VATICAN CITY (Reuters) – Pope Francis on Sunday declared 10 people saints of the Roman Catholic Church, including an anti-Nazi Dutch priest murdered in the Dachau concentration camp and a French hermit monk assassinated in Algeria.
The 85-year-old pope, who has been using a wheel chair due to knee and leg pain, was driven to the altar at the start of the ceremony, which was attended by more than 50,000 people in St Peter’s Square. It was the one of the largest gatherings there since the easing of COVID restrictions earlier this year.
Francis limped to a chair behind the altar but stood to individually greet some participants. He read his homily while seated but stood during other parts of the Mass and read his homily in a strong voice, often going off script, and walked to greet cardinals afterwards.
Francis read the canonisation proclamations while seated in front of the altar and 10 cheers went up in the crowd as he officially declared each of 10 saints.
Titus Brandsma, who was a member of the Carmelite religious order and served as president of the Catholic university at Nijmegen, began speaking out against Nazi ideology even before World War Two and the German invasion of the Netherlands in 1940.
During the Nazi occupation, he spoke out against anti-Jewish laws. He urged Dutch Catholic newspapers not to print Nazi propaganda.
He was arrested in 1942 and held in Dutch jails before being taken to Dachau, near Munich, where he was subjected to biological experimentation and killed by lethal injection the same year at the age of 61. He is considered a martyr, having died because of what the Church calls “in hatred of the faith”.
The other well-known new saint is Charles de Foucauld, a 19th century French nobleman, soldier, explorer, and geographer who later experienced a personal conversion and became a priest, living as a hermit among the poor Berbers in North Africa.
He published the first Tuareg-French dictionary and translated Tuareg poems into French. De Foucauld was killed during a kidnapping attempt by Bedouin tribal raiders in Algeria in 1916.
The other eight who were declared saints on Sunday included Devasahayam Pillai, who was killed for converting to Christianity in 18th century India, and Cesar de Bus, a 16th century French priest who founded a religious order.
The others were two Italian priests, three Italian nuns and a French nun, all of whom who lived between the 16th and 20th centuries.
“These saints favoured the spiritual and social growth of their nations and the whole human family, while sadly in the world today, distances are widening, tensions and wars are increasing,” Francis said after the Mass.
World leaders had to be “protagonists of peace and not of war,” he said in an apparent reference to Ukraine.
Miracles have been attributed to all the new saints.
The Roman Catholic Church teaches that only God performs miracles, but that saints, who are believed to be with God in heaven, intercede on behalf of people who pray to them.
Several other Catholics killed in Nazi concentration camps have already been declared saints. They include Polish priest Maximilian Kolbe and Sister Edith Stein, a German nun who converted from Judaism. Both were killed in the Auschwitz camp in Nazi-occupied Poland.
(Reporting by Philip Pullella; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky)