Pope Callistus III, reign is also remarkable for the revision of the trial of Joan of Arc, which was carried out by direction of the pope, and according to which the sentence of the first court was quashed, and the innocence of the Maid of Orléans proclaimed.


Joan of Arc's Trial of Nullification

The Sentence of Rehabilitation


On July 7, 1456, the first trial of Joan of Arc conducted by the Church in Rouen in 1431 was declared nullified in a ceremony held at the Great Hall of the archiepiscopal palace of Rouen. The following is from the actual document that was read at that ceremony.


In the name of the Holy and Undivided Trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, Amen!


The Providence of the Eternal Majesty, the Savior Christ, Lord God and Man, has instituted, for the rule of His Church Militant, the Blessed Peter, and his Apostolic Successors; He has made them His principal representatives, and charged them, by the light of truth, which He has manifested to them, to teach men how to walk in the paths of justice, protecting the good, relieving the oppressed in the whole universe, and, by a reasonable judgment, bringing back into the right road those who have turned therefrom:


Invested with this Apostolic authority for the matter in question, we Jean of Rheims, Guillaume of Paris, and Richard of Coutances, by the Grace of God Archbishop and Bishops, and Jean Bréhal, of the Order of Saint Dominic, Professor of Sacred Theology, one of the two Inquisitors of the Heretical Evil for the Realm of France, all four judges specially delegated by our most Holy Lord the Pope actually reigning:


Having seen the solemn Process brought before us, by virtue of the Apostolic Mandate addressed to us, and by us respectfully accepted:


In the Case concerning the honest woman, Widow Isabelle d'Arc, mother, Pierre and Jean d'Arc, brothers german, natural and legal, of the deceased Joan d'Arc, of good memory, commonly called the Maid:


The said Case brought in their name,


Against the Sub-Inquisitor of the Heretical Evil for the Diocese of Beauvais, the Promoter of the Officiality of the said Diocese of Beauvais, and also the Reverend Father in Christ and Lord Guillaume de Hellande, Bishop of Beauvais, and against all others and each in particular who might be thought to be therein interested, all together respectively Defendants, as well conjointly as separately:


Having seen, in the first place, the peremptory citation and the execution of this citation made against the said Defendants, at the request not only of the said Plaintiffs but of the Promoter of our Office appointed by us, sworn and created, to the end that the said Defendants might see the carrying out of the said Rescript, hear the conclusions against them, and answer themselves; and to proceed, in one word, according to right:


Having seen the request of the said Plaintiffs, their deeds, reasons, and conclusion set down in writing under the form of Articles, putting forward a declaration of nullity, of iniquity, and of cozenage against a certain Process in a pretended Trial for the Faith, formerly done and executed in this city against the above-named woman, now deceased, by the late Lord Pierre Cauchon, then Bishop of Beauvais, Jean Lemaître, then Vice-Inquisitor of the said Diocese of Beauvais, and Jean d'Estivet, Promoter, or having at least acted in this capacity; the said request putting forward and inferring further the breaking down and annulling of the Process in question and of all which followed it, to the justification of the said Deceased, and to all the other ends therein enumerated:


Having seen, read, re-read and examined the original books, instruments, means, acts, notes and protocols of the said Process, shown and sent to us, in virtue of the compulsory letters, by the Registrars and others whose signatures and writings have been, as a preliminary, acknowledged in our presence:


After having studied at length all these documents, not only with the said Registrars and other officials appointed in the said Process, but also with those of the Counselors who were called to the same Process, those, at least, whom we have been able to bring before us:


And after having ourselves collated and compared the final text, with the Minute itself of the said Process:


Having considered also the Preparatory Enquiries, first, those which were conducted by the Most Reverend Father in Christ the Lord Guillaume, Cardinal Priest under the title of Saint- Martin-les-Monts, then Legate of the Holy Apostolic See in the Kingdom of France, assisted by the Inquisitor, after the examination which had been made by the said Cardinal-Legate of the books and instruments then presented:


Having afterwards considered the Preparatory Enquiry conducted at the beginning of the actual Process by us or our Commissaries:


Having considered also divers treatises which had come from the Prelates, Doctors, and men of learning, the most celebrated and the most authorized, who, after having studied at length the books and instruments of the said Process, have separated from these books and instruments the doubtful points which they would have to elucidate in their said treatises composed afterwards and brought to light, whether by the order of the most Reverend Father aforesaid or of us:


