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Pope names first Native American saint

VATICAN CITY--Pope Benedict XVI named seven new saints on Sunday, including the first Native American, praising their “heroic courage” as the Catholic Church seeks to counter a rising tide of secularism in the West.

Kateri Tekakwitha, known as “Lily of the Mohawks,” who for centuries has been a symbol of hope for the long-oppressed American Indians, was canonized in a lavish ceremony in St. Peter's Square that followed her beatification in 1980 by the late pope John Paul II.

Pope Benedict delivered a homily praising all seven new saints, saying they “lived their lives in total consecration to God and in generous service to their brothers.”

About 80,000 faithful from numerous countries, including American Indians, gathered on the square outside St. Peter's Basilica, which was decked with portraits of those being canonized.

The other new saints include a French missionary to Madagascar, a young Philippine missionary who died at the age of 17, a German migrant to the United States who took care of lepers and a Spanish nun who campaigned for women's rights.

Vatican watchers said the choice of the saints was linked to the Roman Catholic Church's efforts to highlight the need for a “new evangelization” as church pews empty in Europe and the United States.

The canonizations were announced during a synod of 262 bishops from around the world.

Tekakwitha, who was born in 1656 to an Algonquin mother and a Mohawk father, was converted by Jesuit missionaries as a child. After being left scarred and partially blind from smallpox and being orphaned, she earned a following for her deep spiritualism before dying at just 24.

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Two nuns hold images of Kateri Tekakwitha, the first Native American to achieve sainthood, as they wait for the start of a canonization ceremony celebrated by Pope Benedict XVI, in St. Peter's Square, at the Vatican, Sunday, Oct. 21. (AP)

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