ROME (AP) — A 2nd-century saint known as a bridge between eastern and western Christianity took another step Thursday toward being declared a doctor of the church, one of the highest honors in the Catholic Church.
The head of the Vatican’s saint-making office, Cardinal Marcello Semeraro, told Pope Francis that the office’s members had agreed that St. Irenaeus should receive the honor, and proposed that Francis declare it, the Vatican said.
Thursday’s audience was something of a formality since Francis had already announced in October that he intended to soon declare Irenaeus the “doctor of unity,” though no date has been set.
The title of doctor is reserved for people whose writings have greatly served the universal church. Only 36 people have been given the title, including St. Augustine, St. Francis de Sales and St. Teresa of Avila.
St. Irenaeus, who is believed to have ministered in present-day France, is known for his fight against heresies. But Francis, who has made outreach to the Orthodox a key priority of his pontificate, emphasized his importance to the message of unity when he addressed a Catholic-Orthodox working group studying the saint’s writings in October.
He described the saint, also known as Irenaeus of Lyon, as “a great spiritual and theological bridge between Eastern and Western Christians.”
Francis in 2015 added the last doctor to their ranks, bestowing the title on a 10th-century mystic and poet, St. Gregory of Narek.