ROME (AP) – Pope Francis on Sunday created 10 new saints who have recovered from knee pain that forced him to use a wheelchair to officiate the first canonization ceremony at the Vatican in over two years.
Francis rose long to begin with to greet priests who were concelebrating Mass, presided over the nearly two-hour ceremony, and then stood for a good 15 minutes and left after it was finished to greet dozens of cardinals and bishops. Vatican cameras lingered on the scene as if to demonstrate the pope’s mobility and refute speculation about his health and the future of his pontificate.
Francis, 85, then took a long, seated popemobile ride around St. Peter’s Square and the boulevard leading there to greet some of the tens of thousands of people who came out to celebrate the Catholic Church’s newest saint. These include a Dutch priest-journalist who was killed by the Nazis, an Indian lay convert who was killed for his faith, and half a dozen French and Italian priests and nuns who founded religious orders.
Francis told the crowd of more than 45,000 that the 10 embodied holiness in daily life and said the church should embrace this idea rather than an unattainable ideal of personal achievement.
“Holiness does not consist of a few heroic gestures, but of many small acts of daily love,” he said from his seat on the altar.
Francis has complained of overstretched ligaments in his right knee for months and was recently spotted in a wheelchair during public audiences. Sunday’s ceremony was proof that Francis can still walk, but it seems he is making it as easy as possible to have the ligaments healed ahead of an intense travel season beginning in July: the Vatican has confirmed two trips this month , one to Congo and South Sudan and one to Canada.
It was the first canonization mass at the Vatican since before the coronavirus pandemic and drew one of the largest crowds in recent memory, aside from last month’s Easter celebrations.
The President of Italy, the Dutch Foreign Minister, the French Minister of the Interior and the Indian Minister for Minorities, along with tens of thousands of worshipers, filled the sunny piazza, which was decorated with Dutch flowers in honor of the Rev. Titus Brandsma, a holy martyr who was murdered in the Dachau concentration camp in 1942 became.
Ahead of the canonization, a group of Dutch and German journalists officially proposed that Brandsma should become a fellow patron of journalists alongside Saint Francis de Sales, due to his work fighting 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 successfully lobbied for a ban on the printing of Nazi propaganda in Catholic newspapers. There was no immediate response from the Pope.
Alongside Brandsma, the new saints include the 18th-century Indian convert Lazarus, also known as Devashayam, who mixed with India’s lower castes and was viewed as a traitor by the Indian Royal Palace, who ordered his arrest and execution in 1752.
“It’s for the poor people,” said Arachi Syril, an Indian pilgrim from Kanyakumari who was in the square for mass. “He hated the caste system, it still goes on, but he’s the martyr for it,” Syril said.
Also canonized was César de Bus, a French priest who founded the religious order of the Fathers of Christian Doctrine and died in 1607; Luigi Maria Palazzolo, an Italian priest who cared for orphans and died in 1886; Giustino Maria Russolillo, an Italian priest who founded a religious order dedicated to the promotion of religious vocations and died in 1955; and Charles de Foucauld, a French missionary who, after rediscovering his faith as a young man, decided to live among the Tuareg peoples of the Algerian Sahara and was killed in 1916.
The four nuns are: Marie Rivier, who overcame a ailing childhood in France to become a nun, founded a religious order and died in 1838; Maria Francesca di Gesù Rubatto, an Italian nun who helped found a religious order and died in Montevideo, Uruguay, in 1904; and the Italians Maria di Gesù Santocanale and Domenica Mantovani, who founded religious orders and died in 1923 and 1934 respectively.
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