What is the difference between a “Saint” and a “Blessed”?
The process of proclaiming someone as a saint in the Catholic Church has evolved over the course of many centuries. In the beginning, those honored as saints were almost exclusively biblical figures or martyrs.
However, after the legalization of Christianity in the fourth century, new holy women and men came to be honored as saints, and this was often done by popular acclaim or by the local bishop or abbot.
It was Pope Gregory IX (who was pope from 1227 to 1241) who officially proclaimed that only the pope had the authority to add someone to the official list (the “canon”) of saints. This is the meaning of the word “canonization.”
Today, the saint-making process includes several steps, including detailed studies of the person’s life and a recognition that they died as a martyr or lived a life of “heroic virtue.” Once someone is recognized as a martyr or if a miracle is attributed to their intercession, they will be beatified and honored as “Blessed.” This means that they can be celebrated by Catholics in a particular country or region or by the members of certain religious community. If another miracle occurs and is approved, then the “Blessed” is canonized and honored with the title “Saint,” meaning that they are now officially recognized as a universal model of holiness and an intercessor.