Pope Francis on Sunday canonized a Frenchman murdered in the desert, a Dutch priest killed in a Nazi concentration camp and a converted lay Indian among 10 new saints officially proclaimed on Sunday.
Thousands of people from around the world gathered in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican for the canonization mass, presided over by the 85-year-old pontiff and attended by delegations including French Interior Minister Gerald Darminin and the Italian President Sergio Mattarella.
The images of the 10 new saints have been hung on the facade of the largest basilica in the world.
Unlike in recent days, Francis – who was surrounded by around 50 cardinals and 300 bishops and priests – did not appear in a wheelchair.
Under sunny skies, groups of pilgrims had begun to converge on the square, some wearing shirts or scarves with the image of one of the new saints.
According to the rules of the Catholic Church, all 10 have already been beatified, or named “blessed”, but then had to be awarded a miracle to take the final step towards sainthood.
Among the new saints is Charles de Foucauld, a French soldier and explorer, who became a Catholic priest and lived among Trappist monks in Syria, Palestine, and finally among the Tuaregs in the Algerian desert.
He was assassinated by bandits on December 1, 1916, but his works survived him and he became one of the most famous men of faith in France.
– Men of faith –
Another who took the step to sainthood was Dutch Carmelite priest, theologian and journalist Titus Brandsma, who took a stand against the Nazis during World War II.
He spoke out against them before Germany invaded the Netherlands in 1940 and afterwards, encouraging Dutch Catholic newspapers to resist the occupiers’ propaganda.
Brandsma was arrested in January 1942 and ended up in the Dachau concentration camp, where he died on July 26 of the same year, after being injected with carbolic acid.
He was beatified in 1985 after being declared a martyr, and it was later discovered that he performed a miracle by healing a Carmelite priest.
Devasahayam Pillai, known as Lazarus, was the first Indian layman to become a saint, according to the Vatican.
A Hindu from what is now the southern state of Tamil Nadu, he converted to Catholicism in 1745 while working at the royal palace, where he met a captured Dutch commander who taught him Christianity.
But his faith and preaching of the equality of all people – a revolutionary vision at the time – caused a stir and when he refused to renounce his new religion he was arrested, according to the Vatican.
After almost three years of imprisonment and torture, during which he began to be visited by pilgrims, he was shot in a forest by order of the king on January 14, 1752.
He was declared a martyr and beatified in 2012, later being granted the miracle of resuscitating a fetus at the 20th week of pregnancy.