Pontiff bestows high honours on church's newest 'doctors'
Pope Benedict XVI has named two new 'doctors' of the church, conferring one of the Catholic Church's highest honours on a 16th century Spanish preacher and a 12th-century German mystic who wasn't even officially recognised as a saint until earlier this year.
St John of Avila, Spain, and St Hildegard of Bingen, Germany, join the ranks of only 33 other church doctors who have been singled out over the course of Christianity for their contributions to Catholic doctrine.
The Pope is particularly fond of Hildegard, who was considered a saint in his native Germany but was never officially proclaimed one by the Vatican.
The Pope, who himself referred to Hildegard as a saint, earlier this year passed the decree making her one officially, a requirement for her to be named a church doctor.
The last church doctor named was St Therese of Lisieux, France, in 1997. The first doctors were Saints Ambrose, Augustine, Jerome and Gregory the Great.