French couple among four proclaimed saints by Pope

A tapestry showing Louis Martin and Marie Azelie Guerin Martin, parents of St Therese of Lisieux, hanging from a balcony of the Vatican as Pope Francis celebrated the mass for their canonisation in St Peter's Square yesterday.
A tapestry showing Louis Martin and Marie Azelie Guerin Martin, parents of St Therese of Lisieux, hanging from a balcony of the Vatican as Pope Francis celebrated the mass for their canonisation in St Peter's Square yesterday.PHOTO: REUTERS

VATICAN CITY • Pope Francis, proclaiming four new Catholic saints who lived simple and generous lives, yesterday told priests and bishops that service and not careerism was the way to exercise authority in the Church.

"Those who serve others and lack real prestige exercise genuine authority in the Church," he said at a mass for about 65,000 people in St Peter's Square.

At the mass, he proclaimed four new Catholic saints, including the parents of St Therese of Lisieux, the 19th-century French nun who is one of the Church's most venerated figures. Their "outstanding humility and charity" were an example for all, he said.

The canonisation of Louis Martin and Marie Azelie Guerin Martin marked the first time a married couple were declared saints in the same ceremony and was held to coincide with a world gathering of bishops discussing ways to bolster family life.

They were chosen to highlight the key role parents play in the spiritual and human upbringing of their children. Pope Francis praised the couple for practising "Christian service in the family, creating day by day an environment of faith and love which nurtured the vocations of their daughters".

They had nine children, four of whom died at birth. The five surviving children - all girls - became nuns, and one was St Therese of Lisieux.

Popularly known as "The Little Flower", she achieved worldwide following with the publication after her death of The Story Of A Soul, a collection of her thoughts on faith and simplicity. Her writings influenced people as disparate as popes and Beat Generation author Jack Kerouac.

Present at yesterday's ceremony were two teenagers who the Church believes miraculously recovered from incurable illnesses after praying to the Martins.

Pope Francis also canonised Vincenzo Grossi, a priest who died in 1917 and spent most of his life helping the poor in northern Italy, and Maria Isabel Salvat Romero, a 20th-century Spanish nun.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 19, 2015, with the headline 'French couple among four proclaimed saints by Pope'. Print Edition | Subscribe