The previous procedure, which has stood for centuries, was amended by the pontiff last week
The Pope has overhauled a centuries-old procedure on how people can become saints with a new apostolic letter released recently.
Until now, it required martyrdom, living a life of heroic values or having a clear saintly reputation.
But Pope Francis has opened the way to declare as saints those who, following in the footsteps and teachings of Jesus, freely choose to give their lives for others in situations that they know will lead to their certain death.
The pope decreed this fourth path in an apostolic letter dated July 11 in the form of a motu proprio (or, decree on his own initiative) titled “Greater Love Than This, On the Offering of life.” (The Latin title is “Lettera Apostolicae Motu Proprio Datae De Oblatione Vitae”).
It applies to people who live good Christian lives and do something to save others that they know will result in a certain, quick death.
However, candidates will still have to have two miracles attributed to them. The Vatican pointed to Polish priest Maximilian Kolbe as an example.
Kolbe was being held at Auschwitz, the Nazi death camp, in 1941, when he offered to take the place of a fellow prisoner due to be killed.
The priest was given the lethal injection instead, administered in collective punishment for a prison escape. His sainthood cause began in 1955 and he was given the honour in 1982.
The pope writes, “It is certain that this heroic offering of life, suggested and sustained by charity, expresses a true, full and exemplary imitation of Christ and, therefore, is worthy of that admiration which the community of the faithful have usually reserved for those who have voluntarily accepted the martyrdom of blood or have exercised the Christian virtues to a heroic degree.”