Pope Francis has created 10 new saints, rallying from knee pain that has forced him to use a wheelchair to preside over the first canonisation ceremony at the Vatican in two years.
The Pope stood for a long period at the start to greet priests concelebrating the mass, presided over the nearly two-hour ceremony and then stood and walked for a good 15 minutes after it ended to greet dozens of cardinals and bishops. Vatican cameras lingered on the scene as if to showcase the Pope’s mobility and refute speculation about his health and the future of his pontificate.
Francis (85) then took a lengthy, seated popemobile ride around St Peter’s Square and the boulevard leading to it to greet some of the tens of thousands of people who attended to celebrate the Catholic Church’s newest saints. They include a Dutch priest-journalist who was killed by the Nazis, a lay Indian convert who was killed for his faith and a half-dozen French and Italian priests and nuns who founded religious orders.
Francis told the crowd of more than 45,000 that the 10 embodied holiness in everyday life, and said the church needed to embrace this idea rather than an unattainable ideal of personal achievement.
“Holiness does not consist of a few heroic gestures, but of many small acts of daily love,” he said from his chair on the altar.
Francis has been complaining of strained ligaments in his right knee for months, and has recently been seen using a wheelchair at public audiences. Yesterday’s ceremony was evidence that Francis is still able to still walk, but appears to be taking it as easy as possible to let the ligaments heal before two trips in July, one to Africa and one to North America.