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Study Claims Jewish Ancestry for St. Teresa of Avila

March 24, 1981
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

— St. Teresa of Avila, a revered leader of the Discalced Carmelite Sisters in 16th Century Spain who will be commemorated by the Catholic Church on the 400th anniversary of her death next October, was of Jewish ancestry, according to an article appearing in the current issue of Carmelite Studies, an annual publication of the Institute of Carmelite Studies here.

The article, by Father Teofanes Egido, a professor of history at the University of Valladolid, Spain and a member of the Discalced Carmelite Order, was cited by the National Catholic News Service which noted that St. Teresa was a reformer of the Carmelite Order in her day and one of two women honored as a doctor of the church.

According to Father Egido, a Spanish historian, Alonso Cortes, in 1944 uncovered a 16th Century lawsuit which contained testimony revealing that St. Teresa’s father and paternal grandfather were Jews who converted to Catholicism during the Inquisition.


The research showed that St. Teresa was aware of her ancestry but did not acknowledge it publicly because of prejudice in Spain at the time against Jews and Jewish converts.

She did, however, direct her convents not to comply with the “statutes of purity of blood” which excluded Jewish converts to Catholicism from most religious orders, from the military, higher education, civil and church offices. But the Discalced Carmelite Sisters reimposed the “purity of blood” requirements after her death on October 4, 1582 at the age of 67.

According to the National Catholic News Service the Spanish bishops announced in Madrid recently that Pope John Paul II would attend the celebrations marking the 400th anniversary of her death.

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