Saints in Anglicanism

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The word saint derives from the Latin sanctus, meaning holy, and has long been used in Christianity to refer to a person who was recognized as having lived a holy life and as being an exemplar and model for other Christians. Beginning in the 10th century, the Church began to centralise and formalise the process of recognising saints; the process whereby an individual was added to the canon (list) of recognised saints became known as canonisation.

Saints who had been canonized when the Church of England was in communion with Rome generally continued to be recognized as saints after the English Reformation in the 16th century.[1]

Since the split with Rome, the Church of England sometimes uses the word hero or heroine to recognise those holy people whom the church synod or an individual church praises as having had special benevolence. It considers such muted terms a reversion to a more simple and cautious doctrine which emphasises empowerment (subsidiarity) to all members and components of the church.

The provinces of the Anglican Communion therefore commemorate many of the saints in the General Roman Calendar, often on the same days.

In some cases, Anglican Calendars have kept pre-1954 celebratory days that the Roman Catholic Church has since moved or abolished.[citation needed]

Early Christianity[edit]

Like the Roman Catholic Church, the Anglican Communion has special holy days in honour of Jesus Christ, the Blessed Virgin Mary and the Apostles. Many of the parish churches in the Communion have the names Christ Church, and St. Mary the Virgin. The same can also be said for the four great patrons of Great Britain and Ireland, Saint George (England), Saint David (Wales), Saint Patrick (Ireland), and Saint Andrew (Scotland).

English saints[edit]

English and local saints are often emphasised, and there are differences between the provinces' calendars. King Charles I of England is the only person to have been treated as a new saint by some Anglicans following the English Reformation, after which he was referred to as a martyr and included briefly in a calendar of the Book of Common Prayer.[2] This canonisation is, however, considered neither universal nor official in the Anglican Communion worldwide, and many national Churches list him as a martyr and not a Saint, or as neither.

English martyrs[edit]

There are several persons commemorated in the modern Anglican calendars who were opposed to the Roman Catholic Church. Of particular note are John Wycliffe and William Tyndale, for beginning the full translation of the Bible into English (a project which led to the Geneva Bible), and for writings against the Catholic Church.

The Oxford Martyrs, Thomas Cranmer, Nicholas Ridley, and Hugh Latimer, are also commemorated for the courage they showed in death, and for their belief in a free Church of England.

Ugandan martyrs[edit]

In the 19th century, 23 Anglican and 22 Roman Catholic converts were martyred together in Uganda. The Church of England commemorates the Ugandan martyrs on 3 June together with Archbishop Janani Luwum, who was murdered in 1977 on the orders of Idi Amin. On 18 October 1964, Pope Paul VI canonised the 22 Ugandan martyrs who were Roman Catholics.

Modern notables[edit]

Anglican churches also commemorate various famous (often post-Reformation) Christians. The West front of Westminster Abbey, for example, contains statues of 20th-century martyrs like Maximilian Kolbe, Martin Luther King Jr., Óscar Romero, Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Lucian Tapiedi (one of the Anglican New Guinea Martyrs).

Some traditional Anglican saints[edit]

Examples of modern Anglican saints[edit]

The ninth Lambeth Conference held in 1958 clarified the commemoration of Saints and Heroes of the Christian Church in the Anglican Communion. Resolution 79 stated:

  • In the case of scriptural saints, care should be taken to commemorate men or women in terms which are in strict accord with the facts made known in Holy Scripture.
  • In the case of other names, the Calendar should be limited to those whose historical character and devotion are beyond doubt.
  • In the choice of new names economy should be observed and controversial names should not be inserted until they can be seen in the perspective of history.
  • The addition of a new name should normally result from a widespread desire expressed in the region concerned over a reasonable period of time.[3]

Modern Anglican saints[edit]

The following have been identified as heroes of the Christian Church in the Anglican Communion (post-Reformation individuals commemorated in the Church of England Calendar,[4] excluding those primarily venerated by the Roman Catholic or Orthodox churches):

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Cross, F. L.; Livingstone, E. A., eds. (13 March 1997). The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church (3rd ed.). Oxford University Press USA. pp. 1444–1445.
  2. ^ Major, Richard (2006). "Anglican heroics? Sermon for the feast of King Charles the martyr" (PDF). Rector, St Mary's Episcopal Church, Staten Island, New York. Archived from the original (pdf) on 29 May 2008. Retrieved 22 February 2007.
  3. ^
  4. ^ The Archbishop's Council (13 December 2007). "Common Worship: Festivals" (PDF). Church House Publishing. Retrieved 16 May 2012.

Further reading[edit]