Sainthood Cause

Sainthood for Father Kino Gets Major Advance
May 2006 

Submittal of Diocesean Petition & Evidence to Vatican
Fr. Luis Sinohui, Vicar General, Archdiocese of Hermosillo; Jesús Enrique Salgado, President, Por Los Caminos de Kino & Fundación Kino; Archbishop Ulises Macías, Archdiocese of Hermosillo; Fr. Germán Orozco, Diocese of Mexicali
May 4, 2006

The effort to elevate one of Tucson’s most important historic figures to Catholic sainthood has taken a major step forward, supporters of the canonization of Father Eusebio Francisco Kino say.

One hundred and thirty pounds of documents that support Kino’s beatification — the second to last step toward sainthood — were presented to the Congregation of Rites in Rome on May 4, said Paolo Rossi of the Associazione Culturale Padre Eusebio F. Chini in the village of Segno, Italy, where Kino was born. Chini was Father Kino’s birth name.

"People seem to be relieved that the papers are now in Rome," Rossi said.

Supporters have no idea when an announcement about Kino’s beatification will be made, he said. The final step after beatification is canonization, or elevation to sainthood, and Rossi said supporters are hopeful that will happen by the 300th anniversary of Kino’s death, in 2011.

The impetus for the canonization of the Jesuit priest, whose likeness sits on horseback at 15th Street and Kino Parkway, is coming primarily from Italy and Hermosillo, Rossi said. The Roman Catholic Diocese of Tucson also is supporting the cause.

An ardent Kino supporter in Tucson, the Rev. Charles Polzer, died unexpectedly in 2003. Polzer was a retired curator of ethno-history at Arizona State Museum and had worked on the effort to declare Kino a saint since the 1960s.

It was Kino’s work in the Sonoran Desert that qualifies him for sainthood, Rossi stressed. Kino is credited with bringing Christianity to the area. Today, about 27 percent of Tucson’s population is Catholic.

Kino founded or started 21 missions in the Pimeria Alta, or the land of the upper Pimas, in Northern Sonora and Southern Arizona in the late 1600s and early 1700s in an attempt to turn American Indians in the area to Christianity. The missions include those at San Xavier, Tumacácori and Guevavi.

Kino also introduced cattle and new crops to the region. In 1700, he put down the foundations for a church at the village of Bac, on the Santa Cruz River near modern Tucson, to be named after his patron saint, St. Francis Xavier.

Kino’s dream of a church here later was realized by Franciscans and Tohono O’odham Indians, who built the stunning structure of San Xavier del Bac. It remains an active church, recently restored, at the site of the northernmost post on Kino’s mission circuit.

The committee to declare Kino a saint formally began its work after a skeleton identified as Kino’s was discovered in 1966 in Magdalena de Kino, Sonora, 50 miles south of Nogales.

In 1967, the process began with Carlos Quintero-Arce, archbishop of Hermosillo, Sonora, who retired in the late 1990s. The current archbishop of Hermosillo, José Ulises Macías Salcedo, has continued the work by constituting a tribunal that includes Quintero-Arce and several priests in the Archdiocese of Hermosillo to make a formal case for beatification.

Though many missionaries who converted indigenous populations to Christianity have been criticized, Polzer told the Star in 2000 that Kino always resisted Spanish military policy toward American Indians and dealt with all people respectfully, never exploiting them.

Indeed, members of the Tohono O’odham Nation continue to make pilgrimages to Kino’s gravesite in Magdalena de Kino each fall, and until the early 1990s the tribe held re-enactments of Kino’s arrival in the Sonoran Desert. About 85 percent of the tribe is Catholic.

A possible stumbling block to Kino’s canonization may be that the Vatican requires evidence of two miracles linked to the person’s intervention before sainthood can be approved, Rossi said. But he said supporters remain faithful.

"One of the things Father Polzer always said is it’s a miracle his memory is being kept alive after so many years," Rossi said.

Stephanie Innes
"Sainthood for Father Kino Gets Major Advance"
Arizona Daily Star
May 18, 2006

Toward the Beatification of Eusebio Kino, S.J.
September 2002

"Remember our talking about Padre Kino the other night?" Fr. Edwin McDermott, S.J., the principal of Brophy Prep in Phoenix, had tapped on my door, an idea in mind. It was a few days after the festivities of July 31, the feast of St. Ignatius. The summer of 1959 was coming to a close.

