Once a Saint, Always a Saint? Kind Of -- Unless You're Demoted

In 1969, some saints were removed from the universal calendar.

ByABC News
April 26, 2014, 9:00 AM

April 26, 2014— -- Being declared a saint is one of the Vatican's highest honors -- but sainthood is hardly a tenured position.

The Catholic Church removed 93 saints from the universal calendar and revoked their feast days in 1969 when Pope Paul VI revised the canon of saints and determined that some of the names had only ever been alive as legends or not enough was known about them to determine their status.

But they weren’t actually de-sainted, just downgraded, said Christopher Bellito, a history professor at Kean University.

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"The purpose was to clean up a crowded liturgical calendar,” he said. "They decided to remove particular feast days of those saints whose origins were shrouded in more mystery than manuscripts."

As the Vatican prepares to elevate Popes John XXIII and John Paul II on Sunday, here’s a look of some famous demoted saints:

Saint Christopher

Among Catholicism’s most popular saints, Christopher was listed as a martyr.

Legend had it he carried a child who grew increasingly heavy across a river -- the child was supposed to be carrying the weight of God.

But there wasn’t enough historical evidence the man ever existed, so Pope Paul VI dropped him.

Saint Ursula

Saint Ursula suffered a similar fate when the Catholic Church decided she was only a myth. She is thought to have been the leader of a group of virgins who were murdered at Cologne.

Ursula was also a princess whose father had arranged for her to marry a powerful pagan king.

Saint Nicholas

Who can forget Saint Nicholas, the man who gave us the story of Santa Claus?

He was also known for his extreme generosity and only eating on Wednesdays and Fridays.

Saint George

Saint George is remembered as a brave martyr -- often depicted as a hero slaying a dragon in paintings.

When he scolded the Roman Emperor Diocletian for killing Christians, he was tortured and finally beheaded, according to the myth.