Saint Irenaeus will be declared a Doctor of the Church| National Catholic Register


In an address to a group of Catholic and Orthodox theologians last October, Pope Francis called Saint Irenaeus “a great spiritual and theological bridge between Christians of East and West.”

VATICAN CITY — Saint Irenaeus of Lyons is about to be the first martyr to be declared a Doctor of the Church.

Pope Francis met with the head of the Vatican Congregation for the Causes of Saints on Thursday to discuss bestowing the title on the saint.

During the meeting, Cardinal Marcello Semeraro informed the pope that the plenary session of cardinals and bishops of the Congregation of Saints had found the 2nd-century bishop worthy of the title, according to a January 20 Vatican statement.

Pope Francis has already made public his intention to declare Irenaeus a Doctor of the Church with the title “Doctor unitatis”, which means “Doctor of Unity”.

In a speech to a group of Catholic and Orthodox theologians last October, the pope called Saint Irenaeus “a great spiritual and theological bridge between Christians of East and West.”

Saint Irenaeus is a bishop and writer revered by Catholics and Orthodox Christians and known for refuting the heresies of Gnosticism with a defense of both the humanity and divinity of Christ.

While some of Saint Irenaeus’ most important writings have survived, details of his life are not as well preserved. He was born in the eastern half of the Roman Empire, probably in the coastal city of Smyrna in present-day Turkey, around AD 140.

As a young man, he heard the preaching of the first Christian bishop, Saint Polycarp, who had been personally instructed by the Apostle John. Irenaeus became a priest, serving the Church in the region of Gaul, in present-day France, during a difficult time in the late 170s.

During this period of state persecution and doctrinal controversy, Irenaeus was sent to Rome to provide Pope St. Eleutherius with a letter on the heretical movement known as Montanism.

After his return to Lyon, Irenaeus became the city’s second bishop, following the martyrdom of his predecessor Saint Pothinus.

During his work as a pastor and evangelist, the second bishop of Lyon came up against heretical doctrines and movements that insisted that the material world was evil and not part of God’s original plan. .

Irenaeus recognized this movement, in all its forms, as a direct attack on the Catholic faith. He refuted Gnostic errors in his long book Against heresies, which is still studied today for its historical value and theological insights.

shorter work, Evidence of apostolic preaching, contains Irenaeus’ presentation of the gospel with emphasis on Jesus Christ’s fulfillment of Old Testament prophecies. Several of his other works are now lost, although a collection of fragments of them has been compiled and translated.

Irenaeus died in Lyon around 202, when Emperor Septimius Severus ordered the martyrdom of Christians.

During Pope Francis’ meeting with Cardinal Semeraro, the pope also authorized a decree concerning the heroic virtue of three Italians: Archbishop Francesco Saverio Toppi of Pompeii (1925-2007); Mother Maria Teresa DeVincenti, founder of the Congregation of Little Workers of the Sacred Heart (1872-1936); and Sister Gabriella Borgarino of the Society of the Daughters of Charity (1880-1949).

The U.S. bishops voted in 2019 to appoint Saint Irenaeus a Doctor of the Church at the request of Cardinal Philippe Barbarin, then Archbishop of Lyon, and sent their approval to the Vatican for the pope’s consideration.

Pope Francis previously declared Saint Gregory of Narek, a 10th-century Armenian monk, a Doctor of the Church in 2015.

Benedict XVI appointed Sts. Jean d’Avila and Hildegarde de Bingen Doctors of the Church in 2012.

Seventeen of the 36 personalities declared Doctors of the Church by the Catholic Church lived before the Great Schism of 1054 and are also venerated by Orthodox Christians.

“His name, Irenaeus, contains the word ‘peace,’” Pope Francis said Oct. 7.

“We know that the Lord’s peace is not a ‘negotiated’ peace, the fruit of agreements intended to safeguard interests, but a peace that reconciles, that brings people together in unity. It is the peace of Jesus.


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