Pope Francis proclaimed ten figures of the Catholic Church ‘saints’ on Sunday, including the hermit of the desert Charles de Foucauldbefore some 45,000 worshipers from around the world gathered in St. Peter’s Square in Rome.
Among these ten “canonized” are the French religious Mary Rivier (1768-1838) and Cesar de Bus (1544-1607) as well as the Dutch priest and journalist Titus Brandsmaknown for his commitment against Nazi propaganda during the Second World War and killed in Dachau in 1942.
Arrived by car, Pope Francis, 85, who suffers from knee pain, did not appear in a wheelchair to preside over this canonization mass – the first since the pandemic – alongside around 50 cardinals and 2,000 priests and bishops.
Early Sunday, in summer weather, groups of pilgrims – many from France, the Netherlands, Africa and Latin America – had begun to flock to the largest basilica in the world, on which were hung portraits of the new “saints”. Some pilgrims themselves wore clothing in their likeness.
“Our son is called Foucauld, it is a great joy to come with the family for the canonization of his patron saint. It will only happen once in a lifetime, so we all came,” said Marie, her mother, 30, from Bourg-en-Bresse.
“For two years, we have experienced a lot locally, in our small parishes, in our dioceses, remotely, and finally (…) we can meet together around the Holy Father”, rejoiced with from AFP Mgr Luc Ravel, Archbishop of Strasbourg.
This canonization “gives a universal breadth to Saint Charles de Foucauld, it is to rejoin basically what he always wanted to be and what Pope Francis tells us at the end of his encyclical “Fratelli tutti” (all brothers)” , he added, in reference to the nickname of the hermit of the desert, the “universal brother”.
“As unfortunately distances, tensions and wars increase in the world, may these new saints inspire ways of dialogue, especially the hearts and minds of those who hold positions of responsibility, and are called to be protagonists of peace and not of war”, declared the pope at the end of the mass.
Canonization – the final step towards “holiness” in the Catholic Church, succeeding beatification – requires three conditions: to have been dead for at least five years, to have led an exemplary Christian life and to have performed at least two miracles.
The beatification trial of Charles de Foucauld, who was assassinated in 1916 in Tamanrasset, in the desert south of Algeria, began in the 1930s. He was declared “blessed” in 2005 by Pope Benedict XVI.
After recovering from cancer in 1984, a second miracle was attributed to him by the Vatican: the unusual story of a young carpenter from Saumur (central France), who survived in 2016 a fall of 15 meters on a bench, despite a pierced abdomen.
the martyr Devasahayam (Lazarus) Pillai (1712-1752), a Hindu convert to Christianity, was the first Indian layman to become a “saint”. Arrested, he was tortured for three years and then executed, having refused to recant his faith.
The other five canonized are the Italian priests Luigi Maria Palazzolo and Giustino Maria Russolillothe Italian nuns Maria Domenica Mantovani and Maria di Gesu Santocanale and the Italian-Uruguayan Maria Francesca Rubattowho becomes the first saint of Uruguay.
Nancy Gómez, a 46-year-old Colombian, said she felt “great emotion” to witness the ultimate recognition of this nun “who helped children and the needy”.
After the ceremony, which lasted about two hours, the sovereign pontiff, smiling, indulged in his traditional “Popemobile” tour of the square, kissing and blessing babies and greeting the faithful massed behind the barriers.