VATICAN CITY—Pope John Paul II canonized 12 new saints, including 10 victims of the Spanish Civil War, and said they offered spiritual lessons for all modern Christians.
The two-hour-long liturgy Nov. 22 in St. Peter's Basilica was the last canonization ceremony of the 20th century.
With the latest group, the Pope has named 296 saints in his 21-year pontificate, almost as many as were named by all his predecessors since modern saint-making rules were established in the 16th century.
The 10 martyrs were all priests or brothers working in Spanish schools during the 1930s when members of a Marxist rebel movement led attacks against priests and religious. St. Cirilo Bertran and eight fellow members of the Christian Brothers, and St. Inocencio de La Inmaculada, a Passionist priest, were all shot to death.
The other new martyr to come out of the Spanish Civil War is St. Jaume Hilari, who was killed in Tarragona three years later.
In a sermon, the Pope said the martyrs were not anti-communist war heroes but witnesses of the faith, who with their deaths gave “the last lesson of their lives.”
He summarized the testimony of the martyrs by quoting St. Jaume Hilari's words just before dying: “Friends: to die for Christ is to reign.” The Holy Father spoke in Catalan, the new saint's native language.
“Not being afraid of spilling their blood for Christ, they conquered death and now participate in the glory of the Kingdom of God. That is why today I have the joy of inscribing them in the catalogue of saints,” the Holy Father said.
The Pope also canonized St. Tommaso da Cori, an Italian Franciscan well-known as a preacher and confessor until his death in 1729, and St. Benedetto Menni, an Italian member of the Hospitaller Order of St. John of God, who in the late 1800s founded the Congregation of Hospitaller Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, and is credited with restoring the Order of St. John of God in Spain and Portugal in the mid 19th century.
Among the 11,000 people attending the Mass was Argentine President Carlos Menem, who traveled to Rome for the canonization of the country's first native-born saint. St. Hector Valdivielso Saez, one of the Christian Brothers martyred in Spain, was born in Buenos Aires to Spanish immigrants who later returned to Spain.
The Pope concelebrated Mass with Cardinal Antonio Maria Rouco of Madrid, and the Pope's vicar for the diocese of Rome, Cardinal Camillo Ruini, as well as bishops from the new saints’ dioceses, the superiors general of the Passionists and Hospitallers of St. John of God, and several Franciscan superiors.
(From combined wire services)