Having considered the Articles and Interrogations to be submitted to the witnesses, presented to us in the name of the Plaintiffs and of our Promoter, and after many citations admitted in proof by us:


Having considered the depositions and attestations of the witnesses heard on the subject of the said Articles and Interrogations on the life of the said Deceased in the place of her birth;---on her departure; on her examination before several Prelates, Doctors, and others having knowledge thereof, in presence notably of the Most Reverend Father Reginald, then Archbishop of Reims and Metropolitan of the said Bishop of Beauvais: an examination made at Poitiers and elsewhere, on several occasions; on the marvelous deliverance of the city of Orleans; on the journey to the city of Reims and the coronation of the King; and the divers circumstances of the Trial, the qualifications, the judges, and the manner of proceeding:


Having considered also letters, instruments, and measures, besides the letters, depositions and attestations Just mentioned, sent to us and produced in the course of law


Having afterwards heard our Promoter, who, considering these productions and these sayings, declares himself fully joined with the Plaintiffs:


Having heard the other requests and reserves made by our Promoter, in his own name as well as in that of the Plaintiffs, the said requests and reserves admitted by us and received at the same time as certain reasons of law briefly formulated, of a nature also to impress our minds:


After the Case had been concluded, in the Name of Christ, and this day had been assigned by us to give sentence:


After having, with great matureness, weighed, examined, all and each one of the aforesaid things, as well as certain Articles beginning with these words "A certain Woman, &c.," which the Judges in the first Process did pretend to have extracted from the confessions of the said Deceased, and which have been submitted by us to a great number of staid persons for their opinion; Articles which our Promoter, as well as the Plaintiffs aforesaid, attacked as iniquitous, false, prepared without reference to the confessions of Joan, and in a lying manner:


That our present judgment may come as from the Face of God Himself, Who weigheth the spirits, Who alone infallibly knoweth His revelations, and doth hold them always at their true value, Who bloweth where He listeth, and doth often choose the weak to confound the strong, never forsaking those who trust in Him, but being their Support in their sorrows and their tribulations:


After having had ripe deliberation, as much on the subject of the Preparatory Enquiries as on the decision itself, with persons at the same time expert, authorized, and prudent:


Having considered their solemn decisions, formulated in the treatises written out in a compendious manner, and in numerous consultations:


Having considered their opinion, written or verbal, furnished and given, not only on the form but also on the basis of the Process, and according to which the actions of the said Deceased, being woryour of admiration rather than of condemnation, the judgment given against her should, in form as well as in basis, be reprehended and detested:


And because on the question of revelations it is most difficult to furnish a certain judgment, the Blessed Paul having, on the subject of his own revelations, said that he knew not if they came to him in body or in spirit, and having on this point referred himself to God:


In the first place, we say, and, because justice requires it, we declare, that the Articles beginning with the words "A woman," which are found inserted in the pretended Process and Instrument of the pretended sentences, lodged against the said Deceased, ought to have been, have been, and are, extracted from the said pretended Process and the said pretended confessions of the said Deceased, with corruption, cozenage, calumny, fraud and malice:


We declare, that on certain points the truth of her confessions has been passed over in silence; that on other points her confessions have been falsely translated---a double unfaithfulness, by which, had it been prevented, the mind of the Doctors consulted and the judges might have been led to a different opinion:


We declare, that in these Articles there have been added without right many aggravating circumstances, which are not in the aforesaid Confessions, and many circumstances both relevant and justifying have been passed over in silence:


We declare, that even the form of certain words has been altered, in such manner as to change the substance:


For the which, these same Articles, as falsely, calumniously, and deceitfully extracted, and as contrary even to the Confessions of the Accused, we break, annihilate, and annul; and, after they shall have been detached from the Process we ordain, by this present judgment, that they be torn up:


In the second place, after having examined with great care the other parts of the same said Process---particularly the two sentences which the Process contained, designated by the judges as "Lapse" and "Relapse"---and after having also for a long time weighed the qualifications of the Judges and of all those under whom and in whose keeping the said Joan was detained:


We say, pronounce, decree, and declare, the said Processes and Sentences full of cozenage, iniquity, inconsequences, and manifest errors, in fact as well as in law; We say that they have been, are, and shall be---as well as the aforesaid Abjuration, their execution, and all that followed---null, non-existent, without value or effect.


