VATICAN CITY —
Pope Francis on Thursday made key changes to the complex and often opaque financial procedures involved in the making of Roman Catholic saints.
A decree calls for new controls on the costs of making saints, which can amount to hundreds of thousands of dollars in the gathering of evidence and lawyers' fees. The process can take decades.
Accusations have sometimes been made of mismanagement and corruption, and that the system favors candidates for sainthood from wealthy countries.
In his 2015 book Merchants in the Temple, Italian author Gianluigi Nuzzi wrote that a commission looking into Vatican finances found that the church's saint-making office had little or no documentation of funds used by postulators, the chief promoters of candidatures.
Nuzzi, who is now on trial in the Vatican for publishing leaked documents, wrote that about a million euros ($1.1 million) in suspect funds held by a postulator in the Vatican bank was frozen in 2014.
The new decree stipulates that contributions from the faithful and groups must go into an account and be managed by an administrator. The administrator must "scrupulously respect the intentions" of contributors, keep detailed documentation, and present budgets to a superior.
In his book, Nuzzi wrote that a single sainthood could cost 750,000 euros. The new norms provide for the creation of a "solidarity fund" to help candidates from poor areas.
The 21-article decree demands more financial vigilance at each stage of the process, which usually starts in a local diocese after a preliminary investigation.
The church posthumously confers sainthood on people who are believed to have been sufficiently holy during their lives that they are now in heaven and can intercede with God to perform miracles.
If the Vatican agrees that someone is a possible candidate, years of investigation begin. If a miracle, usually an inexplicable healing of a sick person, is attributed to the candidate, he or she is beatified. The final step, canonization, requires a second miracle.