Christians who sacrifice life for others can now become saints, Pope Francis says

Christians who sacrifice their life to save others can now be beatified and later on become saints, according to Pope Francis in a new apostolic letter.

(REUTERS / Tony Gentile)Pope Francis leaves after leading the weekly audience in Saint Peter's square at the Vatican December 9, 2015.

Candidates for beatification include Christian martyrs, those who clearly lived their life like a saint, and those who have exhibited heroic values throughout their life. Pope Francis said believers who give up their life to save other people follow the example of Jesus Christ and can now qualify for sainthood, The Guardian detailed.

"The heroic offering of life, suggested and sustained by charity, expresses a true, full and exemplary imitation of Christ," the pontiff said in the apostolic letter.

In addition, Pope Francis emphasized that the voluntary sacrifice of a Christian's life should be defined by "the heroic acceptance out of charity of certain death in a short term." The letter added that candidates for beatification must be credited with a miracle after they die, but those who became saints because of martyrdom are exempted from this criterion.

According to the Vatican's official journal Osservatore Romano, the new guidelines could qualify for beatification the Christians who took care of people who suffered from the plague and died of the disease. Along that line of thinking, the I-Media agency suggested that an Italian mother who refused to undergo treatment for skin cancer while pregnant could be a candidate for beatification.

Chiara Corbella, 28, did not have her carcinoma treated because she was afraid that it would endanger her unborn child's life. In 2012, almost a year after she gave birth, she died when her illness became terminal.

In April, Pope Francis announced the canonization of two young shepherd children, Francisco and Jacinta Marto from Fatima, Portugal. The two siblings and their cousin Lucia Santos witnessed the apparitions of Our Lady in Fatima a century ago, the Vatican Radio reported.

Lucia lived as a nun and died at the age of 98, but Francisca and Jacinta passed away due to a flu epidemic at ages 9 and 11, respectively. Pope John Paul II beatified the shepherd children on May 13, 2000.