Never the less, in so far as is necessary, and as reason doth command us, we break them, annihilate them, annul them, and declare them void of effect; and we declare that the said Joan and her relatives, Plaintiffs in the actual Process, have not, on account of the said Trial, contracted nor incurred any mark or stigma of infamy; we declare them quit and purged of all the consequences of these same Processes; we declare them, in so far as is necessary, entirely purged thereof by this present:


We ordain that the execution and solemn publication of our present Sentence shall take place immediately in this city, in two different places, to wit,


To-day in the Square of Saint Ouen, after a General Procession and a public Sermon:


To-morrow, at the Old Market-Place, in the same place where the said Joan was suffocated by a cruel and horrible fire, also with a General Preaching and with the placing of a handsome cross for the perpetual memory of the Deceased and for her salvation and that of other deceased persons:


We declare that we reserve to ourselves [the power] later on to execute, publish, and for the honour of her memory to signify with acclaim, our said sentence in the cities and other well-known places of the kingdom wherever we shall find it well [so to do], under the reserves, finally, of all other formalities which may yet remain to be done.


This present Sentence has been brought out, read and promulgated by the Lords judges, in presence of the Reverend Father in Christ the Lord Bishop of Démétriade, of Hector de Coquerel, Nicolas du Boys, Alain Olivier, Jean du Bec, Jean de Gouys, Guillaume Roussel, Laurent Surreau, Canons; of Martin Ladvenu, Jean Roussel, and Thomas de Fanouillères.


Maitre Simon Chapitault, Promoter; Jean d'Arc and Prevosteau for the other Plaintiffs.


Done at Rouen at the Archiepiscopal Palace in the 7th day of the month of July in the Year of our Lord 1456.



Beatification of Joan of Arc

by Pope Pius X


The official Beatification of Joan of Arc took place in April of 1909 when the Roman Catholic Church declared her to be Blessed. This was the second step on her path to being declared a Saint by the Church having been declared Venerable in 1904. The official pronouncement by Pope Pius X was issued on April 11, 1909, and a ceremony was held in St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican on April 18, 1909. Below is a translation by Dylan Schrader of the pronouncement from the official Vatican record, Acta Apostolicae Sedis, for 1909.


Joan of Arc's Beatification Ceremony at the Vatican in 1909


For everlasting memory. The name of a young maiden of Orleans, noble for all time, that has already been given over to immortality and that will be inscribed officially among the blessed in Heaven, is a witness to divine power, which "has chosen what is weak in the world to confound what is strong" (1 Cor 1:27). For when in the year of our salvation 1428, civil upheavals and internal conflicts, not briefer nor less serious than a war with the English, pointed to the widespread and swift destruction of France, and no refuge or hope of rescue for the defeated seemed possible, God, who with a unique love constantly attended to this most noble of nations, called forth a woman "to free her people and gain for herself an everlasting name" (1 Macc 4:44). The whole life of the magnanimous and most patriotic Joan of Arc, called the maid of Orleans, seems to have been a fortuitous sign. Born in the town of Domremy, within the boundaries of the diocese of Toul, Joan would tend the sheep of her father near a shady grove that was once a sanctuary for the superstition of Druidism, but in that place, this uneducated and poor farm girl who had not yet completed her fifteenth year, beholding the wide view of the valley below, used to lift up her mind to him who furnished the mountains and the forests, the fields and the thickets, with such splendid adornment that they by far surpass any luxurious pomp and any lavishness of the royal purple. The only care of this girl, ignorant of the world, was to decorate the plain altar of the Virgin with flowers that she had picked, and the uproar of so terrible a war had barely reached her ears. But, when the siege of Orleans at its overthrow sapped both the town itself and the fortune of King Charles VII - for the nobles of the province of France had already yielded to the English invasion - it was, in these dire straits, to Joan attending to her usual duties in the family orchard, that the voice of Michael, the prince of the heavenly host, was heard, even as it once sounded to Judas Machabbeus, "Take up the holy sword, which is a task given by God, with which you will slay the adversaries of my people Israel" (2 Macc 15:16). This daughter of peace was roused to the things of war. At first, the maiden was astounded and afraid, but after the voices from Heaven continued, as if the divine spirit had been breathed into her, she did not at all doubt that she ought exchange the spinning wheel for the sword, and the shepherds' pipes for the sounding of trumpets.


