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Pope canonises 'lepers' apostle' and four others

12th October 2009, Comments0 comments

The five saints include a Belgian man who dedicated his life to lepers in Hawaii, a French woman who founded the Little Sisters of the Poor and two Spanish monks.

Vatican City - Pope Benedict XVI on Sunday canonised five new saints, including a Belgian man who dedicated his life to lepers in Hawaii, a French woman who founded the Little Sisters of the Poor and two Spanish monks.

Belgium's King Albert II and his wife Paola, Polish President Lech Kaczynski and French Prime Minister Francois Fillon attended the mass in St Peter's basilica.

The pope also canonised Jeanne Jugan (1792-1879) of France, who founded the order of the Little Sisters of the Poor. By the time she died, her institute had 2,500 workers looking after elderly women in 177 homes around the world.

Jugan "is like a light to guide our societies which have still not rediscovered the place and unique benefits" of elderly people, the pontiff said.

"Her charisma is still important, while so many old people suffer multiple poverties and solitude, sometimes even abandoned by their families," he said.

Jozef Damian de Veuster (1840-1889) of Belgium moved to Molokai in Hawaii at the end of the 19th century, where he became known as "the lepers' apostle" for living on a colony for 16 years until he himself died of the disease.

De Veuster's life "invites us to open our eyes to lepers who disfigure the humanity of our brothers," the pope said.

Also canonised were Polish archbishop Zygmunt Szczesny Felinski (1822-1895) and two Spanish monks -- a Dominican, Francisco Coll y Guitart (1812-1875) and a Trappist, Rafael Arnaiz Baron (1911-1938).

Baron, considered one of the greatest mystics of the 20th century, died aged 27 while he was a member of the Cistercian Order of Strict Observance.

He died from diabetes after preferring to stay at the monastery rather than with his parents, where medical care would have been easier to come by during the upheavals of the Spanish Civil War.

In April, the pope canonised five Christians, including Father Arcangelo Tadini (1846-1912), Sister Caterina Volpicelli (1839-1894), theologian Bernardo Tolomei (1272-1348) and Gertrude Caterina Comensoli, (1847-1903), all Italian.

The fifth was Carmelite monk Nuno de Santa Maria Alvares Pereira (1360-1431) of Portugal.

Benedict XVI has indicated he intends to slow down the rate of canonisations and of beatifications -- a step towards full sainthood -- in contrast with the prolific rate of his predecessor, John Paul II.

Pope Benedict XVI has canonised 28 new saints since becoming pontiff in April 2005. Jean-Paul II created 482 new saints and beatified 1,338 during his 26 years in office.

Beatification, officially the Catholic Church's recognition that a dead person has entered heaven and can intercede on behalf of those who pray in their name, is a key step towards sainthood.

AFP / Expatica

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