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History of Cause of Blessed Marianne Cope at the
Congregation for Causes of Saints in Vatican City, Italy

Mother Marianne’s cause has passed through the first two stages of a canonization cause: the Servant of God became Venerable in 2004 and the following year, 2005, was proclaimed Blessed. The last stage would be for her to be proclaimed a canonized Saint.

Venerable Stage – Approval of Heroic Virtue at the Vatican

  • 2003 Oct. 24 Theologians unanimously affirm Mother Marianne's heroic virtue (9-0).

  • 2004 Jan. 13 Cardinals/Bishops of Congregation unanimously affirm Mother's heroic virtue (approx. 20 voters).

  • 2004 April 19 Pope John Paul II affirms Mother's heroic virtue in special ceremony at Vatican. Decree issued.

Blessed Stage – Raised to Altars of the Church

  • 2004 Jan. 29 Vatican Medical Board rules unanimously miracle case is inexplicable medical recovery. (5-0)).

  • 2004 July 15 Theologians rule unanimously-- miracle was due to the intercession of Venerable Marianne Cope.

  • 2004 Dec. 20 Pope John Paul II affirms miracle case allowing Ven. Marianne to be eligible to be declared Blessed.

Beatification of Venerable Marianne Cope took place on May 14, 2005. The feast day of Blessed Marianne Cope was announced at the Beatification to be her birthday January 23rd. A Papal Audience with Pope Benedict XVI took place on May 16, 2005.

Detailed Chronological History of the Cause: The Steps Towards
Mother Marianne’s Canonization

Chronological events of note during the efforts to canonize Mother Marianne Cope. It is significant in Mother Marianne’s cause that in 1983 his Holiness Pope John Paul II issued new rules for canonization.

For a lengthy period of time during Cause preliminaries in the mid-1970s until 1983 no real progress was possible at the Vatican because action on most causes mainly were in a state of flux. Mother Marianne’s cause was caught in midstream – in-between the time of the old rules and the issuing of new rules for causes. Therefore, it follows that the procedure for Mother’s cause was not the same as a cause being introduced after 1983; for instance, our religious community started our contacts at the Vatican and then it was opened in the Diocese of Honolulu and then back to Rome again. This was the procedure to follow at the time but the new rules of 1983 place more authority in the hands of the local bishop. Currently a cause begins in a diocese and then goes to the Vatican.

During the time at the Vatican that nothing significant seemed to be happening, the definitive biography of Mother Marianne was written. It served as an important impetus when it was presented in 1983 to the congregation. The Cause officially opened on May 14, 1983.


1918 Aug. 9th  Mother Marianne Cope dies at Kalaupapa, Molokai.  Her  great reputation of sanctity is indisputable and far-reaching.

1920s  Mother Marianne's reputation of sanctity continues after her death. Newspapers pick up the story from witnesses, lay and religious, and carry the story of her heroic virtue.  Franciscan Sisters’ officials in Syracuse and Hawaii collect data and testimony to support a possible future canonization.   Many (extant) memoirs are written. 

1935  Publication of the first biography of Mother Marianne MOTHER MARIANNE OF MOLOKAI written by L.V. Jacks  by The Macmillan Company, New York.

Late 1950s-60s  Rev. Mother M. Jolenta Wilson’s planned to exhume Mother Marianne’s remains.   The process is suspended temporarily after she visits Kalaupapa to make arrangements and meets with patients who knew Mother Marianne and care for her grave. Patients ask for the exhumation not to be done while they are alive.

Preliminaries: Actions and Research

A cause presently no longer begins at the Vatican but instead is initiated in a local diocese.  A Postulator or representative at the Vatican is not required until the cause work is prepared under the auspices of the diocese.  Mother Marianne's cause instead began at the Vatican under former regulations for causes in effect before 1983. 

1973 Dec. 7 Mother Viola Kiernan received from a tentative Postulator or representative A Program for Preliminary Research into the Life of Reverend Mother Marianne Cope for the Eventual Cause of Beatification. 

1974 Jan. Franciscan Sister Mary Laurence Hanley is deputed under direction of Mother Viola to gather information on a part-time basis.  

1974 Aug. 22 The General Chapter of the Sisters of Saint Francis unanimously petition  the Holy Father, Pope Paul VI, for the opening of the cause.

1976 Oct. 25 The Most Rev.  John J. Scanlan, Bishop of Honolulu, assents in writing to the Holy See to the initiative of the Sisters of Saint Francis of Syracuse, NY, to look into the evidences to be considered for the beatification of Mother Marianne Cope.

1976 Dec. 29  Fr. Ernesto Piacentini, O.F.M Conv., of Rome,  registers his mandate on November 27th from the Sisters of Saint Francis of Syracuse to be Postulator,  the official representative for the cause, at the Vatican’s Congregation for the Causes of Saints. 

