Pope rallies from knee pain to proclaim 10 new saints

ROME (AP) —

Pope Francis created 10 new saints on Sunday, rallying to knee pain that 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 the start to greet the priests concelebrating Mass, presided over the ceremony for nearly two hours, then got up and walked for a good 15 minutes after the end to greet dozens of cardinals and bishops. Vatican cameras lingered on the scene as if to show the pope’s mobility and refute speculation about his health and the future of his pontificate.

Francis, 85, then took a long ride in a seated popemobile around St. Peter’s Square and the boulevard leading to it to greet some of the tens of thousands of people who came to celebrate the new saints of the Catholic Church. . These include a Dutch priest-journalist killed by the Nazis, an Indian lay convert 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 needed to embrace that idea rather than an unattainable ideal of personal fulfillment.

“Holiness is not a few heroic gestures, but many small daily acts of love,” he said from his chair at the altar.

Francis has been complaining of strained ligaments in his right knee for months and was recently seen in a wheelchair at public hearings. Sunday’s ceremony was proof that Francis is still able to walk, but seems to be taking ligament healing as easily as possible ahead of an intense period of travel beginning in July: the Vatican confirmed two trips that month, one to Congo and South Sudan and one in Canada.

It was the first canonization mass at the Vatican since before the coronavirus pandemic and, aside from Easter celebrations last month, drew one of the biggest crowds in recent times.

The Italian president, the Dutch foreign minister, the French interior minister and India’s minorities minister, along with tens of thousands of worshipers filled the sunny square, which was adorned with Dutch flowers in l honor of Reverend Titus Brandsma, a holy martyr. killed at Dachau concentration camp in 1942.

In the run-up to canonization, a group of Dutch and German journalists officially proposed that Brandsma become co-patron of journalists, alongside Saint Francis de Sales, given 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, reporters noted that Brandsma successfully advocated for a ban on the printing of Nazi propaganda in Catholic newspapers. There was no immediate response from the pope.

In addition to Brandsma, new saints include the 18th century Indian convert Lazarus, also known as Devashayam, who mixed with India’s lower castes and was considered a traitor by the Indian royal palace, who ordered his arrest and execution in 1752.

“He is for the poor,” said Arachi Syril, an Indian pilgrim from Kanyakumari who was in the square for mass. “He hated the caste system, it still continues, but he is a martyr of it,” Syril mentioned.

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 promoting religious vocations and died in 1955; and Charles de Foucauld, a French missionary who, after regaining his faith in his youth, 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 sickly childhood in France to become a nun and 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 1904 in Montevideo, Uruguay; 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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AP visual reporter Gianfranco Stara contributed.

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