Basilica Status Sought for Church Where John of Avila Rests

Apostle of Andalusia Might Be Named Doctor of the Church

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CORDOBA, Spain, MAY 10, 2011 ( The bishop of Cordoba is requesting that Benedict XVI make the Church of the Incarnation in Montilla a basilica, since the church houses the remains of a 16th-century saint who might be proclaimed a doctor of the Church.

St. John of Avila — not to be confused with St. John of the Cross, St. Teresa of Avila’s partner in reforming the Carmelites — is known as the Apostle of Andalusia. He is the patron of diocesan priests in Spain.

Bishop Demetrio Fernández González of Cordoba is asking the Holy See to make the Church of the Incarnation a basilica, since the saint might be named a doctor of the Church.

St. John of Avila was declared patron of the Spanish secular clergy in 1946 by Pius XII; he was canonized by Paul VI in 1970.

John was born in Almodovar del Campo, Ciudad Real, in 1500, in the heart of a well-off family, which educated him in the Christian faith. When still a youth, he went to Salamanca to study law. His encounter with Jesus Christ changed his life radically, and he left Salamanca and a promising future to dedicate himself to prayer for three years.

Well guided by his spiritual directors, he became determined to be a priest and to consecrate his life to Christ and to evangelization. Twelve poor men accompanied him on the day of his priestly ordination, as his parents were already dead. There were no banquets or extravagances.

Burning with the love of Christ, John of Avila was only interested in dedicating himself to preaching. In 1527, he offered to go to New Spain-Mexico as a missionary.

However, the archbishop of Seville asked him to dedicate himself to the evangelization of his diocese and then to other dioceses in the surroundings, a work which brought him the title «Apostle of Andalusia.»

He was tried by the Inquisition, spending more than a year in prison, which only brought his spiritual life to deepen.

He went on to preach and evangelize until his death on today’s date in 1569.

The Spanish Episcopal Conference made a proposal in 1989 to have him proclaimed a doctor of the Church, and according to the Cordoba Diocese, the process is in its final stages.

[Reporting by Nieves San Martin]
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