Two saints added to list of church 'doctors'

VATICAN CITY - Pope Benedict added a 16th-century Spanish priest and a 12th-century German abbess to the roster of doctors of the universal church.

The pope proclaimed the new doctors, St. John of Avila and St. Hildegard of Bingen, at Mass Oct. 7 in St. Peter's Square, where the thousands in attendance included pilgrims waving Spanish flags, and German nuns in traditional habits.

In his homily, Pope Benedict said that St. John, "a profound expert on the sacred Scriptures," knew how to "penetrate in a uniquely profound way the mysteries of the redemption worked by Christ for humanity."

Noting St. Hildegard's knowledge of medicine, poetry and music, the pope called her a "woman of brilliant intelligence, deep sensitivity and recognized spiritual authority. The Lord granted her a prophetic spirit and fervent capacity to discern the signs of the times."

The doctors of the church, saints honored for particularly important contributions to theology and spirituality, come from both the Eastern and Western church traditions.

The 35 doctors include early church fathers such as Sts. Jerome, John Chrysostom and Augustine, and theologians such as Sts. Thomas Aquinas, Bonaventure and John of the Cross, but also St. Therese of Lisieux, who was honored by Blessed John Paul II in 1997, despite her lack of scholarly accomplishment.

St. Hildegard is the fourth female doctor of the church, joining Sts. Therese, Catherine of Siena and Teresa of Avila.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 1970