Neither the concern of her parents nor the danger of the long journey kept her from working for God. Wherefore with simple but sublime speech, she stood in the sight of potentates and asked to be led to the king, and despite the opposing customs, rejections, and doubts, revealed to king Charles the mandate which she regarded as divinely given to her, and, relying on heavenly signs, she promised that she would free Orleans from the siege. Then God, "who gives strength to the weak, and multiplies fortitude and power for those who are not," (Is 40:29) graced this poor farm girl, who did not even know her letters, with such wisdom, teaching, military expertise, and even knowledge of the hidden things of God, that no one could deny that in her lay the salvation of the people. A following of people of various sorts from every place broke out. Soldiers well-versed in wars, rulers, and leaders, overjoyed at their newfound hope, followed the girl with praise and rejoicing. She, bearing her maiden's body upon a horse, laden with the arms of men, girded with a sword and waving in her hand a white banner interwoven with golden lilies, charged at the English, who took pride at their repeated victories. In that noble battle, not without the present assistance of God, the enemy forces were driven back and overthrown by fear, and this victorious maiden, on May 7, 1429, recovered for the people of Orleans the walls that had previously been taken. But, before she launched an assault against the invading English, Joan urged the soldiers to hope in God, to love their country, and to keep the precepts of the holy Church. Gentle, just as she had been in the care of the flock, and heroically brave, she was fearful to the enemy, but she could scarcely hold back her tears when she saw men dying. She went into battle as a leader but slew no one with the sword, remaining pure and unstained by blood, even amid the slaughter and the licentiousness of camp. Thus, it became quite clear what faith can do! The people soon took heart anew from an unexpected source, and love for their country and restored piety toward God gave added strength in the face of egregious crimes. The girl, unconquered in such great endeavors, challenged the English in many battles and finally scattered and drove back their army near the town of Patay in that most celebrated battle. She then led her king, Charles VII, in splendid triumph to Reims to be anointed in his solemn consecration as king in that temple where Clovis I king of the Franks was washed in the purifying waters by the holy Remigius and laid the foundation of the nation of France. Thus were the enemies of the name of France fought against by Heaven. Thus, having saved her country by divine aid, the maiden of Arc fulfilled her mission. She, who was humble of heart, wanted only to return to her sheepfold and her poor dwelling, but, already fit for Heaven, she could not possess her own will. Only a short time later, while fighting, she was captured by some enemies, who could not bear that they had been defeated by a girl, and, bound in chains, she was led after various trials to be harshly imprisoned within the enemy camp, until at last in Rouen after six months, like an expiatory victim for the redemption of France, she was condemned to fire. Yet splendidly brave and merciful even in her last trial, she beseeched God to forgive those who put her to death and to keep her country and her king safe. Put on a stake and enveloped in the consuming flames, she kept her gaze fixed on Heaven, and the venerable and sweet names of Jesus and Mary were the dying girl's last words. And so, the renowned maiden achieved immortal glory, but the tale of her sanctity and the memory of her deeds has lived on in the mouths of men, especially in the city of Orleans, even up to the secular honors that have recently been given to her, and it will live on for future generations always fresh with new praise. Indeed, the praise first given to Judith seems to fall appropriately to her also, "In every nation that hears your name, the God of Israel will be magnified on your account" (Judith 13:31).


Only in more recent times has her cause begun to be pursued under the supervision of the Sacred Congregation of Rites to declare that the honors of the blessed in Heaven belong also to the Maiden of Arc, and this indeed has come to pass by divine confirmation. For in the present time, in which the Catholic world sees and is saddened by so many great evils and in which so many who hate the name of Christian feign love for their homeland because of the ruin both of state and religion, it pleases Us to celebrate the glorious example of that most courageous Maiden, so that these might remember that "to do and to undergo powerful things is characteristically Christian." We therefore have the sure hope that this venerable servant of God, now counted among the blessed in Heaven, will pray for her homeland, for which she has excellently merited the strengthening of the ancient faith, and that she will pray for the Catholic Church, for which she was most zealous, to be comforted by the return of so many of her sons who go astray. For this reason, in the year after the decree issued 6 January, 1904, after careful examination correctly undertaken according to the law, we declared by a solemn decree that the virtues of the venerable servant of God Joan of Arc, called the Maid of Orleans, reached the heights of heroism. Investigation then began regarding the miracles, which were accomplished through her intercession and at God's command, and when everything had been carried out according to the law, We, by a decree given in the vernacular on 13 December, 1908, declared the authenticity of the three miracles with supreme apostolic authority. Once a judgment had been made regarding her virtues and the three miracles, it remained to be determined whether the venerable servant of God should rightly be counted among the blessed in Heaven. Our beloved Son Ferrata, Cardinal of the Holy Roman Church, the secretary for her cause, presented this in a general meeting held before Us at the Vatican on 13 January last year, and all those cardinals who oversee the regulation of the sacred Rites and all those who were present as fathers consultors responded with unanimous agreement in the affirmative. But, in a matter of such serious importance, We refrained from making known Our mind, and We deferred the final judgment to another day, so that we could first pray most fervently for heavenly light. Once we had done this without hesitation, at last on 24 January of this year, on the most joyful day of the celebration of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, after solemnly offering the eucharistic sacrifice, with Cardinal Seraphino Cretoni, Prefect of the Sacred Congregation of Rites, Our beloved Son Ferrata, Cardinal of the Holy Roman Church, the secretary for her cause, and also our venerable Brother Diomede Panici, titular Archbishop of Laodicia and secretary of the same Congregation of Rites, and the Most Reverend Father Alexandro Verde, Promoter of the holy faith, in attendance We solemnly pronounced that We could rightly proceed to the solemn beatification of the venerable servant of God Joan of Arc.


