Sunday was a big day for Catholics in North America. Thousands of miles away in Rome, Pope Benedict XVI named 17th century Mohawk Kateri Tekakwitha the first Native American saint.
Another newly named saint is Marianne Cope, a German-born woman who emigrated
to the United States as a child, became a nun and went on to devote 30 years of
her life helping lepers in Hawaii.
Their canonisation, along with that of five other saints, was celebrated at a
special Mass in St. Peter's Square Sunday morning.
"This is a great weekend for America in the Vatican, and it's really a great
weekend for Native Americans. Sainthood is the guarantee that this person is
close to God," said Vatican senior communications adviser Greg Burke.
"There's a vast history of people the Catholic Church has made saints over
the centuries. Holiness is absolutely a matter of equal opportunity, but this
certainly is special because it marks the first time a Native American becomes a
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The pope praised Tekakwitha, whom he said lived a simple life of service.
"Kateri remained faithful to her love for Jesus, to prayer, and to daily
Mass. Her greatest wish was to know and to do what pleased God. She lived a life
radiant with faith and purity," the pope said.
Tekakwitha's canonization follows what has been judged a miracle by the Roman
Catholic Church in the 2006 case of an American boy with a flesh-eating bug.
Jake Finkbonner was only 5 when he became infected by the bacterium after
falling down while playing basketball, CNN affiliate King 5 News in Seattle
reported. The infection spread quickly through the tissue of his face, with
drugs and surgeries apparently powerless to stop its progress.
"It was dire," his mother, Elsa Finkbonner, told the network. "He was
air-lifted to children's hospital, and he was fighting for his life at that
good person," said Burke. "Miracles are the proof that God has in some way
intervened, given the OK or the seal of approval, for sainthood."
Marianne Cope is hailed for her self-sacrifice in helping a colony of outcast
lepers in Molokai, Hawaii. She was a nun in New York state before moving to the
archipelago, where she spent the remaining three decades of her life.
"At a time when little could be done for those suffering from this terrible
disease, Marianne Cope showed the highest love, courage, and enthusiasm," the
The other saints to be named include Frenchman Jacques Berthieu, a Jesuit who
was executed in Madagascar in the 19th century, and another Catholic martyr in
the Philippines, Pedro Calungsod, as well as Giovanni Battista Piamarta, Maria
Carmen Salles y Barangueras and Anna Schaffer.