Vatican City (AsiaNews) - In a St Peter’s basilica full of faithful, bishops, priests, religious, today Benedict XVI canonized five new saints from different European countries: a bishop, a Trappist brother, two priests, a nun. Some involved in preaching and pastoral action, others in contemplation. They are Zygmunt Szczesny Feliński (1822-1895), archbishop of Warsaw, founder of the Congregation of the Franciscan Sisters of the Family of Mary, Francisco Coll y Guitard (1812-1875), a Dominican priest, founder of the Congregation of Dominican Sisters of the Annunciation Blessed Virgin Mary; Damiaan Jozef De Veuster, (1840-1889), priest of the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary and of the Perpetual Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament of the Altar (Picpus), the famous "apostle of the lepers", Rafael Arnaiz Baron (1911-1938), Trappist religious, Marie de la Croix (Jeanne) Jugan (1792-1879), founder of the Little Sisters of the Poor.
All, the pope said, followed the invitation of Jesus: "Come, follow me!" (Mk 10, 21). "Jesus - explained the pope - invites his disciples to the total gift of their lives, without calculation and human self-interest, with a wholehearted faith in God. Saints welcome this exacting invitation, and place themselves in humble obedience to follow the Crucified and Risen Christ. Their perfection, in the logic of a faith sometimes humanly incomprehensible, subsides in their no longer focusing on themselves, but in choosing to go against the trends of the time living according to the Gospel".
In his homily, Benedict XVI, using different languages, explained the value of the different figures. Bishop Feliński, was committed to evangelization and support for the poor, defending the oppressed during the Russian occupation of Poland, sentenced to twenty years in exile in Jaroslaw on the Volga. "His gift of himself to God and man - the pope said in Polish - full of confidence and love, becomes a shining example for the entire Church."
Francisco Coll y Guitard through his preaching spread love the Word of God and the sacrament of reconciliation among people especially the young.
To those younger generations of today who “are not satisfied with what they have", the pope gave the example of Rafael Arnaiz Baron, who came from a wealthy family and was a bit “of a dreamer” who died at 27 years as an Cistercian oblate, considered one of the greatest mystics of the twentieth century.
A part of the papal homily was devoted to the heroic figure of Fr. Damian, the apostle of lepers (see photo), who at 23, left Flanders to go on mission to modern day Hawaii. "Not without fear and loathing - underlined the Pope - [Fr. Damiano] made the choice to go on the island of Molokai in the service of lepers who were there, abandoned by all, so he exposed himself to the disease of which they suffered. With them he felt at home. The servant of the Word became a suffering servant, leper with the lepers, during the last four years of his life. To follow Christ, Father Damian not only left his homeland, but has also staked his health so he - as the word of Jesus announced in today's Gospel tells us - received eternal life ( cf Mk 10:30). "
His figure - the Pontiff added, perhaps pointing to the division in Belgium between Walloons and Flemish - "teaches us to choose the good fight (cf. 1 Tim 1, 18) not those that led to division, but those that gather us together in unity."
The last figure is that of St. Mary of the Cross and her "wonderful work to help the most vulnerable elderly." Her charisma, he added, "is still valid today, given that many elderly people suffer from multiple poverty and loneliness, sometimes even being abandoned by their families."
"I would like to invite everyone - concluded Benedict XVI – to allow themselves be attracted by the shining example of these saints, to be guided by their teachings so that our entire life becomes a hymn of praise to God's love."
At the end of Mass, Benedict XVI made his way to the raised dias in front of the basilica, where tens of thousands of pilgrims were waiting gathered in the square, with whom he prayed the Angelus. In his reflection before the Marian prayer, he returned to the value of the witness of the saints canonized today. He asked French-speaking pilgrims to follow the example of St. Jeanne Jugan, "to take care of the poorest and smallest" to support with prayer and work "the generous people involved in the fight against leprosy and all other forms of leprosy due to the lack of love, ignorance or meanness”. The pope also asked them to help the work of the Synod for Africa in progress this week in Rome. Benedict XVI also recalled the figure of St. Damian for Flemish pilgrims: "This holy priest was led by God to allow his vocation flourish into a total 'yes'. May the intercession of Our Lady and the apostle of lepers free the world of leprosy, make us open to the love of God and give us joy and enthusiasm in service to our brothers and sisters. " Among the many pilgrims, the pope also greeted - in English - a group of survivors of nuclear attacks of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. "I pray - said the pontiff - that the world will never witness such a mass destruction of innocent lives again. May God bless you all, as well as your families and your loved ones at home".