Pope Benedict XVI has canonized seven new saints and prayed that their intercession may “strengthen and sustain” the Church “in her mission to proclaim the Gospel to the whole world.”

The Pope addressed a crowd of tens of thousands on a sunny, Oct. 21 Mass at St. Peter’s Square, raising seven men and women to the altars.

Those included Jacques Berthieu, Pedro Calungsod, Giovanni Battista Piamarta, Marìa Carmen Sallés y Barangueras, Marianne Cope, Kateri Tekakwitha, and Anna Schäffer.

The Filipino delegation in honor of Pedro Calungsod was extraordinarily strong, as was the American contingent, here for the canonization of the first ever native American saint, Kateri Tekakwitha.

“On the happy occasion of the canonization today…may the holiness and witness of these saints inspire us to draw closer to the Son of God who, for such great love, came to serve and offer his life for our salvation,” the Pope said.

Two pilgrims of native American descent came on Sunday from Arizona for the canonization of the 17th century saint, Kateri Tekakwitha. Glenn and Shirley Stoner arrived from a Navajo reservation in the U.S. state. Both Catholics, this was their first visit to Rome.

“This is our first time, but for what an occasion,” Glenn Stoner told CNA.

Known as the “Lily of the Mohawks,” St. Kateri converted to Catholicism at age 18 and lived a remarkable life of prayer and penance before her death at age 24.

The square outside St. Peter’s Basilica was packed with pilgrims flying flags from the U.S., but those from South America and the Philippines as well.

The canonizations took place during World Mission Sunday and also while the synod of bishops on the new evangelization continues to meet until Oct. 28.

During his homily, Pope Benedict called the “coincidence between this ecclesiastical meeting and World Mission Sunday” a “happy one.”

Those who evangelize, he added, are “called to bear witness and to proclaim the Christian message, configuring ourselves to Christ and following his very path.”

“This is true both for the mission ad Gentes and for the new evangelization,” he said.

Among those canonized Sunday was Marianne Cope, a 19th century Franciscan sister who ministered to Hawaiian lepers.

St. Marianne was born in western Germany in 1838 and entered religious life in Syracuse, New York, in 1862. She served as a teacher and principal in several schools in the state and established two of the first hospitals in the central New York area: St. Elizabeth Hospital in Utica and St. Joseph’s Hospital in Syracuse.

Attendee Darlene Delacruz, a journalist for the Hawaii Catholic Herald, said she was overwhelmed by the day’s events.

In Rome both as a pilgrim and covering the event as a member of the press, she noted the significance of a “second saint having Hawaii ties,” after St. Damien of Molokai.

“Father Damien and Mother Marianne worked on a little five mile stretch” on the island, and to see both at different times canonized in Rome with “millions of people honoring them” just shows “what good you can do.”

“It’s been amazing,” Delacruz said of the experience, “a whirlwind, but amazing.”

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