Pope Benedict presided over the first canonization ceremony of his papacy, proclaiming five new saints. During the mass, which also officially closed a three-week long synod of bishops, the pope sent special greetings to Chinese bishops, who were unable to attend the gathering.
Saint Peter's Square was crowded with thousands of pilgrims from the different nationalities of the five new saints. The newly proclaimed role models of the Catholic Church included a Chilean Jesuit, two Polish prelates and two Italians, a Capuchin brother and the founder of a religious order.
The pilgrims waved flags, cheered and applauded as the pope read out their names.
It was Pope Benedict's first canonization ceremony. It is early to say if such events will be as common as with his predecessor. Pope John Paul II canonized 482 people during his long papacy.
Pope Benedict has approved the start of the canonization process for only one person so far, Pope John Paul himself. He has also decided that he will not preside over beatification ceremonies, but designate cardinals to celebrate those masses.
Sunday's mass also closed a three-week synod of bishops held at the Vatican. Most of the 250 bishops who attended the gathering were present in the square for the ceremony.
During his homily, Pope Benedict reaffirmed the Catholic Church's rule on priestly celibacy. He called celibacy a precious gift and the sign of undivided love toward God. He also said lay Catholics had to show their faith clearly, saying no dichotomy is admissible between faith and life.
The pope also sent a special greeting to the church in China, saying its suffering will not be in vain.
"I would now like, with you, and in the name of all the bishops," he said, "to send a fraternal greeting to the bishops of the church in China. With deep sadness," the pope added, "we felt the lack of their representatives."
The Chinese government prevented four Chinese bishops from attending the Vatican meeting. The pope assured Catholic prelates in China that the Church is close to them, their priests and their faithful. He said their suffering would not be fruitless.