No new Doctors of the Church in the near future

Pope Francis: Benedict XVI has what it takes to become a Doctor of the Church

Rome - Time and again, deceased theologians and popes are proposed as new Doctors of the Church – including Benedict XVI. Francis could indeed imagine his predecessor as "Doctor Ecclesiae". But not in the coming years.

Published  on 03.04.2024 at 12:54  – 

According to Pope Francis, Benedict XVI could be elevated to Doctor of the Church. His predecessor had the right calibre to receive this title, said Francis in the Spanish interview book "El sucesor" ("The Successor") published today. Benedict was a "great man" and he should be remembered accordingly, said the reigning Pope. His predecessor had had the courage to step down and then continued to accompany the Church and the Pope. Benedict did this in silence and also respected the decisions of his successor that were not in his favour, said Francis. "This requires holiness and manliness." Benedict had never criticised or commented on how Francis exercised his papacy.

At the same time, Francis announced that there would be no new appointments as Doctors of the Church in the near future. "There is a disease of religious communities that consists in the demand to elevate their founders to the status of Doctors of the Church," said the Pope, explaining his decision. "I have stopped this, because if we start giving this title to everyone, it loses its meaning."

Currently 37 Doctors of the Church

Since the 13th century, important theologians have been honoured with the title "Doctor Ecclesiae", "Doctor of the Church". There is now a set procedure according to which the Pope appoints Doctors of the Church. The procedure is similar to that of canonisation, but does not require formal beatification or canonisation. There are currently 37 Doctors of the Church. Pope Francis has so far appointed two new Doctors of the Church, the Armenian monk and mystic Gregory of Narek (951 to 1003, appointed in 2015) and Irenaeus of Lyon (around 135 to 200, appointed in 2022).

During the pontificate of Benedict XVI, the mystics St John of Avila (1499 to 1569) and Hildegard of Bingen (1098 to 1179) were appointed Doctors of the Church in 2012. Benedict's predecessor John Paul II (1920-2005) was also repeatedly discussed as a Doctor of the Church in the past. (rom)