Vatican City (AsiaNews) - At least 70,000 people took part this morning in the canonisation of six blessed, which was officiated by Pope Francis. Four of them are from Italy - Giovanni Antonio Farina (1803-1888), Ludovico da Casoria (1814-1885), Nicola Longobardi (1650-1709), Amato Ronconi (ca 1226-ca 1292) - and two from India - Euphrasia Eluvathingal of the Sacred Heart (1877-1952) and Kuriakose Elias Chavara of the Holy Family (1805-1871).
The latter was born in Kerala, on 10 February 1805, and was ordained priest in 1829. Two years later, he had already laid the foundation for the first house of the Congregation of the Carmelites of Mary Immaculate, whose first prior general he became. Subsequently, he played a role in founding the Congregation of the Sisters of the Mother of Carmel. In 1861, he was appointed vicar general of the Syro-Malabar Church, which he led it on a path of deep spiritual renewal. He died in 1871 and was beatified in 1986.
At least 20,000 Indians were present in St Peter's Square for the celebration, mostly members of the Syro-Malabar Church, to which the two new saints belonged. White and blue cloaks, as well as red ones with gold embroidery and elaborate headdresses could be seen among the celebrants. Many Indian flags were visible in the crowd, waved especially after the proclamation of the new saints.
In the homily that followed, Pope Francis found inspiration in today's solemnity, Christ the King. Speaking about the new saints, he said, "Each in his or her own way served the kingdom of God, of which they became heirs, precisely through works of generous devotion to God and their brothers and sisters. They responded with extraordinary creativity to the commandment of love of God and neighbour. They dedicated themselves, without holding back, to serving the least and assisting the destitute, sick, elderly and pilgrims. Their preference for the smallest and poorest was the reflection and measure of their unconditional love of God. In fact, they sought and discovered love in a strong and personal relationship with God, from whence springs forth true love for one's neighbour. In the hour of judgement, therefore, they heard that tender invitation: "Come, O blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world" (Mt 25:34).
"The starting point of salvation is not the confession of the sovereignty of Christ," he reiterated, "but rather the imitation of Jesus' works of mercy through which he brought about his kingdom. The one who accomplishes these works shows that he has welcomed Christ's sovereignty, because he has opened his heart to God's charity. In the twilight of life, we will be judged on our love for, closeness to and tenderness towards our brothers and sisters. Upon this will depend our entry into, or exclusion from, the kingdom of God: our belonging to the one side or the other."
"Through his victory, Jesus has opened to us his kingdom. But it is for us to enter into it, beginning with our life now, by being close in concrete ways to our brothers and sisters who ask for bread, clothing, acceptance, solidarity. If we truly love them, we will be willing to share with them what is most precious to us, Jesus himself and his Gospel."
"[H]ow Jesus brought about his kingdom: he did so through his closeness and tenderness towards us. He is the Shepherd, of whom the Prophet Ezekiel spoke in the First Reading (cf. 34:11-12, 15-17). These verses are interwoven with verbs which show the care and love that the Shepherd has for his flock: to search, to look over, to gather the dispersed, to lead into pasture, to bring to rest, to seek the lost sheep, to lead back the confused, to bandage the wounded, to heal the sick, to take care of, to pasture. All of these are fulfilled in Jesus Christ: he is truly the "great Shepherd of the sheep and the protector of our souls" (cf. Heb 13:20; 1 Pt 2:25).
"Those of us who are called to be pastors in the Church cannot stray from this example, if we do not want to become hirelings. In this regard the People of God have an unerring sense for recognizing good shepherds and in distinguishing them from hirelings."
"Jesus is not a King according to earthly ways Jesus is not a king in the manner of this world," he reiterated. "[F]or him, to reign is not to command, but to obey the Father, to give himself over to the Father, so that his plan of love and salvation may be brought to fulfilment. In this way, there is full reciprocity between the Father and the Son. The period of Christ's reign is the long period of subjecting everything to the Son and consigning everything to the Father."
"With the rite of canonisation," he said in concluding, "we have confessed once again the mystery of God's kingdom and we have honoured Christ the King, the Shepherd full of love for his sheep. May our new saints, through their witness and intercession, increase within us the joy of walking in the way of the Gospel and our resolve to embrace the Gospel as the compass of our lives. Let us follow in their footsteps, imitating their faith and love, so that our hope too may be clothed in immortality. May we not allow ourselves to be distracted by other earthly and fleeting interests. And may Mary, our Mother and Queen of all Saints, guide us on the way to the kingdom of heaven."
Before the end of the Mass, Pope Francis thanked the official delegations from Italy and India, present at the celebration, and added: "May the example of the four Italian Saints, born in the provinces of Vicenza, Naples, Cosenza and Rimini, help the beloved people of Italy revive the spirit of cooperation and harmony for the common good and look with hope to the future, trusting in the closeness of God who never gives up, even in difficult times."
Speaking to the Indians present, he said: "Through the intercession of the two Indian Saints from Kerala, a great land of faith and priestly vocations, may the Lord grant a new missionary impulse to the Church in India, so that, inspired by their example of harmony and reconciliation, Christians in India may continue on the path of solidarity and fraternal coexistence."