First Native American, 6 others canonized

Wilton Littelchild waited in Saint Peter’s Square in Vatican City Sunday for a mass to canonize seven new saints.
Stefano Rellandini /REUTERS
Wilton Littelchild waited in Saint Peter’s Square in Vatican City Sunday for a mass to canonize seven new saints.

VATICAN CITY — Tens of thousands of faithful, some wearing feathered headdresses and beads, others in colorful Hawaiian shirts and leis, turned out Sunday as Pope Benedict XVI canonized seven saints, including the first Native American and a 19th-century nun who tended to lepers on Hawaii.

Cheers rose from the crowd when the pope named Kateri Tekakwitha, known as ‘‘Lily of the Mohawks’’ and beloved by Native Americans; and Sister Marianne Cope, a German-born nun who was raised in Utica, N.Y., before moving to Hawaii.

A large contingent of Italy’s Filipino community came out to celebrate the installation of Saint Pedro Calungsod, a 17th-century Filipino martyr. Calungsod was killed by tribesmen on Guam in 1672 when he was helping Spanish Jesuits convert the natives.


The other new saints are Jacques Berthieu, a 19th-century Jesuit missionary who was killed by rebels in Madagascar; Carmen Salles y Barangueras, a Spanish nun; Giovanni Battista Piamarta, who founded a Catholic press in Brescia, Italy; and Anna Schaeffer, a 19th-century German lay woman who became a patron for the sick and suffering after she was severely burned in a boiler accident.

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The canonization Mass comes amid a meeting of bishops aimed at shoring up religious belief worldwide, and several of the saints were missionaries. Benedict prayed that ‘‘the witness of the new saints’’ would ‘‘speak today to the whole church.’’

“May their intercession strengthen and sustain her in her mission to proclaim the Gospel to the whole world,’’ the pope added.

Native Americans from across the United States and Canada came to Rome to celebrate Kateri. Early Sunday morning, a group from the First Nation of the Ojibwe in Manitoba, Canada, stood in a circle in Saint Peter’s Square beating leather drums and singing.

Some Native Americans have said that canonizing Kateri is an implicit offense to Native American traditions, but Eleanor Smith, 80, from Albuquerque, did not agree.


‘‘It’s a combination of your Catholic and your native traditions blending together,’’ said Smith, who is from Mississippi Choctaw and Navajo heritage. ‘‘We all believe in the same creator. God, creator, Father Sky — it’s all the same.’’

Others came to honor Saint Marianne Cope, a former mother superior of the Third Order Regular of Saint Francis in Syracuse, N.Y., who moved to the island of Molokai in 1883 to tend to those with Hansen’s disease, or leprosy. There, she worked with Father Damien De Veuster, a Belgian priest who was canonized in 2009.

Benedict called Saint Marianne ‘‘a shining and energetic example of the best of the tradition of Catholic nursing sisters and of the spirit of her beloved Saint Francis.’’

Kathleen Ford, 67, came with a group from the Diocese of Syracuse.

‘‘You can relate to her. She was a forerunner in health care,’’ Ford said as she stood in a group wearing white kerchiefs that read, ‘‘Sisters of Saint Francis. Beloved lover of outcasts.’’


The Vatican confirmed that a woman from Syracuse was cured from complications of pancreatitis in 2005 after praying to Mother Marianne, the second miracle needed to assure the nun’s sainthood.