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Pope canonizes hundreds of Italian martyrs, Columbian and Mexican nuns

13 May, 2013 - In the first canonization ceremony of his pontificate, Pope Francis on Sunday raised to the glory of the altar over 800 Italian martyrs of the 5th century who chose to die rather than renounce their Christian faith. In 1480, Muslim invaders of the Ottoman empire beheaded Antonio Primaldo and 812 of his companions in the far southeastern Italian town of Otranto after they refused to give up their faith. “The martyrs’ faithfulness even unto death and the proclamation of the Gospel are rooted in the love of God that has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit,” said Pope Francis during the May 12 canonization Mass in Rome’s St. Peter’s Square. Pope Francis compared Antonio Primaldo to the first Christian martyr, Saint Stephen, who is described in the Acts of the Apostles as “a man full of the Holy Spirit.” He saw in their lives an inspiration for victims of persecution today. “Let us ask God to sustain the many Christians who, in these times and in many parts of the world, right now, still suffer violence, and give them the courage and fidelity to respond to evil with good,” the Pope said. He said the martyrs of Otranto found their strength “in faith, which allows us to see beyond the limits of our human eyes, beyond the boundaries of earthly life, to contemplate the heavens opened and the living Christ at the right hand of the Father.” “This means he was full of the love of God, that his whole person, his whole life was animated by the Spirit of the risen Christ, so as to follow Jesus with total fidelity, even unto to the gift of self,” he said.
Along with the Italian martyrs, the Pope also canonized two nuns from Latin America - Colombia’s first saint, Laura di Santa Caterina da Siena Montoya y Upegui, foundress of the Congregation of the Missionaries of Mary Immaculate and St Catherine of Siena, who died in 1949; and Maria Guadalupe Garcia Zavala of Mexico, co-foundress of the Congregation of the Handmaids of St Margaret Mary Alacoque who died in 1963. Describing St. Montoya as “an instrument of evangelization,” the Pope said Colombia’s first saint “teaches us to be generous together with God, not to live the faith alone but to communicate, to radiate the joy of the Gospel by word and witness of life in every place we find ourselves.” He said she was a teacher who then became “the spiritual mother of the indigenous peoples.” She gave them hope and welcomed them with “the love she learned from God,” bringing them to God in a way that respected their own culture. She “teaches us to see the face of Jesus reflected in the other, to overcome indifference and individualism.” This she did by “welcoming everyone without prejudice or constraints, with love, giving the best of ourselves and above all, sharing with them the most valuable thing we have, Christ and his Gospel.” Pointing to St. Garcia of Mexico the Pope noted that she “gave up a comfortable life to follow the call of Jesus” and taught people to love poverty “in order the more to love the poor and the sick.”


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