Priests, martyrs and mystic nun proclaimed new Catholic saints

Tapestries depicting the seven new saints are seen hanging from St Peter's Basilica at the Vatican on Oct 16, 2016.
Tapestries depicting the seven new saints are seen hanging from St Peter's Basilica at the Vatican on Oct 16, 2016.PHOTO: REUTERS

VATICAN CITY (REUTERS, AFP) - Pope Francis declared two martyrs, four priests and a mystic nun saints of the Catholic church on Sunday (Oct 16), saying they all had a "generous and steadfast heart".

Tapestry portraits of the seven saints, hung from the facade of St Peter's Basilica, rippled in the breeze above the main square at the Vatican where Francis led the ceremony.

Assembled pilgrims applauded as he read out the names of the new saints, defined by the church as having been so holy in life they are now in Heaven and can intercede with God to perform miracles - two of which are needed to declare sainthood.

President Mauricio Macri of the pope's native Argentina attended the ceremony, during which Francis elevated Argentine pastoral priest Jose Gabriel del Rosario Brochero.

Born in 1849 in the province of Cordoba, Brochero spent his days ministering to the poor and the sick, travelling the region on the back of a mule, and building church schools.

Francis has praised the 19th century Argentine as having had the "smell of his sheep" on him, a phrase he has used in the past to describe the best pastors, those who mingle with their flock and share their troubles.

Brochero cared for the sick during a cholera epidemic in 1867 and would go on to contract leprosy, reportedly after sharing with a sufferer a gourd of the herbal tea mate - a drink Francis often sips when offered to him by pilgrims in the crowds. He eventually died from the disease in 1914.

The pontiff said the saints were those who could help people in difficulty, for they too had suffered, but triumphed in their faith.

"The saints are men and women who enter fully into the mystery of prayer. Men and women who struggle with prayer. They struggle to the very end, with all their strength, and they triumph," he said.

"May we cry out day and night to God, without losing heart," he added.

Two martyrs were also added to the the Church's more than 10,000-strong roster of saints. Jose Sanchez del Rio was tortured and shot dead in 1928, at the age of 14, while opposing the anti-Catholic regime in his native Mexico.

The second, Salomone Leclerq, belonged to a religious order in France, where he was killed during the revolution in 1792.

French mystic nun Elizabeth Catez, known as Sister Elizabeth of the Trinity, died in 1906 at the age of 26 from a rare adrenal gland disorder for which there was then no cure.

A gifted pianist, Elizabeth reportedly refused several offers of marriage to join the Barefoot Carmelites near her house and undertake a life of contemplation where she dedicated herself to prayer and spiritual writings.

She is joined by Italian Alfonso Maria Fusco, a priest from the southern city of Salerno, who was born to a farmer in 1839 and went on to found the "Congregation of the Sisters of St John the Baptist", known as Baptistine Sisters.

Fellow Italian Lodovico Pavoni from Brescia founded the religious congregation "Sons of Mary Immaculate" and taught the poor and downtrodden trades to help them put bread on the table and faith to help them enter heaven.

And Spain's Bishop of Palencia Manuel Gonzalez Garcia, born in 1877, founded the "Congregation of the Eucharistic Missionaries of Nazareth" as well as the "Disciples of Saint John" and the "Children of Reparation".

He enlisted in the seminary of Seville at the tender age of 12, and it was there that he wrote: "If I would be born a thousand times; a thousand times I would be a priest".