Pope names new saints including Native American

 
Native Americans on St Peter's Square, the Vatican, 21 October First Nation Canadians Harry Lafond (L) and Wilton Littlechild were at the Vatican for the event

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A Native American and six others have been named as saints by Pope Benedict XVI at the start of a new drive to deepen the faith of believers.

The pontiff named the seven at a ceremony in St Peter's Square at the start of a "Year of Faith".

Kateri Tekakwitha, who lived in the 17th Century, impressed missionaries with her deep spirituality.

The other new saints include a nun who tended a Hawaiian leper colony and a French missionary killed in Madagascar.

In the Roman Catholic Church, a saint is a person who has been recognised officially as being in Heaven.

Feathers and beads

As the sun rose over St Peter's Square on Sunday morning, Native American pilgrims in beaded and feathered headdresses sang songs to Kateri Tekakwitha, the Associated Press news agency reports.

A tapestry of Kateri Tekakwitha hangs on St Peter's Basilica, 19 October A tapestry of Kateri Tekakwitha has been hanging on St Peter's Basilica

In recent a years a miraculous intervention has been ascribed to Miss Tekakwitha, who was born in what is now New York State and died in what is now Canada.

The Vatican believes she saved the life of a Native American child who was being ravaged by a flesh-eating bacterium.

This, the Church decided, was the final miracle required to qualify her for sainthood.

It is also felt that her elevation would give Native American Catholics an important boost, reports the BBC's Alan Johnston, in Rome.

They are criticised by some in their communities for retaining the Christian faith, regarded by some as an imposition by European colonisers, our correspondent adds.

Miss Tekakwitha, who is sometimes known today as Lily Of The Mohawks, died at the age of 24.

The other figures who became saints on Sunday are

  • German-born Franciscan nun Maria Anna Cope who is known as Mother Marianne Of Molokai because she looked after lepers on the island of Molokai in the Hawaii archipelago
  • French Jesuit Jacques Berthieu, who was executed by rebels in 1896 in Madagascar
  • The Philippines' Pedro Calungsod, a young seminarian who was killed on the island of Guam when he visited with a Jesuit priest to baptise a young girl
  • German lay preacher Maria Schaeffer, who died in 1925
  • Italian priest Giovanni Battista Piamarta, who in the late 19th Century devoted his life to helping young people during the industrial revolution and founded a religious congregation
  • Spanish nun Maria del Carmen, who also founded a congregation and worked to better the lot of poor women in the 19th Century
 

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