VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis has declared the 16th-century Jesuit Pierre Favre a saint, bypassing the Vatican’s typical saint-making procedures to honor the first recruit of Jesuit founder St. Ignatius Loyola.
The announcement was made today on Francis’ 77th birthday, something of a gift to his Jesuit family for whom Favre is a beloved role model.
Favre, who lived from 1506 to 1546, met Ignatius while the two were college roommates in Paris along with another future Jesuit, Francis Xavier. Favre later was ordained and spent most of his ministry preaching Catholicism in Germany and elsewhere during the Protestant Reformation.
Francis, the first Jesuit pope, recently spoke about the importance Favre had on his life, in particular his message of dialogue with anyone “even with his opponents.”
In an interview with the Jesuit journal La Civilta Cattolica, Francis cited 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.”
In September, Francis bypassed typical Vatican procedures to unilaterally declare another saint, Pope John XXIII. Francis decreed that John would be canonized along with Pope John Paul II on April 27 even though the Vatican hadn’t confirmed a second miracle attributed to John’s intercession.
In Favre’s case, Francis was believed to have relied on a rarely used “equivalent canonization” process. With it, popes can declare that someone who has enjoyed widespread acclaim over time deserves veneration by the whole church without having to go through the Vatican’s typical procedures, which include ascertaining two miracles to their intercession.
The Vatican announcement said Francis had extended to the universal church the veneration given to Favre, and had inscribed him in the catalogue of saints.
Then-Pope Benedict XVI used the procedure to declare Hildegard of Bingen, an 11th-century mystic, a saint even though she had never been canonized.
The Rev. James Martin, author of “The Jesuit Guide to (Almost) Everything,” said Favre may be little known to the outside world but is much beloved, particularly for having met with Protestants during the Reformation, when they were considered heretics.
“Favre said, ‘Take care never to close your heart to anyone,’” Martin said. “His canonization reminds us of the value of dialogue, charity, discernment, prayer and mercy.”
Francis has made opening the church’s doors to all a hallmark of his nine-month papacy.