Pope to name 7 new saints, seeks to revive faith

Pope Benedict XVI

Pope Benedict XVI is adding seven more saints onto the roster of Catholic role models as he tries to rekindle the faith in places where it's lagging. Two of them are Americans: Kateri Tekakwitha, the first Native American saint from the U.S. and Mother Marianne Cope, a 19th century Franciscan nun who cared for lepers in Hawaii.

A third is a rather unlikely saint, Pedro Calungsod, a Filipino teenager who helped Jesuit priests convert natives in Guam in the 17th century but was killed by spear-wielding villagers opposed to the missionaries' efforts to baptize their children.

The ceremony Sunday in St. Peter's Square has drawn pilgrims from around the world to Rome and coincides with a Vatican meeting of the world's bishops on trying to revive Christianity in places where it's fallen by the wayside. Several of the new saints were missionaries, making clear the pope hopes their example will be relevant today as the Catholic Church tries to hold onto its faithful in the face of competition from evangelical churches in Africa and Latin America, increasing secularization in the West and disenchantment with the church over the clerical sex abuse scandal in Europe and beyond.

Benedict will canonize the seven just before the start of Sunday's Mass, reciting the ritual formula in Latin in which he declares each one a saint and "decreeing that they are to be venerated as such by the whole church.'' For several days now, tapestries with each of their images have hung from St. Peter's Basilica.

The two Americans actually hail from roughly the same place _ what is today upstate New York _ although they lived two centuries apart.

Known as the ``Lily of the Mohawks,'' Kateri was born in 1656 to a pagan Iroquois father and an Algonquin Christian mother. Her parents and only brother died when she was 4 during a smallpox epidemic that left her badly scarred and with impaired eyesight. She went to live with her uncle, a Mohawk, and was baptized Catholic by Jesuit missionaries. But she was ostracized and persecuted by other natives for her faith, and she died in what is now Canada when she was 24.

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