Pope Benedict Proclaims 4 New Saints

(AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia) :: The tapestry of Mexican Bishop Rafael Guizar Valencia hangs from the facade of St. Peter's Basilica, framed by a statue of St. Peter, at the Vatican, Friday Oct. 13, 2006. Guizar was a great uncle of the Rev. MarcialMacielDegollado, the founder of the Legionaries of Christ order of priests whom the Vatican restricted from public ministry this year amid allegations he had sexually abused seminarians. In a solemn ceremeny at the Vatican Sunday Oct. 15, 2006, Benedict will canonize Guizar, Indiana nun Theodore Guerin, and two founders of religious orders Italian nun Rosa Venerini, and Italian priest Filippo Smaldone. Blessed Mother Theodore Guerin is the first new U.S. saint in six years, a span marked in this country by the scandal over the sexual abuse of minors by clergy.

Updated: 10/16/2006


Pope Benedict XVI gave Catholics four news saints Sunday, bestowing the honor on a 19th-century nun who struggled on the American frontier, a bishop who tended to the wounded during the Mexican Revolution and two Italian clergy.

French-born Mother Theodore Guerin endured harsh conditions on the American frontier and resisted the objections of a local bishop in pursuing her dream of establishing Catholic education for pioneers. She established a college for women in Indiana, which enrolled its first student in 1841.

Among those at the ceremony on the steps of St. Peter's Basilica were ailing Chicago Cardinal Francis George and five Indiana churchmen. George, who is recovering from cancer surgery, flew to Rome with hundreds of alumnae, trustees and students of St. Mary-of-the-Woods College in Indiana.

''The Church rejoices in the four new saints,'' Benedict told a crowd of several thousand at the end of the two-hour ceremony. ''May their example inspire us and their prayers obtain for us guidance and courage.''

After enduring a long sea and land journey, Guerin, born Anne-Therese Guerin in Brittany in 1798, turned the porch of a drafty farmhouse into a chapel for spiritual comfort. By the time of her death in 1856, her order was running schools and orphanages in Indiana, the pope noted.

In the crowd was the American man whose restored vision was judged by the Vatican to be the miracle necessary for Guerin's sainthood.

''Being here with so many faithful, seeing the pope,'' said Phil McCord, ''it's really overwhelming.'' McCord, a 60-year-old engineer who manages the campus of Guerin's order, recalled how he had faced a corneal transplant after damage from cataract surgery. He entered the chapel at the college, asked Guerin for help and his eyesight started to improve the next morning, said McCord, the son of a lay Baptist minister.

Young people from the Indiana delegation waved blue scarves when the pope praised Guerin. Many of them wore T-shirts with Guerin's image.

The pope also elevated to sainthood Bishop Rafael Guizar Valencia, a missionary who risked his life to tend to the wounded during the Mexican Revolution, sometimes disguising himself as a street vendor or a musician.

Guizar Valencia, who died in 1938, was a great uncle of the Rev. Marcial Maciel Degollado, the founder of the Legionaries of Christ order of priest whom the Vatican restricted from public ministry this year amid allegations Degollado sexually abused seminarians.

Benedict praised Guizar Valencia for working tirelessly in ''the beloved Mexican nation,'' even facing persecution, to ensure that seminarians were properly educated ''according to the heart of Christ.''

A dozen years after the bishop's death, when his body was removed from a cemetery to the cathedral in Xalapa in the Mexican state of Santa Cruz, his remains showed little sign of decay.

''We register them in the roll call of the saints and we establish that in all the Church they will be devotedly honored among the saints,'' Benedict said as he read the canonization ritual in Latin.

Also joining the ranks of sainthood was Italian Rev. Filippo Smaldone who pioneered education for the deaf and founded an order of nuns, the Congregation of the Salesian Sisters of the Sacred Hearts. The order has convents in Brazil, Moldavia, Paraguay and Rwanda. Smaldone died in 1923.

The other Italian, Rosa Venerini, was also a social pioneer, advocating education for young girls in Italy. Veneri, who died in 1728, founded the Congregation of the Holy Venerini Teachers order of nuns and pushed to establish the first public schools for girls in Italy.

''Their names will be remembered forever,'' Benedict said of the saints, as he began his homily to the applause of several thousands of faithful in the square.

It was Benedict's first canonization ceremony in nearly a year.

His predecessor, John Paul II, led several canonization and beatification ceremonies yearly, but Benedict has departed from that practice. Ceremonies for beatification, the last formal step before sainthood, are now held in the country where the faithful lived or worked, and the services are led by local prelates.

Copyright 2006 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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