"Well, the 250th anniversary of his death is coming up in a little over a year," he continued. "I thought we might dream up something to celebrate it." That's when my involvement with Padre Eusebio Kino, S.J., began; I was a Jesuit scholastic assigned to Brophy, and I had spent a whole year reveling in the unique fascination of the desert.

We 20th-century Jesuits prepared to commemorate the 17th-century Jesuits who had opened up the desert that would one day become Arizona. Genuine pioneers who predated the founding of the Republic!

As a historian, I have come to know a great deal about this 17th-century Jesuit missionary who spent the greater part of his life in northwestern New Spain (Mexico).

Will the Church ever beatify Padre Kino, the "Padre on Horseback"? That is a question I have been hearing for many years.

I have assiduously avoided becoming the promoter of his cause for beatification or canonization (the last and final stage of sainthood). For me, that's God's job, not mine. And, quite frankly, he seems to be hard at work influencing people around the world to pay heed to the lessons of Kino's life. As an interested observer I have watched the "cause" for Padre Kino rise and fall like a series of waves before an impending storm.

Fr. McDermott's suggestion to commemorate Kino when he knocked on my door that summer evening resulted in an issue of the magazine Arizona Highways dedicated to Kino's story: pictures of the Kino missions, a short biography, and an article on Kino's burial site.

Something was transpiring. There was no gathering of clerics or bishops of the Catholic Church. No Jesuits were clamoring for recognition of the famous missionary of their order. But people from all walks of life were coming to know something about this pioneer missionary who quite literally had put Arizona on the map—it was Kino the accomplished cartographer who first drew reliable maps of New Spain's northwest! Artists, historians, legislators, and business leaders were becoming accustomed to the name of Eusebio Kino; they were beginning to ask, "Who was this guy, anyway?"

Then, when Mexican Minister of Education, Agustén Yañez, was being debriefed by President Gustavo Diaz Ordaz, after the dedication of Kino's statue in Washington, D.C., the same question was raised. Furthermore, why are the Norteamericanos honoring a man who should obviously be recognized as a hero of Mexico? The president's reaction was simple and straightforward—"Señor Ministro, find Kino's grave."

In the high circles of Mexican anthropology a distinguished team was being formed by Wigberto Jimenez Moreno, who had solved the tantalizing mystery of the origins of the Aztecs. With the blessing of Minister Yañez and the director of the Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia (INAH), archaeologists, art historians, and historians began an exhaustive search for information about the scarcely known Padre Kino. Little did they realize that they were to walk into an already perplexing situation in Sonora, Mexico.

The year was 1965. When the INAH team from Mexico City descended on Magdalena on the far northern frontier, they discovered that the town had already attempted a futile search for Kino's grave. Reacting to the Arizona Highways article, the local Lions Club in 1962 sponsored an intense archaeological dig at the site depicted by Col. Gil Procter and Donald Page in an article on Kino's burial. The findings were negative, but they fueled wild rumors about the actual location of the grave. The failure of their efforts compelled several historians and anthropologists in Arizona to establish the Southwestern Mission Research Center to monitor any future attempts to discover the grave.

Everyone agreed that if the time should ever come to introduce a cause for beatification, there would be an indispensable need to have found the grave. In the case of "confessors," as that of Eusebio Kino, real remains are necessary lest another myth be canonized like St. Christopher!

The diligent work of Moreno's team exploded in waves of world interest when they announced the discovery of his grave in May 1966 in Magdalena. Sonorans and Arizonans were astonished that their great pioneer was now receiving such widespread attention. Governor Luís Encinas Johnson of Sonora enticed an old friend, Julián Martínez, the sculptor laureate of Mexico, to design and cast equestrian bronze statues of the "Padre on Horseback" for the two state capitals, Hermosillo and Phoenix. Kino was not about to sink into oblivion.

Magdalena created a monumental plaza in Kino's honor. The town plaza, town hall, municipal offices, jail, several businesses, and homes were demolished to make way for the intricate design of Francisco Arteaga, the renowned architect who had redone colonial Irapuato. Kino's remains were left in situ, and the plaza structures were focused on a central fountain. The project sped to completion in time for its dedication by Mexican President Luís Echeverría in the spring of 1970. Once a dusty cow town known for its weekend drinking and dancing, Magdalena was being transformed by the silent presence of one of its foremost pioneers.