Such as things are, and moved by the opinions and votes of the Sacred Bishops of all of France and of other regions, with Our apostolic authority, by force of this letter, We grant the faculty that the venerable servant of God Joan of Arc, called the Maiden of Orleans, shall henceforth be called blessed, and that images of her should be decorated with halos. Therefore by Our same authority we grant that in her honor the Office may be recited and the Mass celebrated every year from the common of Virgins with proper prayers approved by Us. We also grant that the celebration of the Mass and the recitation of the Office may take this form in the diocese of Orleans by all the faithful, whether secular or regular, who are bound to recite the canonical hours, and, as far as the Mass is concerned, by all priests coming to churches in which the same feast occurs, in accordance with the decree of the Sacred Congregation of Rites (3862, Urbis et Orbis), given on 9 December, 1895. And finally, we grant the faculty to celebrate the rites for the beatification of the venerable servant of God Joan of Arc in the diocese and the aforementioned churches according to the norm of the decree and instruction of the Sacred Congregation of Rites of 16 December, 1902, concerning solemn celebrations on three days within a year of the beatification, which We establish may be done on days to be designated by the Ordinary within the year, once the same rites have been celebrated in the patriarchal Vatican basilica.


Notwithstanding the constitutions and apostolic ordinances and decrees given on non-veneration, and whatever else is to the contrary.


We will that altogether the same faith should be given to the printed copies of the present letter in judicial determinations as is given to this letter as a manifestation of Our will, as long as they are undersigned by the hand of the Secretary of the Sacred Congregation of Rites and stamped with the seal of the Prefect.

Given in Rome at St Peter beneath the ring of the Fisherman, on 11 April 1909. The sixth year of Our pontificate. Pope Pius X


1The Latin modo albo is a reference to the Roman practice of issuing official decrees, lists of names, etc. on white tablets.

2The Latin tertium aetatis suae lustrum = the third set of five years.

3The Latin domestico pomasio should be domestico pomario.

4The Latin is de non cultu.




Joan was finally raised to the Church's highest rank when she was canonized in 1920. The following pronouncement was made by the Church at that time. It is translated from the official Vatican commentary, Acta Apostolicae Sedis, for that year, by Samuel E. DeMerit.





Pope Benedict XV


AT THE SOLEMN CANONIZATION of Blessed Joan of Arc, held in the Vatican Basilica, on the sixteenth day of May, 1920, on the Sunday within the Octave of the Lord's Ascension. To the threefold petition, "fervently, more fervently, most fervently," made through the Consistorial Advocate, Dom. Virginius Iacoucci, by the most distinguished gentleman Antonius Vico, Prefect of the Holy Roman Congregation, Procurator of Canonization, the following response was given by the most reverend Dom. Aurelius Galli, Secretary of State, in the name of His Holiness:


