ROME (AP) –
Pope Francis created 10 new saints on Sunday, rallying from knee pain that has forced him to use a wheelchair to preside over the first canonization ceremony at the Vatican in over two years.
Francis stood for a long period at the start of the ceremony to greet priests concelebrating the Mass, and hobbled onto the altar to proclaim the six men and four women saints. They include a Dutch priest-journalist who was killed by the Nazis, a lay Indian convert who was killed for his faith and a half-dozen French and Italian priests and nuns who founded religious orders.
Francis has been complaining of strained ligaments in his right knee for months, and has recently been seen using a wheelchair at public audiences. Sunday’s ceremony was evidence that Francis is able to still walk, but appears to be taking it as easy as possible to let the ligaments heal before an intense period of travel starting in July: The Vatican has confirmed two trips that month, one to Congo and South Sudan and one to Canada.
It was the first canonization Mass at the Vatican since before the coronavirus pandemic and, aside from Easter celebrations last month, drew one of the biggest crowds in St. Peter’s Square in recent times.
The Italian president, Dutch foreign minister, French interior minister and the minister for minorities of India, as well as tens of thousands of faithful packed the sunny piazza, which was adorned with Dutch flowers in honor of the Rev. Titus Brandsma, a martyr saint who was killed at the Dachau concentration camp in 1942.
In the runup to the canonization, a group of Dutch and German journalists formally proposed that Brandsma become a co-patron saint of journalists, alongside St. Francis de Sales, given his work to combat propaganda and fake news during the rise of Fascism and Nazism in Europe. According to an open letter sent to Francis this month, the journalists noted that Brandsma successfully argued for a ban on printing Nazi propaganda in Catholic newspapers. There has been no immediate response from the pope.