1977  Mar. 21  Fr. Piacentini sends a “supplex libellus," or letter of request, to Honolulu’s Bishop John J. Scanlan  requesting him to officially execute the preliminary steps for the official introduction of  the cause.  Exhibits obtained were prepared in Syracuse to illustrate the quality and quantity of information available in New York State and Hawaii.

1977 Apr. 5  Fr. Piacentini  visits Bishop of Honolulu and Bishop writes an Instantia to the Congregation asking them to examine the material presented to him to obtain a Nulla Obstat.

1977 Aug.  The newly elected Franciscan superior general, Sister M. Aileen Griffin, initiates a second petition to the Holy Father for an official introduction of Mother Marianne’s cause.   Sr. Hanley is appointed cause’s full-time director.  A biographical booklet written by her is sent to members of the hierarchy of the United States.  

1977 Oct. 8  Fr. Piacentini requests Bishop Scanlan to request his local Episcopal Conference to send a postulatory letter, a letter of recommendation to the Holy Father Pope Paul VI, appealing for the official introduction of the Cause.

1977 Nov. 2  His Excellency Bishop Scanlan wrote to the  Most Rev. John R. Quinn, Archbishop of San Francisco, President of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops,  in support of a cause of Beatification.  

1977 Nov. 12 The Administrative Committee of the NCCB take appropriate actions and write to the Holy Father on behalf of the assembled Cardinals, archbishops and Bishops, in support of a Cause for the Beatification for Mother Marianne Cope.  

1979 Oct. 10 Fr.  Piacentini wrote to the Rev. Agostino Amore, Relator General, requesting advice in regard to the furtherance of the introduction of the Cause of Mother Marianne.

1979 Oct. 15  Father Amore responded to letter of Oct. 10th that a decision was made at the Congregation that a Relation (Report) must be written and signed in solidum by Commissioners appointed by the Bishop of Honolulu.  If the Ordinary of the Diocese is satisfied with its contents a synthesis of the conclusion of the Commissioners along with representative documentation can be sent by the Bishop to the Congregation.

1980 July 15 Fr. Ernesto sent a letter to Bishop Scanlan suggesting the appointment of an Historical Commission. [the four commissioners had been working privately in collecting and studying documentation since 1975].

Official Inquisitional Stage (Investigatory or Research)

1980  Aug. 9  Bishop Scanlan by official Decree appointed a 14-member diocesan Historical Commission for the “Cause of the Servant of God, Mother Marianne Cope." Two members in Hawaii and two in Syracuse were named Commissioners and the others Consultants.  Other consultants were added later. 

1982  The definitive biography of Mother Marianne, “ A SONG OF PILGRIMAGE AND EXILE," written by Hawaii historian O. A. Bushnell and Sr. Mary Laurence Hanley,  Cause Director, is published by the Franciscan Herald Press in Chicago, Illinois. 

1983 Apr. 21  Bishop Joseph A. Ferrario writes an official submission of and his approval of the Historical Report in order to gain a Nihil Obstat to introduce the Cause of Mother Marianne.

1983 May 14   Mother Marianne’s cause is officially registered at the Vatican’s Congregation for the Causes of Saints.  Pope John Paul II issues new simplified rules for canonization during the year and copies were obtained.  This date marked the official Introduction of the Cause.

1983 May 17  The Historical Commission presented its official report to Pope John Paul II.  Sr. Aileen Griffin, Superior General, presented the Holy Father Pope John Paul II  a copy of  Mother Marianne's definitive biography, “A Song of Pilgrimage and Exile," especially bound with a white cover.

1983 July  Nihil Obstat given to cause. The Congregation of Religious and Congregation of  Faith have completed the requisite of research of their Archives and have found nothing contrary to the sanctity of Mother Marianne Cope.

1983 Aug. 9  The Bishop of Honolulu,  the Most Rev. Joseph A. Ferrario, established a Diocesan Tribunal to examine and complete the Historical Commission’s documentation and to take witnesses’ testimony regarding Mother Marianne’s life and virtue.

1988 Nov. 26  Bishop Ferrario at St. Francis Church at Kalaupapa, Molokai, authenticated 27 volumes of authenticated research for Fr. Ernesto Piacentini to submit to the Congregation for the Causes of Saints.  

Actions: Discussional Stage

1989 Feb. 10 The Congregation for  Causes of Saints appointed Father Peter Gumpel , S.J.,  as “ Relator", the examining judge, of the cause.  He is responsible to examine the 27 volumes of documentation to determine if there is substantial  material for the cause to proceed.  Father Peter's  review of evidences is extremely positive.

1989 July 14 Cardinal Angelus Felici, Prefect of the Congregation for Causes of Saints, officially accepted and validated the Historical Commission’s research.  The cause proceeds.

1989-1995  Fr. Peter Gumpel,  S. J., Cause Relator, advises Sister Mary Laurence in the writing of the “ POSITIO" the official three-volume synthesis of the documentation of Mother Marianne’s life.

1995 June 20 Fr. Peter Gumpel, Relator,  presents an official affirmative judgment  of the POSITIO to the Congregation for the Causes of Saints,  referring to it as  “fully documented and convincing."  

