Pope Francis announced that he would soon declare Saint Irenaeus of Lyon a doctor of the Church with the title of Doctor unitatis [doctor of unity, in Latin]. The Pope said this during an October 7 speech to a group of Catholic and Orthodox theologians, the Saint Irenaeus Joint Orthodox–Catholic Working Group.
The Working Group’s annual session was organized this year for the first time in Rome. The Pope thanked them for their theological work in the service of communion between Catholics and Orthodox.
Pope Francis gave the saint from the East who came to exercise his ministry in the West as an example of a “spiritual and theological bridge.”
This name, Irenaeus, contains the word “peace”. We know that the Lord’s peace is not a “negotiated” peace, the fruit of agreements meant to safeguard interests, but a peace that reconciles, that brings together in unity. That is the peace of Jesus. For, as the apostle Paul writes, Christ “is our peace; who has made us both one, and has broken down the dividing wall of hostility” (Eph 2:14). Dear friends, with the help of God, you too are working to break down dividing walls and to build bridges of communion.
A request from Cardinal Barbarin
In January 2018, Cardinal Philippe Barbarin, Primate of the Gauls, on a trip to Rome, asked Pope Francis to make Saint Irenaeus a doctor of the Church.
Currently, the Church has 36 Doctors of the Church, including four women.
Pope Francis has only named one other doctor: Gregory of Narek (circa 954-circa 1010), a poet and philosopher of Armenia. He was proclaimed a doctor of the Church by Pope Francis in 2015.