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Pope Francis names Peter Favre, his favorite Jesuit, a saint

(RNS) Favre, who lived from 1506-1546, was a roommate of St. Francis Xavier and St. Ignatius of Loyola, the founders of the Jesuits, at the University of Paris.

Peter Favre portrait
Peter Faber

Peter Favre

(RNS) Giving himself a present for his 77th birthday, Pope Francis on Tuesday (Dec. 17) proclaimed his favorite Jesuit, Peter Favre, a saint, short-circuiting the typical canonization process that can drag on for centuries.

Favre, who lived from 1506-1546, was a roommate of St. Francis Xavier and St. Ignatius of Loyola, the founders of the Jesuits, at the University of Paris. The Jesuits call Favre Ignatius’ “first recruit,” and he tutored the Jesuit founder in Greek while Ignatius schooled his pupil in his signature “Spiritual Exercises.”

Favre was beatified by Pope Pius IX in 1872, but he was never credited with the required miracle that would formally elevate him to sainthood. On Tuesday, Francis — the first Jesuit elected pope — waived that requirement and, according to the Vatican, “enrolled him in the catalogue of the Saints.”

It’s the second time this year that Francis has dispensed with tradition, as is his style. In declaring Pope John XXIII a saint earlier this year — he’ll be formally canonized with Pope John Paul II next year — Francis waived the required second miracle for the pope who convened the landmark Second Vatican Council (1962-1965).

Speaking to a consortium of Jesuit magazines earlier this year, Francis praised Favre’s “dialogue with all, even the most remote and even with his opponents; his simple piety, a certain naivete perhaps, his being available straightaway, his careful interior discernment, the fact that he was a man capable of great and strong decisions but also capable of being so gentle and loving.”

According to the Rev. James Martin, a Jesuit priest and editor at large at America magazine, the three Jesuits — Xavier, Ignatius and Favre — became fast friends despite their different temperaments and skills.

“In later years Ignatius would become primarily an administrator, guiding the Society of Jesus through its early days, spending much of his time laboring over the Jesuit Constitutions,” Martin wrote in his 2010 book, “The Jesuit Guide to (Almost) Everything.”

“Xavier became the globetrotting missionary sending back letters crammed with hair-raising adventures to thrill his brother Jesuits. …  Favre, on the other hand, spent the rest of his life as a spiritual counselor sent to spread the Catholic faith during the Reformation. His work was more diplomatic, requiring artful negotiation through the variety of religious wars at the time.”

Martin said the various spellings of Favre’s name — he’s also known as Pierre Favre and Peter Faber — indicate “the lack of attention given him.”

“That of course changes with the canonization,” he said.

Francis also moved three others along the path to sainthood, including approving a miracle attributed to the intercession of Sister Maria Teresa Demjanovich, a native of Bayonne, N.J., who died in 1927; and advancing the causes of Spanish priest Emanuele Herranz Estables and Polish layman George Ciesielski.