An estimated 80,000 pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square to witness and celebrate the canonizations of seven new saints on Oct. 21, including the first American Indian, St. Kateri Tekakwitha.
Also canonized was a second American, St. Marianne Cope.
Under a clear blue sky and warm, sunny weather in Rome, Pope Benedict XVI praised each saint for their exceptional lives, stressing that the words of Mark — "the Son of Man came to serve and give his life for many" — were "the blueprint for living" for each of the newly canonized.
"May the witness of these new saints, and their lives generously spent for love of Christ, speak today to the whole Church, and may their intercession strengthen and sustain her in her mission to proclaim the Gospel to the whole world," the Pope said.
The new saints — Jacques Berthieu, Pedro Calungsod, Giovanni Battista Piamarta, Marìa Carmen Sallés y Barangueras, Marianne Cope, Kateri Tekakwitha and Anna Schäffer — were "different in origin, language, nationality and social condition," the Pope said, but they "are united among themselves and with the whole people of God in the mystery of salvation of Christ the Redeemer."
As the Holy Father declared in Latin each of the seven saints of the Church, St. Peter’s Square resounded with cheers.
The Mass was also noteworthy in that the rite that was used restored some of the traditional rite of canonization that was lost after the Second Vatican Council. And in a further nod to Tradition, the Holy Father also became the first pope since Pope John Paul II in the early 1980s to wear the papal fanon — an ancient papal vestment used exclusively by the Pope when celebrating a solemn pontifical Mass.
In his homily, Benedict recalled how St. Kateri Tekakwitha (1656-1680), daughter of a Mohawk father and Christian mother, sought refuge in a Jesuit mission to escape persecution after her baptism and lived a life "radiant with faith and purity" before her death at just 24.
"Kateri impresses us by the action of grace in her life, in spite of the absence of external help and by the courage of her vocation, so unusual in her culture," the Pope said.
"In her, faith and culture enrich each other!" the Holy Father added, and he entrusted to her "the renewal of the faith in the first nations and in all of North America."
"May God bless the first nations!" the Pope said.
Glenn and Shirley Stoner from a Navajo reservation in Arizona were particularly excited to witness the canonization and also make a first trip to Rome. "This is our first time, but for what an occasion," Glenn Stoner told Catholic News Agency.
In comments to the Register after the ceremony, Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia — himself a descendant of American Indians — said the canonization "was a great moment of joy in the history of Native-American Catholics."
"Every canonization is a gift from God, but it is also the time of a gift to the Church," he said, adding that "the Mohawk people — and, through them, all Native-American people — have given the Church the gift of St. Kateri, who brings with her into the Church the wonderful gifts of Native-American culture."
"Every saint is an expression of the inculturation of the Gospel in every time, place and race," he said. "St. Kateri, pray for us."
The Holy Father also canonized a second American during the ceremony: Marianne Cope (1838-1918). Although born in Germany, Marianne was taken to the United States as a 1-year-old and settled in Syracuse, N.Y., with her parents before going to care for lepers and assist St. Damien of Molokai in Hawaii.
Recalling how she "willingly embraced a call" to care for the lepers, the Pope highlighted how she founded a hospital, opened a home for girls whose parents were lepers, and nursed Father Damien.
"At a time when little could be done for those suffering from this terrible disease, Marianne Cope showed the highest love, courage and enthusiasm," the Pope said. "She is a shining and energetic example of the best of the tradition of Catholic nursing sisters and of the spirit of her beloved St. Francis."
Darlene Delacruz, a journalist for the Hawaii Catholic Herald, pointed out that Father Damien and Mother Marianne worked with a relatively small population on a small, remote five-mile stretch of land. Now, their lives of heroic virtue have led to them being honored by millions. It just shows "what good you can do," she told CNA. "It’s been amazing, a whirlwind, but amazing."
A large number of Americans and Canadians were present at the canonization ceremony, but even greater numbers of pilgrims from the Philippines were in attendance to celebrate the life and canonization of Pedro Calungsod (1654-1672).
Facing persecution when helping to evangelize the Chamorro people, Pedro displayed "deep faith and charity and continued to catechize his many converts, giving witness to Christ by a life of purity and dedication to the Gospel," the Pope said. "Uppermost was his desire to win souls for Christ, and this made him resolute in accepting martyrdom."
Benedict said he hoped the example and courageous witness of Pedro Calungsod would "inspire the dear people of the Philippines to announce the Kingdom bravely and to win souls for God!"
The Pope also praised the life of Jacques Bertieu (1838-1896), a French Jesuit missionary who struggled against injustice and helped the poor and the sick in Sainte Marie and Madagascar, eventually dying a martyr; María Carmelo Sallés y Barangueras (1848-1911), a religious from Spain who founded the Congregation of the Conceptionist Missionary Sisters of Teaching and was renowned for her teaching; and Anna Schäffer (1882-1925) of Mindelstetten, Germany, a laywoman who became "an untiring intercessor in prayer and mirror of God’s love" after a serious accident prevented her from entering a convent and forced her to be bedridden for the rest of her life.
Recalling the life of Giovanni Battista Piamarta of Brescia, Italy, renowned as a great apostle of charity and of young people, the Pope said: "The secret of his intense and busy life is found in the long hours he gave to prayer. When he was overburdened with work, he increased the length of his encounter, heart to heart, with the Lord. He preferred to pause before the Blessed Sacrament, meditating upon the passion, death and resurrection of Christ, to gain spiritual fortitude and return to gaining people’s hearts, especially the young, to bring them back to the sources of life with fresh pastoral initiatives."