When Patriarch Estephan Douaihy was declared Venerable by Pope Bendict XVI, we were uncertain how we should formally refer to the Patriarch. Reading the various articles written on the declaration we found there to be a number of variations in the English language press and websites, so we contacted the Rev. Dr. Peter Joseph, Chancellor of the Maronite Diocese, Sydney, Australia.
We were delighted to hear from him by return and with his kind permission we reproduce his reply to us. We express our sincere thanks to him for sparing the time to answer our request, especially at this busy time for him and the Diocese.
Greetings in the Lord.
In reply to your email asking how you should now refer to Patriarch Estephan Douaihy, since being declared Venerable by the Holy Father.
Often, after a title of holiness is conferred, previous ecclesiastical titles are not used when referring to the person in question. For example, we now refer to ‘Blessed John XXIII’, or ‘Saint Pius X’. Although, if you wish, you can still refer to the title of Pope, such as for ‘Pope Saint Pius X’.
Another example is that of Padre Pio (‘Father Pio’). As he was so well-known by this name, even after his canonization many still referred to him as ‘Saint Padre Pio’. Strictly, it is more formally correct to omit the title ‘Padre’ and refer to him as ‘Saint Pio of Pietrelcina’, mentioning his birthplace to identify him.
The canonisation process involves a series of titles, which means that a new title, in effect, replaces the previous one. The titles are:
1. Servant of God: Where the cause of the candidate has been opened and is being investigated.
2. Venerable: The Servant of God has been found to have practised heroic virtue, the examination of his life having being completed and evaluated.
3. Blessed: After a miracle is approved (not needed if the person is a martyr), the candidate is beatified, and local and restricted cult is thus authorised.
4. Saint: After a second miracle, the Blessed is canonized, and universal cult is authorised.
In the case of Patriarch Douaihy, when he was declared a ‘Servant of God’, you could refer to him as ‘Servant of God, Patriarch Estephan Douaihy.’
On being declared Venerable, it would be somewhat awkward to say Venerable Servant of God, so the latter title can be omitted and one can refer to him as, ‘Venerable Patriarch Estephan Douaihy.'
Once he is declared Blessed, you would refer to him as ‘Blessed (Patriarch) Estephan Douaihy.’
On being canonised he would be referred to as ‘Saint (Patriarch) Estephan Douaihy.’
The title ‘Patriarch’ becomes optional in ordinary usage.
Fr Peter Joseph
New South Wales