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Armenian saint proclaimed Doctor of the Church by Pope Francis

A depiction of St Gregory of Narek

Pope Francis has declared a 10th-century Armenian mystic, poet and monk to be a Doctor of the Universal Church.

Born around AD 950, St Gregory of Narek “is widely revered as one of the greatest figures of medieval Armenian religious thought and literature”, Vatican Radio reported today.

St Gregory was educated by his father, Bishop Khosrov, author of the earliest commentary on the Divine Liturgy, and by the abbess of Narek Monastery, Anania Vartabed. He became a priest at the age of 25 and spent most of his life at Narek monastery.

His first written work was a commentary on the Song of Songs. A later work, the Book of Lamentations, which he called an “encyclopedia of prayer for all nations”, consists of 95 prayers on man’s separation from God and his quest to reunite with him.

Many of the prayers that St Gregory wrote are still used in the Divine Liturgy in Armenian churches today.

Pope Francis was close to the Armenian community in Buenos Aires when he was Cardinal Bergoglio. The announcement comes two months before he is expected to celebrate a Mass commemorating the 100th anniversary of the massacre of over a million Armenians by Ottoman Turks, an event which led to the coining of the word “genocide”.

St Gregory brings the number of Doctors of the Church, recognised for their contribution to theology or doctrine, to 36. He is the third to be given the rare honour this century, following St John of Ávila and St Hildegard of Bingen, both in 2012.