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Pope names 'Lily of the Mohawks' first Native American saint

Pope Benedict named seven new saints on Sunday, including Kateri Tekakwitha, a Mohawk and Algonquin Native American born in 1656, to whom miracles are attributed. 

By Naomi O'LearyReuters / October 21, 2012

A faithful holds an image depicting Kateri Tekakwitha, the first ever native American to be declared a saint, before Pope Benedict XVI conducts a special mass to canonize seven new saints including Tekakwitha at St. Peter's square in Vatican City October 21.

Stefano Rellandini/Reuters


Vatican City

Pope Benedict created seven new saints on Sunday including the first Native American to be canonised, as the Roman Catholic Church reaches out to its global flock to rebuff encroaching secularism.

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The celebration of figures who had suffered to promote the faith comes as the Church begins a drive to reclaim flagging congregations in former strongholds in the face of sex abuse scandals and dissent against Church teachings.

Thousands of pilgrims from around the world converged on St. Peter's Square to witness the ceremony recognising the saints, who included Kateri Tekakwitha, a sixteenth-century convert known as "Lily of the Mohawks."

The crowd included hundreds of pilgrims from the United States' 2.5 million-strong Native American population, of whom 680,000 are estimated to be Catholic, a legacy of the success of early missionaries in converting indigenous people in America.

Many pilgrims waved the flag of the Philippines and held portraits of Pedro Calungsod, killed doing missionary work in 1672, who became the second Filipino saint. Others in traditional German dirndl dresses and leather shorts cheered as Pope Benedict welcomed them in his native tongue.

Portraits of the new saints, including French Jesuit Jacques Berthieu, Italian priest Giovanni Battista Piamarta, the Spanish nun Carmen Salles y Barangueras, and German laywoman Anna Schaffer hung from the marble facade of St. Peter's Basilica, and the crowds cheered as each name was called.

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