ROME (AP) —
Pope Francis created 10 new saints on Sunday, recovering from 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 period at the beginning to greet the priests concelebrating the Mass, presided over the nearly two-hour ceremony, and then stood and walked for a good 15 minutes after it was over to greet dozens of cardinals. and bishops. The Vatican chambers remained 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 popemobile around St. Peter’s Square and the boulevard leading to it to greet some of the tens of thousands of people who turned out to celebrate the new saints of the Catholic Church. They include a Dutch priest-journalist who was murdered by the Nazis, an Indian lay convert who was murdered 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 must embrace this idea rather than an unattainable ideal of personal achievement.
“Holiness does not consist of a few heroic gestures, but many small acts of daily love,” he said from his chair at the altar.
Francis has complained of strained ligaments in his right knee for months and has recently been seen in a wheelchair at public hearings. Sunday’s ceremony was evidence that Francis can still walk, but he appears to be taking things as slowly as possible to let ligaments heal before an intense period of travel starting in July: the Vatican has confirmed two trips that month, one to the Congo. and South Sudan and one to Canada.
It was the first canonization mass at the Vatican since before the coronavirus pandemic and, in addition to last month’s Easter celebrations, drew one of the largest crowds in recent memory.
The Italian president, the Dutch foreign minister, the French interior minister and the Indian minister for minorities, as well as tens of thousands of worshipers filled the sun-drenched square, which was adorned with Dutch flowers in honor of Reverend Titus Brandsma , a holy martyr. who was murdered in the Dachau concentration camp in 1942.
In the run-up to the canonization, a group of Dutch and German journalists formally proposed that Brandsma become co-patron saint of journalists, along with Saint Francis de Sales, given her 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 successfully defended a ban on printing Nazi propaganda in Catholic newspapers. There has been no immediate response from the Pope.
In addition to Brandsma, the new saints include the 18th-century Indian convert Lazarus, also known as Devashayam, who mingled with India’s lower castes and was deemed a traitor by India’s royal palace, which ordered his arrest and execution in 1752.
“He is for poor people,” said Arachi Syril, an Indian pilgrim from Kanyakumari who was in the plaza for mass. “He hated the caste system, it still goes on, but he is the martyr for it”, Syril said.
César de Bus, a French priest who founded the religious order Fathers of Christian Doctrine and died in 1607, was also canonized; Luigi Maria Palazzolo, an Italian priest who cared for orphans and died in 1886; Giustino Maria Russolillo, Italian priest who founded a religious order dedicated to promoting religious vocations and died in 1955; and Charles de Foucauld, a French missionary who, having rediscovered his faith as a young man, decided to live among the Tuareg in the Algerian Sahara and was assassinated in 1916.
The four nuns are: Marie Rivier, who overcame an ailing 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.
AP visual journalist Gianfranco Stara contributed.