana.

"Niedziela" 6/2006

Editor: Tygodnik Katolicki "Niedziela", ul. 3 Maja 12, 42-200 Czestochowa, Polska
Editor-in-chief: Fr Jaroslaw Grabowski • E-mail: redakcja@niedziela.pl