I. It is with the greatest good will that the Most Blessed Father1 opens these solemn proceedings, and with a heart most grateful to God, through Whose kindness he not only witnesses the happiness of the day, but himself takes first place in the celebration thereof. For it is the order of the day that he who has by Jesus Christ been appointed teacher of truth and champion of justice canonize with inalterable decree the sanctity of the bravest maiden within the recollection of men and the most innocent; and by decreeing for her the highest honors, forever erase from memory the stain of her unjust condemnation. Here may we admire the design of Divine Providence. For inasmuch as it was before an unlawful tribunal that Joan was tried, it was more than once that she was heard voicing an appeal to the Roman Pontiff; this very appeal, although it did not suffice to stay her cruel punishment, was nonetheless destined to exercise a power and evoke an effect beyond all expectation. It was therefore not many years later that Callixtus vindicated the name of the Maid of Orleans from every accusation; and now, almost five centuries later, it is with the authority and approval of God that our Most Blessed Lord, here in this most solemn assembly of the nations of the world, proclaims this very Maid an exemplar of sanctity and commends her to the entire Christian world, an object of veneration, of imitation. And in this great throng of local people and guests from abroad, he is especially delighted by the visible presence of France, whose most distinguished citizen, he who publicly represents her, he here beholds, together with many of her bishops; nor has he the least doubt but that this noble nation's lively devotion to Joan of Arc, the venerable savior of her country, will be of great spiritual benefit to her. Meanwhile, in view of the gravity of this occasion, he wishes that all here present pray to God for him, invoking the intercessions of Mary, the immaculate Mother of God, her Most Blessed Spouse Joseph, Peter and Paul, the Chiefs of the Apostles, and the rest of the entire company of heaven.


II. Before he proclaims the solemn edict, the Most Blessed Father, deeming it fit that we press more insistently our humble petition for divine enlightenment, requests of us an ever more fervent invocation of the author of wisdom, the Holy Spirit.


III. Behold, that moment of time, so long awaited by good men, has now come, when the sanctity of Joan of Arc, supereminent in every respect, is ratified by the authority of Peter. May the whole Catholic world hear, and just as it has come to admire her brave deeds in defense of her country, may it now and henceforward venerate her as a most brilliantly shining light of the Church Triumphant. Pope Benedict XV



ALL THE FOLLWOING TALKS by Pope Benedict are found on www.


On several occasions, Benedict XVI has talked about Joan of Arc, highlighting her true commitment to liberate her people.


January 26th, 2011

Benedict XVI talked about the life of St. Joan of Arc, one of the most controversial saints in the Church's history.

Our catechesis today deals with Saint Joan of Arc, one of the outstanding women of the later Middle Ages. Raised in a religious family, Joan enjoyed mystical experiences from an early age. At a time of crisis in the Church and of war in her native France, she felt Godís call to a life of prayer and virginity, and to personal engagement in the liberation of her compatriots.

At the age of seventeen, Joan began her mission among the French military forces; she sought to negotiate a just Christian peace between the English and French, took an active part in the siege of Orleans and witnessed the coronation of Charles VII at Reims.

Captured by her enemies the next year, she was tried by an ecclesiastical court and burnt at the stake as a heretic; she died invoking the name of Jesus. Twenty-five years later, Pope Callistus III reviewed her trial and declared she was innocent. In 1920, Benedict XV named her as a saint.

At the heart of Saint Joanís spirituality was an unfailing love for Christ and, in Christ, for the Church and for her neighbor. Benedict XVI encouraged the audience to follow the example of social commitment set by Joan of Arc.

"May the prayers and example of Saint Joan of Arc inspire many lay men and women to devote themselves to public life in the service of Godís Kingdom, and encourage all of us to live to the fullest our lofty calling in Christ."

Long version of Pope Benedict's January 26th, 2011 talk about St. Joan.

Dear brothers and sisters,

Today I would like to speak to you about Joan of Arc, a young saint from the end of the Middle Ages, who died at age 19, in 1431. This French saint, quoted many times in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, is particularly close to St. Catherine of Siena, patroness of Italy and Europe, of whom I spoke in a recent catechesis. In fact they are two young women of the people, lay and consecrated in virginity, two committed mystics, not in a cloister, but in the midst of the most dramatic realities of the Church and of the world of their time. They are, perhaps, the most characteristic examples from among those "strong women" who, at the end of the Middle Ages, fearlessly took the great light of the Gospel to the complex vicissitudes of history.

We could place her next to the holy women who stayed on Calvary, close to Jesus crucified, and Mary, His mother, while the apostles fled and Peter himself denied Him three times.

In her times, the Church lived the profound crisis of the great Western schism, which lasted almost 40 years. When Catherine of Siena died, in 1380, there was a pope and an anti-pope. When Joan was born, in 1412, there was a pope and two anti-popes. In addition to this laceration within the Church, there were continuous fratricidal wars between the Christian peoples of Europe, the most tragic of which was the interminable 100 Years War between France and England.

