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Pope Benedict XVI blesses the faithful at the end of a canonisation ceremony in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican.
Pope Benedict XVI blesses the faithful at the end of a canonisation ceremony in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican.

Pope canonises seven saints to boost a flagging church

Pope Benedict XVI adds seven more saints on to the roster of Roman Catholic role models in move to rekindle the faith in places where it has been lagging.

VATICAN CITY // Pope Benedict XVI added seven more saints on to the roster of Roman Catholic role models yesterday as he tries to rekindle the faith in places where it has been lagging.

Two of them were Americans: Kateri Tekakwitha, the first Native American saint from the United States and Mother Marianne Cope, a 19th century Franciscan nun who cared for leprosy patients in Hawaii.

Native Americans in beaded and feathered headdresses and leather-fringed tunics sang songs to Kateri as the sun rose over St Peter's Square before the mass yesterday.

Also on hand was Sharon Smith, whose cure from complications from pancreatitis was deemed a "miracle" by the Vatican, paving the way for Mother Marianne to be canonised.

Pilgrims from around the world attended the mass, which started with the head of the Vatican's saint-making office reading aloud each of the names of the seven new saints in Latin, drawing cheers from the crowd.

One of the new saints was Pedro Calungsod, a Filipino teenager who helped Jesuit priests convert natives in Guam in the 17th century but was killed by spear-wielding villagers opposed to the missionaries' efforts to baptise their children.

Rome's sizeable Filipino expatriate community came out in droves for the mass.

The other new saints are: Jacques Berthieu, a 19th century French Jesuit who was killed by rebels in Madagascar, where he had worked as a missionary; Giovanni Battista Piamarta, an Italian who founded a religious order in 1900 and established a Catholic printing and publishing house in his native Brescia; Carmen Salles Y Barangueras, a Spanish nun who founded a religious order to educate children in 1892; and Anna Schaeffer, a 19th century German lay woman who became a model for the sick and suffering after she fell into a boiler and badly burnt her legs. The wounds never healed, causing her constant pain.

Cheers rose up again when the pontiff, speaking in Latin, declared each of the seven saints and worthy of veneration by the entire church.

The canonisation coincided with a Vatican meeting of the world's bishops on trying to revive Christianity in places where it is lagging.

Several of the new saints were missionaries, making clear the pope hopes their example will be relevant today as the Catholic Church tries to hold onto its faithful in the face of competition from evangelical churches in Africa and Latin America, increasing secularisation in the West and disenchantment with the church over the clerical sex abuse scandals in the US, Europe and elsewhere.

The Vatican's complicated saint-making procedure requires that the Vatican certify a "miracle" was performed through the intercession of the candidate - a medically inexplicable cure that can be directly linked to the prayers offered by the faithful.

One miracle is needed for beatification and a second for canonisation.

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