Pope Benedict XVI created India's first woman saint, and denounced anti-Christian violence in that country. Sabina Castelfranco reports from Rome Sister Alphonsa was among four new saints canonized by the pope in a ceremony in Saint Peter's Square.
Tens of thousands of pilgrims attended Sunday's ceremony in Saint Peter's Square. Among them many had come from India. Sister Alphonsa of the Immaculate Conception died in 1946 at age 35. She is India's first female saint and was among four new saints proclaimed by Pope Benedict during the ceremony.
Sister Alphonsa's canonization is seen as a morale boost for Christians in India who have suffered Hindu violence in eastern and southern India. Catholic bishops in India have said at least 40 Christians have been killed.
Among those present for the ceremony was Sister Diji from India.
"From India this is the first saint so for us it is a very happy moment," said Sister Diji.
The other three new saints all lived in the 19th century. One was a Naples priest who founded a missionary order, another a nun who worked in Ecuador and Colombia, and the third a laywoman from Ecuador who helped the sick and the poor.
The Pope told the crowd that he hoped their examples would give encouragement and their teachings direction and comfort. Then turning to Indian pilgrims present for the ceremony, he said:
"As the Christian faithful of India give thanks to God for their first native daughter to be presented for public veneration, I wish to assure them of my prayers during this difficult time," said Benedict XVI. "Commending to the providential care of almighty God those who strive for peace and reconciliation, I urge the perpetrators of violence to renounce these acts and join with their brothers and sisters to work together in building a civilization of love."
Also present at the ceremony was a 10-year-old Indian boy whose club foot was, in the judgment of Vatican officials, miraculously healed after prayers to Sister Alphonsa.