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Rome Reports

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How can one become a Doctor of the Church?


In more than 2,000 years of history, there have only been 36 saints set apart as Doctors of the Church. Each were chosen based on their remarkable holiness in life, important works or contributions to the thought of the Church and the approved declaration by the Supreme Pontiff.

MSGR. ROBERT SARNO
Congregation for the Causes of Saints
“This idea of eminent teaching or doctrine that somehow his or her teaching stands out as particularly important or having a great impact on the life of the Church.
“There's no requirement as to the number of works, but there is a requirement as to the quality of the work, the outstanding nature of the work, the traditional term is called eminent doctrine.”

He says while anyone, from the faithful to bishops, can recommend a person to be a Doctor of the Church, it is the Congregation for the Causes of Saints that presents possible cases to the Holy Father. This is done only after the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith has verified the truth, theological basis and transcendent nature of the already-canonized saint's works. 

MSGR. ROBERT SARNO
Congregation for the Causes of Saints
“The title 'Doctor of the Church...' there is a certain transcendence of time in the teaching of the individual so it's not only what was the influence of that individual at that particular time on the Church that this teaching had, but rather what is the importance of that and the teaching of the universal Church even until today?”

The monsignor insists he is not permitted to reveal any saints who are being studied to possibly be Doctors of the Church, nor can he list a definite time in how long each process takes. However, he can confirm that once both congregations have gathered all evidence over the span of at least one to two years, it is a decision ultimately up to the Holy Father for the good of the whole Church.

MSGR. ROBERT SARNO
Congregation for the Causes of Saints
“Young people, then, should be encouraged to read those who have been declared 'Doctors of the Church,' because their outstanding teaching can be a guide and a help for them on their own path of holiness.”

The last time a Doctor of the Church was declared was in 2015 by Pope Francis for Armenian St. Gregory of Narek. Before that, Pope Benedict XVI named 16th century St. John of Avila and 12th century German nun St. Hildegard of Bingen.