But the wave subsided once again. Scrawny trees and struggling roses tried to overcome the barrenness and emptiness of the memorial plaza. A solitary watchman patrolled the mausoleum that protected Kino's bones, which were open to view. Kino rested in peace.

Time was trotting on. The padre on horseback was coming up on another anniversary—the 300th, of his arrival in the Pimería Alta. As has been said, Kino rode into Dolores Cosari on March 13, 1687, and into history; he breached the "rim of Christendom" in the words of historian Herbert Eugene Bolton. And the State of Sonora was ready to commemorate the event. In fact the entire year of 1987 was declared a memorial year; towns all over the state were designated for special ceremonies each month of the year.

The response was stupendous. Songs were composed; poems written; eulogies devised; and fiestas planned. It was a groundswell of recognition for the man who had once ridden the foreboding desert trails of Sonora.

Arizona was not about to overlook the anniversary of the coming of the man who put it on the map. The Arizona Historical Society initiated a project called "Three Statues for Three Centuries." The concept was to erect larger-than-life equestrian statues of Padre Kino in Tucson, where he had founded Mission San Xavier del Bac; in Magdalena, where he had died; and in Segno, the Italian town of his birth. Who could be more qualified than Julián Martínez to sculpt the commemorative bronzes? And so the statue project joined with the surge of interest in Mexico to create yet another wave of recognition that would reverberate across the oceans!

While artists were engaging their skills and political leaders were tabulating the influence of the long deceased missionary, the historians labored quietly in archives and university offices compiling the evidence that would be needed for the process of beatification. Kino's remains had long since been discovered and certified; the proper historical commissions had been established. But what was going on with the Church?

Well, that brings up the crucial question: what must be done to beatify a person in the eyes of the Church? Were any miracles attributed to Kino?

There is a well-defined canonical process, which first focuses on determining the "sanctity" of the individual. Sanctity itself can be a very rubbery word. Obviously it denotes "holiness." But what one person considers "holy" someone else dismisses as "pious claptrap." So, for the purposes of beatification the Church demands that the "heroic sanctity" of the individual be indisputably established. Heroic sanctity does not imply devotional piety; it does, however, connote exemplary virtue, especially as seen in active faith, consuming charity, as well as an inspiring, positive trust in God's mercy.

The historical record of Padre Kino reveals a sterling record of heroic sanctity. Already during his lifetime the highest Jesuit superiors were recognizing him as an exemplary missionary. Father General Tirso Gonzalez compared him to St. Francis Xavier—a compliment reserved for only the most deserving sons of Ignatius!

That assessment was concurred in by Father General Miguel Tamburini and Juan Antonio Balthasar, the Mexican provincial, who wrote openly about Kino's heroic sanctity and virtue more than 40 years after his death. Well, if all this is true, why did the reputation of Padre Kino sink into the desert sands? Although Balthasar championed Kino's vision and dreams in the 1750s, his attempts at mission expansion fell victim to the strangulating policies of Charles III, the Bourbon monarch of Spain.

Jesuits were falling on hard times in their distaste for the absolutist leanings of the European kingdoms. Portugal, France, and eventually Spain found sufficient reason to exile and suppress the Society of Jesus wherever they existed in their empires. In 1767 Charles III succeeded in exiling all Jesuits in his worldwide empire. It was a stunning blow that brought the mission movement to its knees. The once powerful and influential companions of Ignatius were scorned and rejected. It was politically incorrect, inside and outside the Church, to even mention or recognize the vanished presence of the Jesuits.

Kino surfaced in the first decade of the 20th century through the diligent work of historian Bolton, who, as a Protestant, had no theological ax to grind. Perhaps Charles III did succeed in draining the lake of Jesuit reputation, but Bolton filled it up again and rippled its waters with the first wave by recognizing the heroism of Eusebio Francisco Kino.

