Steps Toward Sainthood

  1. Servant of God – When the subject arises that a person should be considered for Sainthood, a Bishop is placed in charge of the initial investigation of the person's life. If it is determined that the candidate is deemed worthy of further consideration, the Vatican grants a "Nihil Obstat." This is a Latin phrase that means "nothing hinders." Henceforth, the candidate is called a "Servant of God."

  2. Venerable – The Church Official, a Postulator, who coordinates the process and serves as an advocate, must prove that the candidate lived heroic virtues. This is achieved through the collection of documents and testimonies that are collected called the Positio. It is presented to the Congregation for the Causes of Saints in Rome. When a candidate is approved, he/she earns the title of "Venerable."

  3. Blessed – To be beatified and recognized as a "Blessed," one miracle acquired through the candidate’s intercession is required in addition to recognition of heroic virtue.
  4. Saint – Canonization requires a second miracle after beatification, though a Pope may waive these requirements. Once this second miracle has been received through the candidate's intercession, the Pope declares the person a "Saint."

Timeline of the Steps Toward Sainthood for Blessed Karl

Emperor Karl Beatified in Saint Peter's Square

Emperor Karl Beatified in Saint Peter's Square

By Br. Nathan Cochran, O.S.B.

1895 – When Karl is an eight-year-old boy the stigmatist, Mother Vinzentia at the Ursuline convent in Sopron, Hungary, advises that the young Archduke should be enveloped in prayers because he will become Emperor, have to suffer greatly, and be a target of Hell. A small group begins praying for him and his intentions. This group later develops into the Kaiser Karl-Gebetsliga für den Völkerfrieden (The Emperor Karl League of Prayer for Peace Among Nations).

1922 – The Emperor dies on April 1, on Madeira.

1923 – Wilhelm Miklas (President of the Republic of Austria from 1928-1938), petitions the Cardinal Archbishop of Vienna, Dr. Friedrich Gustav Piffl, requesting that the necessary steps to begin the process of canonization of the Emperor be undertaken.

1925 – Bishop Sigmund Waitz (later Archbishop of Salzburg), gives ecclesiastical approbation to the Kaiser Karl Gebetsliga für den Völkerfrieden. The diocesan process of gathering evidence and testimonies, interviewing of witnesses, and compiling a definitive biography begins.

1949 – The Cause for Canonization of Emperor Karl is introduced at the Vatican. Karl is given the ecclesiastical title of “Servant of God.”

1953 – The Jahrbuch of the Kaiser-Karl-Gebetsliga begins publication. Besides printing articles about the Servant of God, the publication details Gebetsliga activities of the previous year, and relates testimonies from the faithful who, having asked for the intercession of the Servant of God believe they have received favors.

1972 – On April 1, the fiftieth anniversary of his death, Emperor Karl’s sarcophagus is opened and his body examined – as required by the Congregation for the Causes of Saints. This act is to insure that the body is accounted for, and to secure possible relics. The commission is headed by His Excellency Bruno Wechhner, Bishop of Feldkirch. Other commission members include the bishop of Funchal and his secretary; an archaeology professor named Romoli and his crew; a notary; and two doctors. Also present are a large group of Austrians, South Tiroleans, Swiss, Germans, some Portuguese, and a Swede. The Gebetsliga was represented by Jesuit Father Henry Segur. Members of the family present include: the Emperor’s oldest son, Archduke Otto, with his wife Regina, and three of their daughters: Michaela, Walburga and Gabriele; and the Emperor’s youngest son: Archduke Rudolph. When the coffin was opened, the Servant of God’s body is found to be remarkably well preserved – despite the fact that a window in the coffin had broken allowing in moisture and damp tropical air. Although Karl was embalmed when he died, the process was hurried and only rudimentary, and cannot completely account for the state in which the body is found. While incorruption is one of the manifestations of holiness (the bodies of many of the saints have been preserved incorrupt), the Church does not interpret the manifestation as ipso facto proof of holiness. The Emperor’s body is clothed in a new uniform brought especially for this purpose, placed in a new coffin, and the sarcophagus resealed.

1994 – The Positio for the Servant of God, Karl of Austria is published in Rome. It details the life of Karl, containing a complete and detailed biography, his writings, and the recorded witness testimony of all living people who knew him. It is in two volumes, and over 2,650 pages long. 

1995 – The Historical Consultants for the Congregation of the Causes of Saints reviews all the material in the Positio, and are charged with finding the answer to the primary question: “Was the Emperor Karl of Austria virtuous to a heroic degree?” The panel of six theologians answered this question affirmatively. The results of their deliberations are published by the Congregation.

2002 – The Heroic Virtues of the Servant of God are approved by the panel of nine theologians on October 29, and forwarded to the bishops and cardinals of the Congregation of Saints for their approval to present a decree of Heroic Virtue to the Holy Father.

2003 – The Holy Father, Pope John Paul II, proclaims the Heroic Virtues of the Servant of God on April 12, giving Emperor Karl the title of “Venerable”.

2003 – A decree promulgating a miracle attributed to the Venerable Servant of God was read before Pope John Paul II on December 20. The miracle concerns a Polish sister who was in charge of a large hospital in Brazil. She had severe problems with her legs, and became bedridden. After several unsuccessful operations, her legs did not heal, becoming infected and quite painful. One of her confreres suggested that she should prayer to the Servant of God Karl of Austria. The nun rebuffed the suggestion in favor of a more familiar and popular saint. However, the pain and infection only increased. Finally, in desperation, the sister prayed to Emperor Karl. The next day, she was completely cured. Because of the nun’s work at the hospital, and numerous operations, her case is well documented by various physicians and nurses.

2004 – Pope Saint John Paul II proclaims Emperor Karl Blessed in Saint Peter’s Square, Vatican City, on Sunday, October 3, 2004, in front of a crowd estimated at 50,000 people. The event is televised live throughout Europe and rebroadcast later throughout the rest of the world.

Currently – The League of Prayers is growing in membership and promoting Emperor Karl's cause for canonization. Churches throughout the old Austro-Hungarian Empire are dedicating chapels and altars to Blessed Emperor Karl. Reports of prayers answered and possible miracles attributed to his intercession are being submitted and investigated. Devotion continues to spread throughout the United States and Canada.