Benedict canonizes 1st Native American

Pope elevates 7 to sainthood in Rome


VATICAN CITY — Tens of thousands of faithful, some wearing feathered headdresses and beads, others in colorful Hawaiian shirts and leis, turned out Sunday as Pope Benedict XVI canonized seven saints, including the first Native American and a 19th-century nun who tended to lepers in Hawaii.

Cheers rose from the crowd when the Pope named Kateri Tekakwitha, known as “Lily of the Mohawks” and beloved by Native Americans, and Sister Marianne Cope, a German-born nun who was raised in Utica, N.Y., before moving to Hawaii.

But the loudest cheers were for St. Pedro Calungsod, a 17th-century Filipino martyr, from a large contingent of Italy’s Filipino community that came out to celebrate.

The canonization Mass comes amid a meeting of bishops aimed at shoring up religious belief worldwide. Several of the saints were missionaries.

Pope Benedict prayed “the witness of the new saints” would “speak today to the whole church.

“May their intercession strengthen and sustain her in her mission to proclaim the Gospel to the whole world,” he added.

St. Kateri was born in Auriesville, N.Y., to an Algonquin mother and Mohawk father. She was baptized by French Jesuits at age 20 after losing her parents to smallpox. After being persecuted by some contemporaries for her faith, she fled to an Indian settlement in what is now Canada, where she died at 24.

“Saint Kateri, protectress of Canada and the first Native American saint, we entrust you to the renewal of the faith in the first nations and in all of North America,” Benedict said.

Native Americans from across the United States and Canada came to Rome to celebrate St. Kateri.

Early Sunday morning, a group from the First Nation of the Ojibwe in Manitoba, Canada, stood in a circle in St. Peter’s Square, beating round leather drums and singing “Kateri, oh Kateri, you’re in my holy plan.”

Last year, the Pontiff confirmed an 11-year-old Native American boy from Washington state had been miraculously cured from a flesh-eating bacteria after his parents prayed for intervention through Kateri in 2006 — the second miracle needed to confirm sainthood.

Some Native Americans have said canonizing Kateri is an implicit offense to Native American traditions, but Eleanor Smith, 80, of Albuquerque, disagreed. “It’s a combination of your Catholic and your Native traditions blending together,” said Ms. Smith, who is of Mississippi Choctaw and Navajo heritage. “We all believe in the same creator. God, creator, Father Sky — it’s all the same.”

The Toledo Diocese’s Kateri Catholic School System is named in honor of the saint. The school system was established in the mid 2000s, when Kateri was still under the title of “Blessed.”

Others came to honor St. Marianne Cope, a mother superior of the Third Order Regular of St. Francis in Syracuse, N.Y., who moved to Molokai in 1883 to tend to those with Hansen’s disease, or leprosy. There, she worked with Father Damien De Veuster, a Belgian priest canonized in 2009. St. Marianne died in 1913.

Others raised to sainthood were St. Pedro, killed by tribesmen on Guam in 1672 when he helped Spanish Jesuits convert the natives; Jacques Berthieu, a 19th-century Jesuit missionary killed by rebels in Madagascar; Carmen Salles y Barangueras, a Spanish nun; Giovanni Battista Piamarta, who founded a Catholic press in Italy; and Anna Schaeffer, a 19th-century German laywoman who became a model for the sick .