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Ask Fr. Francis: Why does the Church dig out the dead body before investigation of sainthood?

The following is an excerpt from askfrfrancis.org. Fr. Francis Ching, CC answers tough questions about the Catholic faith.

Question: 

Why does the Church dig out the dead body before investigation of sainthood? Is it just to find out if they are “incorrupt” or to get their relics (like St. Francis Xavier or St. Catherine of Siena)? Shall the dead be allowed to rest in peace without being disturbed?

Fr. Francis' answer:

Actually, the Church does not dig up the bodies of the saints *before* investigation of sainthood. Exhumation of the body takes place only after the cause for sainthood has been initiated by the local bishop and approved by Rome, at which time the person is given the title “Servant of God”. The body of the Servant of God is then exhumed not just to exhibit it, and certainly not to disturb it, but primarily to protect it and reserve it for proper veneration.

In some occasions, as in the case of St. Bernadette Soubirous and St. Catherine of Siena, the body, after exhumation, was found to be incorrupt. But checking if the body of a potential saint is incorrupt is certainly not the only or even the main reason to exhume it.

“The relics of a saint are powerful. They are often the source of miraculous healings and are of great assistance to exorcisms. In fact, one of the ways to obtain proofs that a person is in heaven, is to see if the veneration of his or her relics produce miraculous healings.”

So, once a person is identified to have lived a heroic life by the local bishop, it is the Church’s responsibility that such precious relics be protected and cared for in the most dignified manner.

Read the full answer here!

Check out Fr. Carlos Martin's ministry, Treasures of the Church

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