1. The preliminary phase of the cause: tasks related to the initiation of the process
In the Catholic Church, a process of canonization may be promoted by any juridical or physical person: a religious order, an association, an institute, a community or a single individual but also a bishop ex officio. The petition implies moral and financial responsibility. The moral condition of a process is the conviction of the candidate's holiness or martyrdom, while its financial condition is the commitment to cover the costs of the process. Upon the necessary approval of the competent Bishop, the promoter of the cause (officially referred to as actor), as Petitioner, nominates a postulator to represent the cause.
The Bishop has to ascertain whether the reputation of the candidate's holiness or martyrdom and of the signs and miracles attributed to their intercession is continuing among the faithful. The Libellus, in which the Postulator requests the initiation of the cause, shall attest to it. The Postulator's petition, furthermore, shall also touch upon the pastoral importance of the cause for the Church, present the biographical data of the candidate, and propose the witnesses to be heard.
The main responsibility for the diocesan process lies with the Bishop since without his written decree no canonization process can be initiated. The Bishop is responsible for ensuring that, in the event of so-called ancient causes, all the relevant written sources or, in the event of recent causes, all the relevant oral testimonies and documents are gathered. The objective is to prepare the most comprehensive documentation possible and to examine exhaustively the circumstances of the alleged miracles.
Before deciding on the initiation of a process, the Bishop has to consult the ordinaries of the neighbouring dioceses (in Hungary and in the neighbouring small or medium-sized countries the entire Conference of Bishops). As all canonization processes are ultimately aimed at the canonization of the candidates, this step is required in order to ensure the pastoral importance of the cause and to avoid it being limited to a narrow community. Then the Bishop makes the Postulator's petition public and informs Rome of his intention of initiating the process, to which the Holy See responds with a "nihil obstat" indicating that it has "no objections" to the cause.
The process is initiated by a decree of the Bishop, in which he appoints the officials of the process and sets up the three-member tribunal consisting of the Episcopal Delegate (delegated judge), the Promotor of Justice (promotor iustitiae) and the Notary. Whenever the process takes place in a language different from the ones accepted by the Congregation, a translator is needed to translate the entire documentation of the process into one of the accepted languages (usually into Italian). The Theologians and Historical Consultors to the process are responsible for gathering and evaluating the written sources and documents while the Medical Experts (or Technical Experts of other fields) for the scientific examination of the miracles. Each official is obliged to take an oath to fulfil faithfully his task and to maintain the secret of office.
2.Gathering of written proofs and documents
The Theological Censors are responsible for examining the published writings of the candidate and verify that there is nothing contained in them contrary to Faith and good morals. In their opinions, the Theological Censors are also to delineate the personality and spirituality of the Servant of God. The commission of experts in historical matters is made up of at least three members. In the so-called ancient causes the reports of the historical committee and the related documents constitute the primary proofs of holiness or martyrdom.
3. Hearing of witnesses
The first session of the tribunal may take place following the gathering of written proofs and documents. Both the first and the last sessions may take place publicly, with due solemnity and within a liturgical framework, that is, turning the beginning and the closure of the process into occasions for prayer. There is no requirement regarding the number of witnesses but all the eyewitnesses, that is, those who must have had direct and immediate knowledge of the candidate, must be heard.
4. Closing of the inquiry and forwarding of the acts to Rome
The original acts of the rogatory inquiry are called Archetype and the faithful transcript of the acts are called Transumptum or Transcript. The Exemplar Publicum, that is, the Public Copy is a second copy of the Transcript, bearing the seal and initials of the Notary on each page. After being attested, the original acts and their copies are solemnly closed at the closing session, the originals and one copy of each translated act are stamped with seals and taken to the archive of the diocese, and the necessary copies are forwarded to Rome. With this, the diocesan process comes to an end.