Rome (AFP) –
Pope Francis created 10 new saints on Sunday, after knee pain forced him to use a wheelchair to preside over the first canonization ceremony at the Vatican in more than two years.
Francis stood for a long time at first to greet the priests who celebrated Mass, presided over the ceremony which lasted about two hours and then stood and walked for 15 minutes after it ended to greet dozens of cardinals and bishops. Vatican cameras remained on the scene as if to show the Pope’s mobility and refute speculation about his health and the future of his pontificate.
Then Francis, 85, made the long haul in a rickshaw sitting around St Peter’s Square and the street leading to it to greet some of the tens of thousands of people who came out to celebrate the Catholic Church’s newest saint. These included a Dutch priest and journalist killed by the Nazis, an Indian secular convert to Islam killed for his faith, and six French and Italian priests and nuns who founded religious monks.
Francis told the crowd of over 45,000 that the ten personified holiness in everyday life, and said the church needed to embrace this idea rather than an unattainable model of personal achievement.
“Holiness consists not of a few heroic gestures, but of many small daily acts of love,” he said, sitting on his chair at the altar.
Francis has been complaining about strained ligaments in his right knee for months, and was recently seen using a wheelchair in crowds. Sunday’s ceremony was evidence that Francis was still able to walk, but seemed to make it as easy as possible to allow the ligaments to heal before an intense travel period starting in July: The Vatican confirmed two trips that month, one to Congo and South Sudan and one to Canada.
It was the first Holy Mass in the Vatican since before the coronavirus pandemic, and apart from last month’s Easter celebrations, it drew one of the largest crowds in recent times.
The Italian president, the Dutch foreign minister, the French interior minister and India’s minister for minorities, as well as tens of thousands of believers, gathered on the sunny square decorated with Dutch flowers in honor of Martyr Saint Titus Brandsma. who was killed in the Dachau concentration camp in 1942.
In the lead up to the canonization, a group of Dutch and German journalists formally proposed Brandsma to become a co-patron saint of journalists, along with Saint Francis de Sale, due to his work combating propaganda and fake news during the rise of fascism and Nazism in Europe. According to an open letter sent to Francis this month, journalists noted that Brandsma had succeeded in calling for a ban on printing Nazi propaganda in Catholic newspapers. There was no immediate response from the Pope.
In addition to Brandsma, among the new saints is Lazarus who converted to Indians in the eighteenth century, also known as Devashayam, who mixed with the lower classes of India and considered him a traitor by the Indian royal palace, who ordered his arrest and execution in 1752.
“It’s for the poor,” said Arashi Cyril, an Indian pilgrim from Kanyakumari who was at the Mass. “He hated the caste system, and it still persists, but he is the martyr for it.” She said.
César de Boss, a French priest who established the Fathers of the Christian Faith system and died in 1607, was also canonized; Luigi Maria Palazzolo, an Italian priest who took care of orphans and died in 1886; Giustino Maria Russolillo, Italian priest who established a religious order dedicated to promoting religious vocations and died in 1955; And Charles de Foucault, a French missionary, after discovering his faith as a young man, decided to live among the Tuareg peoples in the Algerian desert and was killed in 1916.
The four nuns are: Marie Rivière, who overcame her sick childhood in France to become a nun and found religious order and died in 1838; Maria Francesca de Gesu Robato, an Italian nun who helped establish a religious order and who died in 1904 in Montevideo, Uruguay; and the Italians Maria di Gesù Santocanale and Domenica Mantovani, who founded monks and died in 1923 and 1934, respectively.
Associated Press visual journalist Gianfranco Stara contributed.
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