From Vatican Radio:
Pope Francis issued an Apostolic Letter motu proprio on Tuesday, by which he created a new category, distinct from martyrdom, under which a Servant of God may be declared Blessed: oblatio vitae, or “the free offering (i.e. “oblation”) of [one’s] life”. The Letter, Maiorem hac dilectionem, takes its title from the words of Our Lord as recorded in the Holy Gospel according to St. John, “Greater love than this no man hath, that a man lay down his life for his friends, (Jn 15:13)”. The Letter creates a new category – a facti species in technical language – called, oblatio vitae, and distinguishes it from the facti species of martyrdom, by five (5) criteria:
The oblatio vitae of the Servant of God, in order that it be valid and efficacious for beatification, must respond to all of the aforementioned criteria.
- The free and voluntary offering of one’s life, and heroic acceptance propter caritatem of a certain and soon-to-come death;
- A nexus – i.e. close relation – between the offering of one’s life and the premature death of the one who offers it;
- The exercise, at least in ordinary degree, of the Christian virtues before the subject’s offering of his or her life and, afterward, perseverance in those virtues unto death;
- The existence of fama sanctitatis – i.e. the reputation for holiness – on the part of the subject, and of signs [in confirmation thereof], at least after death;
- The necessity, for beatification, of a miracle, one that occurred after the death of the Servant of God, and by said Servant’s intercession.