Today the Church reels with the legions of blessed and saints inducted into the honors of the altar by Pope John Paul II. How can Kino be far behind? He can't. But the enormous difference is that Kino has regained his eminent reputation by a grassroots movement from believers and nonbelievers. His apostolic vision embraces no political or devotional sect; he rests alone in the desert as a standard of faith and charity, as a man of peace and cooperation, as a man of justice and mercy, following his model Jesus Christ, if even from the grave.

When, if ever, will he be beatified? In time, my friends, in God's good time. And what about miracles? Well, isn't the persistent record of his sanctity miracle enough? The wave is cresting once again, and this time it just may carry him to the altar.

Fr. Charles Polzer, S.J.
"Padre on Horseback
To Obscurity and Back:
Toward the Beatification of Eusebio Kino, S.J."

The Company
September 2002

For entire article with images and additional text,
For English, click Toward Beatification
For Italian, click Verso La Beautificazione

Sainthood Process

Great Video on Sainthood Process

How Does the Catholic Church Declare Official Saints?

This great 5 minute video accurately and simply describes the different ways that the Catholic Church officially declares someone a saint: the formal 4 step process and the equivalent canonization declaration by the Pope. 

Minutes: 5:42

General Canonizaton Flow Chart

Detailed Canonization Flow Chart

 Prayer to Saint Francis Xavier
Canonization of Father Kino

Most loving St. Francis Xavier,
you have interceded most effectively throughout the centuries
to bring faith and hope to non-believers over all the world.

Please, beseech Almighty God 
to honor those who have spent their lives in the service of mankind.

Remember God’s humble servant,
Eusebio Francisco Kino,
who vowed his life in the service of the peoples of the Americas
and who imitated your virtues so intensely.

Even as he prayed that he owed his life, his vocation,
and his missionary assignment to your intercession,
intercede, we pray,
that his selfless zeal be recognized by the Church
so that his life, as yours,
may become a model for all
who profess an enduring and consuming love of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

“We will sing,
O Lord, of your greatness,
Your virtues,
Your abounding mercies,
And the heavenly favors of you and your saints.“


Jesuit Fathers of Southern Arizona

Oración a San Francisco Xavier
por la
Canonización del Padre Kino

Amantísimo San Francisco Xavier
tu has intercedido con gran eficacia
a través de los siglos para atraer a la fe y a la esperanza
a los no creyentes entodo el mundo.

Te suplicamos pidas a Dios Todopoderoso honrar a aquellos
que han gastado su vida en el servicio de la humanidad.

Recuerda al más humilde siervo de Dios,
Eusebio Francisco Kino,
quien dedicó su vida al servicio de la gente de las Américas
y quien te imitó intensamente en tus virtudes.

Aunque él oraba diciendo que debía su vida, su vocación
y su envio a las misiones a tu intercession,

Te pedimos intercedas
para que su celo apostólico sea reconocido por La Iglesia,
para que su vida, modelo de la tuya,
sea modelo para todos
los que profesan su amor sin fin y consumante a
Jesucristo, el Hijo de Dios.

“Cantaremos, oh Señor, tu grandeza,
tus virtudes, tus abundantes misericordias,
 y favores celestiales tuyos y de tus santos.”


Jesuit Fathers of Southern Arizona

Prayer to Father Kino
Associazione Culturale Padre Eusebio F. Chini 

Preghiera a Padre Chini

O venerato padre Eusebio Francesco,
umile messaggero del vangelo
e servitore degli ultimi, domandiamo
con fiducia la tua intercessione.

Hai lasciato al patria e gli amici per condurre
i popoli verso la Patria eterna; rendici attenti
agli altri e premurosi con tutti.

Con l'esempio e la parola hai construito
comunitá solidali: portaci a dimenticare
un poco noi stessi per fare felici
le persone che incontriamo.

Per la dignitá del poveri hai speso energie
e coraggio: insegnaci la caritá fraterna
che è vera giustizia.
Con la forza che viene dall'Alto, illumina
i governanti delle terre,
che hai percorso da buon pastore premuroso;
stà vicino a chi ha bisogno di tutto;
dà speranza al deboli;  rendici vincitori del male.

Padre Eusebio Francesco,
chiediamo tutto questo fidando nella
tua intercessione e uniti al Santi del Cielo.

Per Cristo nostro Signore.

Associazione Culturale Padre Eusebio F. Chini 

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