1996  Apr. 30   Historians of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints unanimously affirm the POSITIO'S historical documentation (6-0). Fr. Peter Gumpel, Vatican Relator (examining judge) was invited to proceeding and responded to any unanswered questions remaining from their study.

1998 Mar. 5  Miracle study progress for the Beatification:  Fr. Piacentini writes an authorization to Sr. Marion Kikukawa to be Vice Postulator in the case of an alleged miracle attributed to Mother Marianne’s intercession.

1998 July 1 The Bishop of  the Diocese of Syracuse, the Most Rev. James M. Moynihan, appointed a Diocesan Tribunal to conduct an inquiry into an alleged miracle supported by physicians and prayer witnesses  of the complete cure of a girl who had multiple organs systems failure.

1998 Dec. 19 The Mother Marianne Cope Museum in St. Anthony Convent & Motherhouse, Syracuse, NY,  is dedicated.

1999 Two books about Mother Marianne written by Mary Cabrini Durkin, OSU,  in collaboration with Sr. Hanley are published:  one is for adults: Mother Marianne of Molokai:  Valiant Woman of Hawaii, and the other for children: Heroic Woman of Molokai.

Decisional Stage

Before a Servant of God is beatified, the heroic virtue of the person must be authenticated. Then the person can be proclaimed Venerable by the Holy Father.  A verified miracle is required before the person can be proclaimed Blessed.

1998 July 9 to 2001 Feb.2  Diocesan Inquiry held twenty sessions in Syracuse NY into the alleged miracle attributed to the intervention of Mother Marianne Cope.

2003 Oct. 24  Theologians of the Congregation for Causes of Saints made their decision on Mother's sanctity mainly through the study of the MIRACLE POSITIO. The theologians met and unanimously affirmed Mother Marianne’s heroic virtue (9-0).   Fr. Peter Gumpel was invited to proceedings and responded to any questions resulting from their individual study.

2004 Jan. 13  The Cardinals, Archbishops and Bishops of the Congregation for Causes of Saints met and unanimously affirmed Mother Marianne’s heroic virtue (approx. 20 members).

2004 Jan. 29  The Vatican Medical Board ruled unanimously the miracle case an inexplicable medical recovery (5-0).

2004 Apr. 19 Pope John Paul II proclaimed  Mother Marianne “Venerable" at a special ceremony at the Vatican. A Decree was issued affirming Mother's heroic virtue.

2004 Apr. 27 Upon the request of the Bishop of Honolulu, the Most Rev. Francis X. DiLorenzo, the Cardinal Prefect of the Congregation for Causes of Saints,  Sariava Cardinal Martins,  authorizes the process for the exhumation of Mother Marianne’s remains for identification – a requirement for beatification.

2004 July 15 Theologians rule unanimously that miracle was due to the intercession of Venerable Marianne Cope.

2004 July 19 Rev. Thomas Gross, Diocesan Administrator in Honolulu honors request for exhumation of Mother Marianne on preferred date, Monday, January 24, 2004.

2004 Aug. 5  Fr. Piacentini sends a letter or mandate for Sr. Marion Kikukawa to act as Vice Postulator for the exhumation process of Mother Marianne's remains.

2004 Nov. 9 The Cardinals, Archbishops and Bishops of the Congregation  for Causes of Saints met and unanimously approve the miracle attributed to the intercession of Mother Marianne Cope.

2004 Dec. 20 Pope John Paul II affirmed the miracle case allowing Venerable Marianne Cope to be eligible to be declared Blessed.

2005 week of Jan. 23 Exhumation of remains of Ven. Marianne Cope from her burial site at Bishop Home, Kalaupapa, Molokai.

2005 Jan. 28 Letter of the Most Rev. James M. Moynihan, Bishop of Syracuse, welcoming the remains of Ven . Marianne Cope to the Diocese of Syracuse. 

2005  Feb. 2  Arrival of remains of Ven. Marianne Cope in Syracuse, N.Y.  Official welcoming ceremony at Cathedral of Immaculate Conception.

2005 May 14  Beatification of Ven. Marianne Cope took place at the Vatican.  Cardinal Jose Saraiva Martins, Prefect of the Congregation, presided.  The feastday of Blessed Marianne Cope was announced at the Beatification to be her birthday, January 23rd.

2005 May 16  A Papal Audience with Pope Benedict XVI took place with the pilgrims to the Beatification.

2005 Oct. 25 Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline of  Sacraments issues and forwards decree confirming the Proper Calendar of the Diocese of Syracuse. The text for the liturgy of Blessed Marianne Cope is confirmed. 

2006 Jan. 18 Congregation for the Causes of Saints issues and forwards Decree of Beatification of the Servant of God, Marianne Cope, during the pontificate of His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI-- signed by  Angelus Cardinal Sodano, Secretary of State at the Vatican.  Forwarded by Mons. Gabriele Caccia.