VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Pope Francis advanced the sainthood causes of two priests, an abbess and the founder of a women’s religious order, recognizing they lived lives of “heroic virtues.”

At a meeting Oct. 10 with Cardinal Angelo Amato, prefect of the Congregation for Saints’ Causes, the pope signed decrees acknowledging that the four lived the Christian virtues in a special way. If the pope also recognizes a miracle attributed to their intercession, they would be beatified. Another miracle is needed for canonization.

The four candidates for sainthood are:


— Spanish Father Luis Zambrano Blanco, a priest of the Diocese of Badajoz and founder of the Hogar de Nazareth Secular Institute, a diocesan institute for women, who primarily are involved in the care of the sick and aged. He was born in 1909 and died in 1983.

— Spanish Jesuit Father Tiburcio Arnaiz Munoz, born in Valladolid in 1865, he was ordained a diocesan priest in 1890. But after his mother’s death, he entered the Society of Jesus. Sent to Malaga, he became famous as a confessor and spiritual director. He died in 1926.

— Maria Teresa Spinelli, the Italian founder of the Congregation of the Augustinian Sisters, Servants of Jesus and Mary. Born in Rome in 1789, she was married at the age of 16 to a man who beat and mistreated her. She moved home and cared for her aging parents. In 1820, she had a vision calling her to open a school and to evangelize young women. She died in 1850.

— Italian Capuchin Poor Clare Sister Maria Costanza Panas, who was born Agnese Pacifica, in 1896. A schoolteacher, she slowly became convinced of her vocation and entered religious life in 1918. Eighteen years later, she was elected abbess. She died in 1963.