VATICAN CITY (RNS) The Vatican has issued a new, streamlined "Roman Martyrology" that lists the names of 6,538 saints and blesseds who are considered worthy of veneration by Roman Catholics -- but omits some old favorites.
The 773-page compilation resurrects St. George, the dragon-slayer who was slain himself at Lydda in Palestine around 303 A.D. and is the patron of soldiers, knights, archers and armorers. A reform of the Roman Calendar of Saints in 1969 had reduced him to the subject of local rather than universal veneration.
The book contains 11 St. Christophers, foremost among them not the patron of travelers, also left out of the 1969 calendar, but a handsome youth who was given the head of a dog to help him resist the temptation of women and devote himself to the priesthood. He was martyred in Lycia in the Holy Land.
Introducing the revised martyrology at a Vatican news conference earlier this week (Oct. 2), Cardinal Jorge Arturo Medina Estevez, prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments, said editors considerably reduced the number of saints from the last edition published in 1966.
"The number of saints was exorbitant and overshadowed a little the Christ-centricity of the church," he said. Criteria included historical accuracy and universality of veneration.
Victims of the purge included St. Philomena, believed decapitated for resisting the advances of the Emperor Diocletian; St. Uriah, the Hittite and chieftain husband of Bathsheba slain by King David; and St. Cucufate, also known in Catalan as Sant Cugat, whose following is mainly confined to Barcelona.
The martyrology is compiled in the form of a calendar with names to be read out each day by such communities as monasteries, convents and seminaries. Along with the saints' names and brief details of their lives, it provides their dates according to the modern, Roman and lunar calendars.
The church's first martyrology was issued in 1586 with the approval of Pope Gregory XIII.
Archbishop Francesco Pio Tamburrino, secretary of the congregation, said that between 1586 and 1913 more than 130 revised versions appeared.
"Most of them produced without real care nor an authentic critical spirit, they could only multiply the errors in the work rather than reducing them," he said.
For the new edition, 20 years in the making and the first since the Second Vatican Council, the editors consulted archaeologists and experts on ecclesiastical documents.