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ROME – Declaring 10 women and men to be saints, including a martyred monk considered a pioneer of Catholic-Muslim relations and a journalist-priest murdered by the Nazis, Pope Francis said Sunday that sainthood is not out of reach but is rather to be found “among the pots and pans.”
Sainthood, Francis said, has been idealized excessively, and made about “our personal heroics, our capacity for renunciation, our readiness for self-sacrifice in achieving a reward,” thus making it an “unattainable goal.”
The pope was able to stand and move to the altar during the ceremony, despite intense knee pain that has forced him to cancel some events in recent weeks; he has also appeared in public using a wheelchair.
“We have separated [sainthood] from everyday life, instead of looking for it and embracing it in our daily routines, in the dust of the streets, in the trials of real life, and, in the words of Saint Teresa of Avila to her sisters, ‘among the pots and pans’,” the pope said.
Among those declared saints Sunday was Charles de Foucauld, a Trappist priest who left the order to live as a poor hermit among the largely Muslim Berber peoples of North Africa. Foucauld spent more than a decade learning their culture and language before being killed at his hermitage in 1916. His writings inspired the foundation, after his death, of the Little Brothers of Jesus and the Little Sisters of Jesus.
As one sign of the esteem in which Foucald is held, Algeria was represented at the canonization ceremony by Bouabdellah Ghlamallah, the president of the High Islamic Council, considered the chief religious authority in the country.
Another new saint is Titus Brandsma, a Dutch Carmelite priest, who was martyred at the Dachau concentration camp.
Ordained in 1905, Brandsma was sent to Rome where he became a correspondent for several Dutch newspapers and magazines. When he returned home, he founded the magazine Karmelrozen and, in 1935, was named chaplain to the Dutch Catholic journalists’ association. During World War II, he was arrested and sent to Dachau for treason after defending Jews and encouraging Catholic newspapers not to print Nazi propaganda. He was killed with a lethal injection in 1942 at the age of 61.
A group of Dutch journalists, with the support of some Rome-based foreign correspondents, have launched a petition asking Pope Francis to name him patron saint of journalists, an honor currently bestowed on St. Francis de Sales. The country’s foreign minister, Wopke Hoekstra, was on hand for Sunday’s canonization.
Other new saints canonized Sunday include:
- Devasahayam Pillai, an Indian layman and father who was born to an upper-caste Hindu family in 1712 and converted to Christianity in 1745.
- César de Bus, the French founder of the Fathers of Christian Doctrine, a religious congregation dedicated to education, pastoral ministry and catechesis.
- Luigi Maria Palazzolo, an Italian priest and founder of the Congregation of the Sisters of the Poor.
- Giustino Maria Russolillo, an Italian who founded the Society of Divine Vocations for men and the Vocationist Sisters.
- Anna Maria Rubatto, founder of the order now known as the Capuchin Sisters of Mother Rubatto.
- Maria Domenica Mantovani, co-founder and first superior general of the Little Sisters of the Holy Family.
- Marie Rivier, a Frenchwoman who founded the Sisters of the Presentation of Mary in 1796 during the time of the French Revolution.
- Carolina Santocanale, also known as Blessed Mary of Jesus, an Italian nun born in 1852, who founded the Congregation of the Capuchin Sisters of the Immaculate of Lourdes.
The group brought to 909 the number of saints Pope Francis has recognized during his pontificate, including 813 “Martyrs of Otranto” who were killed in the southern Italian city in 1480 and declared saints in 2013, as well as Popes John Paul II and John XXIII.
Thousands of pilgrims took part in the celebration, held in St. Peter’s Square under a pristine blue sky. Coming from France, Spain, the Netherlands, India, and several Italian cities, the square had the feel of a Catholic Olympics Games, with the bleachers cheering loudly each time their saint was mentioned.
Sunday’s celebration was also another sign that things are normalizing following a two-year hiatus of many Vatican events due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The last canonization ceremony was celebrated Oct. 13, 2019, and included St. John Henry Newman.
Leading a saintly life, Pope Francis said during the ceremony, means to follow God’s commandment of loving him and each other, which means “we should ask ourselves, ‘What do I do for others?’ and go about our daily lives in a spirit of service, with unassuming love and without seeking any recompense.”
Service, he insisted, means not putting oneself first, but instead “to clear our systems of the poison of greed and competitiveness; to fight the cancer of indifference and the worm of self-referentiality; to share the charisms and gifts that God has given us.”
A phone call or simply spending time with a person in need can go a long way when it comes to surmounting one’s selfishness.
It is important for Christians to keep in mind, he said, that the life of faith does not begin with doctrine or good works, but with the realization that “we are loved,” even before “any human being saw us.”
“While the world frequently tries to convince us that we are valued only for what we can produce, the Gospel reminds us of the real truth of life: we are loved,” Francis said.
Amid the darkness and tempests of life, the pontiff insisted, the most important thing of all is remembering that “God loves us.”
Follow Inés San Martín on Twitter: @inesanma