Pope sets date to declare two new Church Doctors

By David Kerr

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Pope Benedict XVI at a recent general audience in St. Peter's Square


Pope Benedict XVI has announced that he will declare St. Hildegard of Bingen and St. John of Avila as Doctors of the Church on Oct. 7 2012 at the beginning of this year’s Synod of Bishops in Rome.

“These two great witnesses of the faith lived in very different historical periods and came from different cultural backgrounds,” said the Pope in his Regina Coeli address May 27.

“But the sanctity of life and depth of teaching makes them perpetually present: the grace of the Holy Spirit, in fact, projected them into that experience of penetrating understanding of divine revelation and intelligent dialogue with the world that constitutes the horizon of permanent life and action of the Church.”

The title of "Doctor of the Church" is bestowed upon a saint whose writings are deemed to be of universal importance to the Church. The Pope must also declare the individual to be of “eminent learning” and “great sanctity.” Other Doctors of the Church include St. Augustine, St. John Chryosostom, St. Francis de Sales, and St. Catherine of Siena.

St. John of Avila was a 16th century Spanish priest, mystic, preacher and scholar. Pope Benedict announced his intention to name him a Doctor of the Church at World Youth Day in Madrid last August but had not set a specific date for doing so.

St. Hildegard was a 12th century German nun, writer, composer, philosopher and mystic, as well as an abbess and founder of several monasteries. This month Pope Benedict formally added her to the Church’s roster of saints, extending her liturgical feast throughout the world.

“Especially in light of the project of the new evangelization, to which the Assembly of the Synod of Bishops will be dedicated, and on the vigil of the Year of Faith, these two figures of saints and doctors are of considerable importance and relevance,” said Pope Benedict.

The papal declaration came on the Feast of Pentecost which marks the conclusion of Eastertide and recalls the coming of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles after the Ascension of Christ.

“Jesus, risen and ascended into heaven, sends His Spirit to the Church, so that all Christians can share in His divine life and become His effective witness in the world,” said the Pope.

He then prayed the Eastertide midday Marian prayer along with thousands of pilgrims gathered in St Peter’s Square before imparting his apostolic blessing.

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