FROM A ROME CORRESPONDENT Two women saints are being paid one of the highest honours of the Catholic Church by Pope Paul. Last Sunday he named St. Teresa of Avila a Doctor of the Church. He will do the same for St. Catherine of Siena this Sunday.
They are the first women to be so honoured, and only 29 men have been proclaimed Doctoran honour reserved for the greatest teachers of Catholic doctrine. They include St. Augustine and St. Thomas Aquinas.
Vatican sources said Pope Paul wanted to honour St. Teresa and St. Catherine to stress the importance of women in the Church. But on Sunday he reiterated his opposition to women ever becoming priests or high-ranking Church leaders.
`LET WOMEN KEEP SILENT'
He quoted St. Paul's words "Let women keep silent in churches." He said this meant they were "not destined to hold hierarchical or ministerial functions in the church." But he said many women, like St. Teresa. had a special gift for mystic prayer which enabled them to teach and guide fellow-Christians. Thousands of Spaniards including future King JUAN CARLOS of Bourbon and
his wife attended the ceremony in St. Peter's on Sunday, St. Teresa, who lived from 1515 to 1582, is one of Spain's two patron saints, with St. James the Apostle.
Pilgrims to Avila have been praying at the small convent where St. Teresa founded the strict "barefoot" order of the Carmelites in 1562, and where s'he "found God among the pots and pans." She was canonised in 1622.
She carried out a controversial reform of the Carmelite Order by having her followers wear sackcloth, go barefoot, cat frugally and fast often. Her opponents won a Papal Nuncio to their side who, ironically. denounced St. Teresa as a disobe dient, contumacious woman who . . . teaches theology as though she were a doctor of the church." Her books including "Life" "The Way of Perfection," and "The Interior Castle" are considered masterpieces of Spanish literature as well as outstanding works of mysticism.
The Pope announced his intention in October 1967 to name both St. Teresa and St. Catherine as Doctors. The Vatican's congregation of Rites studied thousands of hooks and manuscripts about women. then approved the Pope's initiative.
St. Catherine of Siena. lived from 1347 to 1380. At the age of 21 she made the journey to Avignon to urge Pope Gregory XI to return to Rome when, two years later, the Great Schism began, she opted for Urban VI, the "Roman" Pope.
When all her hopes for peace and a crusade faded. she retired into a life of prayer. Her claim to the doctorate rests on two works, the "Dialogue" and her letters, almost 400 in number.