Joan of Arc could not read or write, but she can be known in the depth of her soul thanks to two sources of exceptional historical value: the two trials she underwent. The first, the "Trial of Conviction," contains the transcription of the long and numerous interrogations of Joan during the last months of her life (February-May of 1431), and includes the words of the saint herself. The second, the "Trial of Nullity of the Sentence," or of "rehabilitation," contains the testimonies of close to 120 eye-witnesses from all the periods of her life (cf. Procès de Condamnation de Jeanne d'Arc, 3 vol. And Procès en Nullité de la Condamnation de Jeanne d'Arc, 5 vol., Ed. Klincksieck, Paris l960-1989).

Joan was born in Domremy, a small village located on the border between France and Lorraine. Her parents were well-off farmers, known by everyone as very good Christians. From them she received a good religious education, with notable influence from the spirituality of the Name of Jesus, taught by St. Bernardine of Siena and spread in Europe by the Franciscans. To the Name of Jesus is always joined the Name of Mary and thus, in the framework of popular religiosity, Joan's spirituality was profoundly Christocentric and Marian. From her childhood, she showed great charity and compassion toward the poorest, the sick and all who suffered in the tragic context of the war.

From her own words, we know that Joan's religious life matured experientially beginning at the age of 13 (PCon, I, p. 47-48). Through the "voice" of the Archangel St. Michael, Joan felt called by the Lord to intensify her Christian life and also to commit herself personally to the liberation of her people. Her immediate response, her "yes," was the vow of virginity, with a new commitment to sacramental life and to prayer: daily attendance at Mass, frequent confession and Communion and long periods of silent prayer before the Crucified or before the image of the Virgin. The compassion and commitment of the young French peasant girl in face of the suffering of her people became more intense because of her mystical relationship with God. One of the most original aspects of the holiness of this young girl was precisely the connection between mystical experience and political mission.

After the years of hidden life and interior maturation, the brief but intense two-year period of her public life followed: a year of action and a year of passion.

At the beginning of the year 1429, Joan began her work of liberation. The numerous testimonies show us this young woman who was only 17 years old as a very strong and determined person, capable of convincing unsure and discouraged men. Overcoming all obstacles, she met with the dauphin of France, the future King Charles VII, who in Poitiers subjected her to an examination by some theologians of the university. Their judgment was positive: They did not see anything evil in her, [finding] only a good Christian.

On March 22, 1429, Joan dictated an important letter to the king of England and his men who were besieging the city of Orleans (Ibid., p. 221-222). Hers was a proposal of true peace in justice between the two Christian peoples, in light of the names of Jesus and Mary, but this proposal was rejected, and Joan had to commit herself in the fight for the liberation of the city, which took place on May 8. The other culminating moment of her political action was the coronation of King Charles VII in Reims, on July 17, 1429. For a whole year, Joan lived with the soldiers, carrying out among them a real mission of evangelization. Numerous are the testimonies about her goodness, her courage and her extraordinary purity. She was called by everyone and she herself described herself as "the maiden," namely, the virgin.

Joan's passion began on May 23, 1430, when she fell prisoner in the hands of her enemies. On Dec. 23 she was taken to the city of Rouen. Carried out there was the long and dramatic Trial of Conviction, which began in February of 1431 and ended on May 30 with the stake. It was a grand and solemn trial, presided over by two ecclesiastical judges, Bishop Pierre Cauchon and the inquisitor Jean le Maistre, but in reality led entirely by a large group of theologians of the famous University of Paris, who took part in the trial as consultants. They were French ecclesiastics who had political leanings opposed to Joan's, and who thus had a priori a negative judgment on her person and her mission. This trial is a moving page of the history of sanctity and also an illuminating page on the mystery of the Church that, according to the words of the Second Vatican Council, is "at the same time holy and always in need of being purified" (Lumen Gentium, 8). It was the dramatic meeting between this saint and her judges, who were ecclesiastics. Joan was accused and judged by them, to the point of being condemned as a heretic and sent to the terrible death of the stake. As opposed to the holy theologians who had illuminated the University of Paris, such as St. Bonaventure, St. Thomas Aquinas and Blessed Duns Scotus, of whom I have spoken in other catecheses, these judges were theologians lacking in charity and humility to see in this young woman the action of God. Jesus' words come to mind according to which the mysteries of God are revealed to those that have the heart of little ones, while they remain hidden from the learned and wise who are not humble (cf. Luke 10:21). Thus Joan's judges were radically incapable of understanding her, of seeing the beauty of her soul: They did not know they were condemning a saint.

