St. Therese is the Youngest Doctor in the Church

Vatican City, October 19, 1997 (VIS) - During a solemn Eucharistic celebration in St. Peter's Square in the presence of tens of thousands of people, the Pope today proclaimed St. Therese of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face Doctor of the Church. She is the third woman to be proclaimed Doctor, together with St. Catherine of Sienna and St. Therese of Avila.

Next to the altar where the Pope concelebrated with 16 cardinals, bishops and priests, was a metal urn containing relics of the new Doctor. These relics will remain in St. Peter's Basilica until Wednesday morning for veneration by the faithful.

In his homily in Italian and French, John Paul II recalled that the young Discalced Carmelite "was not able to attend a university nor frequent organized studies. She died young: and yet today she will be honored as Doctor of the Church, an eminent recognition which raises her in the consideration of the entire Christian community well beyond what an 'academic title' could have done."

"Among the Doctors of the Church," he added, "Therese of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face is the youngest, but her spiritual path is so mature and ardent, the intuitions of faith present in her writings are so vast and profound, as to have earned her a place among the great masters of the spirit."

The Pope added later that "in a rationalistic culture, one too often permeated by practical materialism, she suggested with disarming simplicity 'the little path' which, returning to the basics of things, leads to the secret of every existence: the Divine Charity which surrounds and permeates ever human affair."

In concluding, he said: "In a time like ours, marked in so many of its aspects by the culture of the ephemeral and by hedonism, this new Doctor of the Church appears gifted with a singular efficacy in enlightening the mind and heart of those who are thirsting for truth and love."

Before praying the angelus, and after recalling that today is World Mission Sunday, the Holy Father said that St. Therese 'is the model of missionary commitment and the patroness of missions even if she never left the Carmelite cloister of Lisieux." She wanted to be a missionary and supported with prayer the announcers of the Gospel.

While greeting the pilgrims, the Pope said in French that the person and message of St. Therese "have inspired numerous institutes concerned with announcing the Gospel, in particular the Mission of France, founded in 1941 by Cardinal Suhard, which is at the origin of many missionary initiatives for the poor or in the world of science."