10/15/2006, 00.00
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Pope proclaims four new "missionary" saints

They are Fr Filippo Smaldone, Rafael Guízar y Valencia, Rosa Venerini and Anne-Thérèse Guérin. Benedict XVI said they devoted their lives to following Jesus and not to earthly riches that threaten to draw one away from God.

Vatican City (AsiaNews) – There is the inherent risk that wealth occupies the minds and hearts of those who enjoy it and distances them from God, unless it is spent to come to the aid of those in poverty. To attain salvation, one must open oneself in faith to the grace of Christ, who however puts a demanding condition before those who turn to him: "Come and follow me". And this is what the saints did. This was the reflection given today by the pope to 40,000 people in St Peter's Square in a ceremony during which he proclaimed four new saints. The national flags of the new saints and coloured caps and banners sported by the crowd flanked the austere ceremonial vestments of members of official delegations and the diplomatic corps.

In the "missionary month" of October, Benedict XVI today raised to the altars people who dedicated their lives to spreading the Gospel and to promoting the good of humanity in different times, places and ways. One is an Italian priest from Naples, Fr Filippo Smaldone, who became an apostle of deaf-mutes and who took his work to Lecce, from where it spread to Puglie and the rest of Italy. Bearing witness to his work, a woman appeared on large screens in St Peter's Square, translating into sign language the words of the pope to 5,000 deaf people present. Together with Fr Smaldone, a Mexican priest Rafael Guízar y Valencia became a saint. He used to disguise himself as a traveling salesman to do his work and managed to spread Christian teaching in the United States, Guatemala and Cuba. He became a bishop on the Caribbean island, and from there he returned to take the Gospel to his native Mexico, then still fiercely anti-Christian.

On the façade of the basilica, there was also the image of a young well-born woman from Viterbo, Rosa Venerini, who became a sister and dedicated her life to the human promotion and spiritual elevation of women, opening more than 40 schools in Italy throughout her lifetime. Then there was the image of a Frenchwoman, Anne-Thérèse Guérin, who was sent by her religious order to the United States to set up a mother house and schools, and to bring the love of God to pioneers in Vincennes in Indiana.

Of all of them, Benedict XVI said: "Their names will be remembered forever. In contrast, I think of the 'rich young man' that the Gospel speaks of. This youth remained anonymous: if he had responded positively to the invitation of Jesus, he would have become his disciple and probably the Evangelists would have recorded his name". From this fact one may swiftly discern that, as this Sunday's readings say, "if man puts his security in the riches of this world, he will not attain the full meaning of life and true happiness. If, however, entrusting himself to the Word of God, he renounces himself and his assets for the Kingdom of the Heavens, he will apparently lose much but in reality he will gain everything. The saint is precisely that man, that woman, who responds with joy and generosity to the call of Christ, leaving everything to follow him."

Turning to the new saints, the pope underlined that St Filippo Smaldone "was above all a witness and servant of charity, which he showed in an eminent way in his service to the poor, especially deaf-mute people, to who he dedicated all of himself... In deaf-mute people, St Filippo Smaldone saw reflected the image of Jesus, and he was known to say that as one prostrates oneself before the Most Blessed Sacrament, thus one should kneel before a deaf-mute." As for St Rosa Venerini, Benedict XVI highlighted "her far-reaching activity, undertaken with courage, for the emancipation of young women of her time." He added: "St Rosa was not content to supply girls with adequate instruction; she was concerned about guaranteeing their complete formation, with steadfast references to the doctrinal teaching of the Church. Speaking in Spanish, the pope indicated St Rafael Guizar y Valencia as the "bishop of the poor", ready to face persecutions in Mexico in the early twentieth century to press ahead with his activities in favour of vocations. Turning then to St Théodore (Anne-Thérèse) Guerin, he outlined the activities of the missionary in the United States in the first half of the nineteenth century, in remote areas amid hardships and difficulties. "A beautiful spiritual figure and model of the Christian life."

Upholding the example of the new saints, recalled once again in greetings delivered in different languages before the Angelus, the pope said: "Jesus invites us too, like these Saints, to follow him to inherit eternal life. Their exemplary witness enlightens and encourages especially young people, so that they may allow themselves to be conquered by Christ, by his gaze full of love. "Mary, Queen of Saints," added the pope, "engender among the Christian people men and women like St Rafael Guízar y Valencia, St Filippo Smaldone, St Rosa Venerini and St Théodore Guérin, who would be ready to leave everything for the Kingdom of God, ready to make their own the logic of giving and of service, the only one that saves the world."

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