Orthodox Canonizations


Can somebody here explain how Orthodox Canonizations work?

The reason I ask is that the centennial of the murder of the Russian Imperial Family is tomorrow, and I know that they were canonized twice by branches of the Russian Orthodox Church. What does that mean in context? As a Catholic, I’m really only familiar with canonization from the Catholic prospective.

Is the canonization binding in any fashion on other Orthodox churches?

For those of us who are Catholic, does canonization in an Orthodox church, since the unfortunate separation between the Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches, have any sort of impact on us? I.e., do we regard it as valid, persuasive, etc?


The short answer to your question is, “No”, as in, “No it can’t be explained.” :slight_smile:

There is not generally a formal process; they still follow the pattern of the early Church (long ago, so did the West).

It’s largely a matter of an initially local veneration spreading and becoming widespread over time. At some point, a synod or patriarch ends up adding the saint to the calendar (adding to the canon).

but it’s not as exact as I describe . . .



  1. This has to do with the state of the Russian Church during the bolshevik period and some other political turmoil happening in Russia during the last century. But basically you had a separate Russian synod formed later/currently known as ROCOR (Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia) in addition to the primary Mowscow-Patriarchate based Russian Orthodox Church. Especially with all the communism and other related issues, Moscow and ROCOR weren’t in full communion until 2007? So what happened was that the Russian family was canonized by ROCOR in 1981. Later, the Russian Church also canonized them in 2000. Again, you normally wouldn’t have double canonizations of saints from the same geographic church, but what existed at the time was 2 different entities, so they each canonized separately.

  2. The cultus of veneration surrounding saints in the Orthodox Church is much closer to the early church practice than say the current Roman model of canonization process (with different stages and verified miracles, and being on a universal level etc).
    In the OC, official “canonizations” is basically the hierarchy of the church giving their stamp of approval for the saint to now be added to the liturgical calendar and able to be celebrated liturgically. But again, the veneration of saints in the early church were largely local in nature. So you wouldn’t normally canonize saints from outside your territory since again, at least in the early church, most saints outside of your region would be unknown to you. And again, a saint is canonized by the local bishop/church wherever the veneration of a local community is large enough to justify with discernment recognition by the bishops. So saint veneration and later canonization was more so a local church matter. But there is definitely an implicit acceptance of a fellow church’s canonizations and saints within the communion of the Orthodox Church. So binding isn’t the right word. Not sure if it can be summed up in one word. I mean, if a canonized saint in Russia is not venerated by the people in Serbia, what reason does Serbia have to officially canonize the saint themselves and add it to their calendar? If their is no veneration of the saint in Serbia, it serves no purpose to proclaim their stamp of approval for liturgical celebration. And again, their would be an implicit acceptance of a fellow church’s canonization so in that sense, rec-canonizations are redundant/unnecessary, and parishes in a totally different region should be fine to liturgically celebrate a canonized saint elsewhere if they do wish to.

  3. Regarding the final question, a number of post-schism saints are kept in the liturgical calendars of a number of Eastern Catholic Churches when they went in communion with Rome. And although from a Roman perspective, an Orthodox canonization might not have the same force as might a papal canonization, technically there is nothing forbidding you from venerating Orthodox saints as saints (it’s the same with Orthodox, and is one of the ways saints eventually become canonized). You probably just can’t venerate liturgically unless its recognized in your church’s calendar.


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