Pope Francis has declared the 16th century Jesuit Father Pierre Favre a saint, bypassing the usual procedures for canonization.
The Vatican announced the Pope’s decision on Dec. 17, Francis’ 77th birthday.
The Holy Father has long viewed Father Favre, the first follower of the founder of the Society of Jesus, St. Ignatius of Loyola, as a model figure.
Born in the Rhône-Alpes region of eastern France in 1506, the French Jesuit met Ignatius while the two were college roommates at the University of Sorbonne in Paris, along with another future Jesuit, St. Francis Xavier. After ordination, Father Favre spent most of his ministry preaching Catholicism in Germany and elsewhere during the Protestant Reformation. He died in 1546.
Pope Francis has spoken of the influence Father Favre has had in his life, in particular his message of dialogue with anyone “even the most remote and even with his opponents.” In an interview with the Jesuit journal La Civilta Cattolica, he praised Father Favre’s “simple piety, a certain naïveté perhaps, his being available straightaway, his careful interior discernment, the fact that he was a man capable of great and strong decisions but also capable of being so gentle and loving.”
Father Favre and Pope Francis are said to have many characteristics in common and share many of the same ideas. Father Favre was a supporter of Catholic reform and a pioneer of ecumenism. St. Ignatius used to say he was “someone who can squeeze water from a rock” and regarded him as the most efficient spiritual leader of all his followers. He also said Father Favre had “a gift for guiding people’s souls towards God” and wanted to appoint him as the Society of Jesus’s top representative in Rome.
Back in June, the Italian bishops’ newspaper Avvenire reported that Francis was looking to extend the liturgical cult surrounding the 16thcentury Jesuit to the universal Church. The newspaper reported that to canonize such a figure who lived centuries ago and based solely on the cult of holiness surrounding him “would be a unique technical procedure.”
The practice is mainly applied to individuals who lived a long time ago and for whom a canonical process was begun but not completed in their lifetime. Examples of this so-called “equivalent” canonization have been Cyril and Methodius who were proclaimed saints by John Paul II. Pope John XXIII also canonized Gregorio Barbarigo, whom Pope John had also held up as a model figure, in a motu proprio in 1960.
“Equivalent” canonization is a rare procedure, meaning popes can declare someone who has enjoyed widespread reverence over time deserves veneration by the universal Church without having to go through the usual canonization steps. These include proving two miracles attributed to the candidate’s intercession.
Pope Benedict XVI used the procedure in his pontificate to declare Hildegard of Bingen a saint.
During an audience with the Cardinal Prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints today, Angelo Amato, Pope Francis also declared a miracle attributed to the intercession of the Venerable Servant of God Maria Teresa Demjanovich, a sister with the Congregation of the Sisters of Charity of Saint Elizabeth. Born in Bayonne, New Jersey, on March 26, 1901 she died in Elizabeth, New Jersey, on 8 May 1927.
The Pope also declared the heroic virtues of Servant of God Emmanuel Establés Herranz, diocesan priest and founder of the Religious Esclavas de la Virgen Dolorosa. Born in Campillo de Dueñas, Spain, on 1 January 1880, he died in Madrid on June 29, 1968.
Finally, the Pope proclaimed the heroic virtues of the Servant of God Giorgio Ciesielski, a layman, born in Krakow, Poland, February 12, 1929, and died in Egypt October 9, 1970.