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Pope Canonizes 5 New Spanish Saints - 2003-05-04


Pope John Paul II has proclaimed five Spaniards as new saints of the Roman Catholic Church before a crowd of one million people in Madrid. The turnout at two mass events doubled the expectations of church officials.

The pope said farewell to Spain and Madrid after a ceremony in which he proclaimed three nuns and two priests new saints.

Gathered in and around Madrid's central Plaza de Colon were one million people from all over Spain. Most of them witnessed the canonization, which took place in the course of a Mass, on eight huge video screens.

Crippled by arthritis and with his left arm continually shaking from Parkinson's disease, the pope sat on a special hydraulic chair on wheels through most of the ceremony. He did stand during the reading of the Gospel, although with some evident difficulty.

The pope was accompanied on a large platform by 12 cardinals and 139 bishops, as well as Spain's King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia, Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar and his wife, Ana Botella.

Draped on a nearby office building were huge portraits of the newly declared saints: Angela de la Cruz, Maravillas de Jesus, Genoveva Torres Morales, Pedro Poveda and Jose Maria Rubio - all of the 20th century, and each celebrated for his or her heroic work among the poor.

Two certified miracles are necessary for the proclamation of sainthood, and some of the beneficiaries of those purported miracles were present. During the ceremony 1,500 priests and seminarians distributed communion with the help of 10 chapel vans.

Speaking toward the end of the ceremony, the pope recalled that the Christian and Roman Catholic faith is part of the identity of the Spanish people. He urged the people not to break with their Catholic roots, and to share with the world, and with Europe, the cultural richness of their history.

This marked the second mass event of the 31-hour papal visit. On Saturday, about 700,000 young people gathered to greet the pope at an airbase on the south side of Madrid.

The attendance at both events doubled the expectations of church officials, who organized the papal visit to revive flagging fervor among Spanish Catholics, only one-quarter of whom go to church regularly.

In keeping with his energetic opposition to the war in Iraq, John Paul urged the young people to be agents and builders of world peace. Both events were marked by spontaneous outbursts of applause, songs and chanted slogans, much to the visible pleasure of the frail, aging pope.