Pope Names Composer Hildegard of Bingen a Saint

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Pope Benedict XVI officially declared the 12th-century composer, mystic, author and physician Hildegard von Bingen to be a saint on Thursday.

Catholics have regarded Hildegard as a saint for centuries, and several church leaders have referred to her by that title, but the process of canonization was never officially completed, the Catholic News Service reports.

The composer has been the subject of multiple sermons by the pope as he sought to address the church sex abuse scandals. In 2010, Benedict called Hildegard a worthy role model for Catholics because of "her love for Christ and his church, which was suffering in her time, too."

In Hildegard's day, there were calls for radical church reform to fight the problem of abuses made by the clergy, the pope said. However, she "bitterly reproached demands to subvert the very nature of the church" and instead advocated atonement. He also praised her contributions to music and medicine.

Born in 1098 to an aristocratic family, Hildegard was sent to live in a Benedictine monastery. She was sickly and prone to odd spiritual and psychic experiences -- seeing dazzling lights, faraway lands and so forth. She described these in enough detail to arouse the interest, in modern times, of the neurologist Oliver Sacks, who diagnosed her as a migraine sufferer.

Hildegard’s fame as a visionary allowed her to accomplish many things that exceeded the bounds of medieval Catholic society, especially once she was elected magistra, or head teacher, of the nun community at age 38. She began to protest the failings of church and pushed for reform. She also churned out her extraordinary array of creative treasures: more than 70 musical works, medical texts filled with 2,000 remedies and writings presenting feminine archetypes for the divine. She died in 1179 at the age of 81.

In the early 1990s, recordings of Hildegard's music hit the pop charts, a time when medieval chant, new age music and meditative practices were enjoying a boom. In 2010, she was the subject of "Vision," a German movie biopic which underscored her status as a feminist icon.

Along with the canonization, Hildegard is expected to be named a Doctor of the Church in October 2012, becoming only the fourth woman among less than three dozen saints to be bestowed with the title.