Sainthood for First American Indian

Sainthood for First American Indian

Pope Benedict XVI named seven 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 canonised in St Peter’s Square that followed her beatification in 1980 by the late Pope John Paul II.

About 80,000 faithful from numerous countries, including American Indians, gathered outside St. Peter’s Basilica, which was decked with portraits of those being canonised.

The other saints include Jacques Berthieu, a French missionary to Madagascar; Pedro Calungsod, a young Philippine missionary who died at the age of 17; Maria Anna Cope, a German migrant to the U.S. who took care of lepers; Maria del Carmen, a Spanish nun who campaigned for women’s rights; Maria Schaeffer, a German lay woman, who was from the Pope’s German home state of Bavaria; and Giovanni Battista Piamarta, an Italian priest who in the late 19th century devoted his life to helping young people during the industrial revolution.

Tekakwitha, 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 deep spiritualism before dying at just 24.

Tradition holds that her scars vanished at the time of her death — considered a miracle that paved the way for her beatification in 1943.

Sainthood was assured when the Pope certified a second miracle last year, the recovery of an 11 – year – old Native American boy from flesh – eating bacteria after his parents prayed for divine intervention through Tekakwitha in 2006.

For a many non – Catholic American Indians, her canonisation is seen as a gesture of reconciliation by the Church for past injustices.