Two instances of something may not constitute a trend, but they can at least suggest a strategy. Last week, an apparent Vatican strategy on turning popes into saints came into view: When you’re going to move a controversial pope along the path to sainthood, bundle him with a more popular pontiff – the PR calculation apparently being that acclaim for the latter may drown out negative reaction to the former.
Call it a “two-for-one” strategy, one that appears especially probable when the controversy concerns Jewish/Catholic relations.
The Vatican announced Dec. 19 that Pope Benedict XVI has approved decrees of heroic virtue for two of his 20th century predecessors: Pope John Paul II and Pope Pius XII.
A decree of heroic virtue is a finding that someone lived a saintly life. It allows the candidate to be referred to as “venerable,” and means the only hurdle left for beatification is a documented miracle, with one more miracle necessary for canonization, the formal act of declaring someone a saint.