Joan's appeal to the pope's intervention on May 24 was rejected by the court. On the morning of May 30 she received holy Communion for the last time in prison, and immediately after she was taken to her ordeal in the square of the old market. She asked one of the priests to put in front of the stake the cross of the procession. Thus she died looking at Jesus crucified and pronouncing many times and in a loud voice the Name of Jesus (PNul, I, p. 457; cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, 435). Almost 25 years later, the Trial of Nullity, opened under the authority of Pope Calixtus III, concluded with a solemn sentence that declared the condemnation null and void (July 7, 1456; PNul, II, p. 604-610). This long trial, which includes the statements of witnesses and judgments of many theologians, all favorable to Joan, highlights her innocence and her perfect fidelity to the Church. Joan of Arc was canonized in 1920 by Benedict XV.

Dear brothers and sisters, the Name of Jesus, invoked by our saint up to the last moments of her earthly life, was like the breathing of her soul, like the beating of her heart, the center of her whole life. The "mystery of the charity of Joan of Arc," which so fascinated the poet Charles Peguy, is this total love of Jesus, and of her neighbor in Jesus and for Jesus. This saint understood that love embraces the whole reality of God and of man, of heaven and of earth, of the Church and of the world. Jesus was always in the first place during her whole life, according to her beautiful affirmation: "Serve God first" (PCon, I, p. 288; cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, 223).

To love Him means to always obey His will. She said with total confidence and abandonment: "I entrust myself to my Creator God, I love Him with my whole heart" (Ibid., p. 337). With the vow of virginity, Joan consecrated in an exclusive way her whole person to the one Love of Jesus: It is "her promise made to our Lord to protect well her virginity of body and soul" (Ibid., p. 149-150). Virginity of soul is the state of grace, the supreme value, for her more precious than life: It was a gift of God that she received and protected with humility and trust. One of the best known texts of the first trial has to do with this: "Asked if she knew that she was in God's grace, she replied: 'If I am not, may it please God to put me in it; if I am, may it please God to put me there'" (Ibid., p. 62; cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2005).

Our saint lived prayer as a form of continuous dialogue with the Lord, who also enlightened her answers to the judges, giving her peace and security. She prayed with faith: "Sweetest God, in honor of Your holy Passion, I ask You, if You love me, to reveal to me how I must answer these men of the Church" (Ibid., p. 252). Joan saw Jesus as the "King of Heaven and Earth." Thus, on her standard, Joan had the image painted of "Our Lord who sustains the world" (Ibid., p. 172), icon of her political mission. The liberation of her people was a work of human justice, which Joan carried out in charity, out of love for Jesus. Hers is a beautiful example of holiness for the laity who work in political life, above all in the most difficult situations. Faith is the light that guides every choice, as another great saint would testify a century later, the Englishman Thomas More. In Jesus, Joan also contemplated the reality of the Church, the "triumphant Church" of Heaven, and the "militant Church" of earth. According to her words, Our Lord and the Church are one "whole" (Ibid., p. 166). This affirmation quoted in the Catechism of the Catholic Church (No. 795), has a truly heroic character in the context of the Trial of Conviction, in face of the judges, men of the Church, who persecuted her and condemned her. In the love of Jesus, Joan found the strength to love the Church to the end, including at the moment of her conviction.

I am pleased to recall how St. Joan of Arc had a profound influence on a young saint of the modern age: Thérèse of the Child Jesus. In a completely different life, spent in the cloister, the Carmelite of Lisieux felt very close to Joan, living in the heart of the Church and taking part in the sufferings of Jesus for the salvation of the world. The Church has joined them as patronesses of France, after the Virgin Mary. St. Thérèse expressed her desire to die like Joan, pronouncing the Name of Jesus (Manuscript B, 3r); she was animated by the same love for Jesus and her neighbor, lived in consecrated virginity.

Dear brothers and sisters, with her luminous testimony, St. Joan of Arc invites us to a lofty level of Christian life: to make prayer the guiding thread of our days; to have full confidence in fulfilling the will of God, whatever it is; to live in charity without favoritism, without limits and having, as she had, in the love of Jesus, a profound love for the Church. Thank you.

(Translation by


January 6, 2012.

Six hundred years ago, one of the most emblematic saints of the Catholic Church was born. Her name was Joan of Arc, born on January 6th, 1412. According to tradition, the young French woman, heard the voice of St. Michael, who told her, she would free her people from siege.

When she was only 17 years old, she led the French army as it fought for independence from England.

She was eventually captured by the enemy and burned alive for heresy at the age of 19.

Years later, pope Callistus III reviewed the conviction an in 1456 recognized her innocence. She was declared a saint and patroness of France in 1920.