Pope names 'Lily of the Mohawks' as one of seven new saints
POPE Benedict has created seven new saints, including the first Native American to be canonised.
Thousands of pilgrims converged on St Peter's Square yesterday to witness the ceremony recognising the saints, who included Kateri Tekakwitha, a 17h century convert known as "Lily of the Mohawks".
The crowd included hundreds of pilgrims from the United States' 2.5 million-strong Native American population, of whom 680,000 are estimated to be Catholic.
Among them was a boy who survived a potentially fatal flesh-eating virus, which the Vatican attributed to miraculous intervention by Saint Kateri.
Portraits of the saints, including French Jesuit Jacques Berthieu, Italian priest Giovanni Battista Piamarta, Spanish nun Carmen Salles y Barangueras, and German laywoman Anna Schaffer hung from the facade of St Peter's and the crowds cheered as each name was called.
"Saint Kateri, Protectress of Canada and the first Native American saint, we entrust to you the renewal of the faith in the first nations and in North America! May God bless the first nations!" Pope Benedict said in his homily, in which he alternated between French, English, German and Italian.
Saint Kateri, born in 1656 in what is now New York, impressed missionaries with her devotion, taking a vow of chastity and punishing herself by placing hot coals between her toes and sleeping on a bed of thorns.
When she died aged 24, witnesses said smallpox scars on her face disappeared, and people reported seeing visions of her. This began a tradition of veneration culminating with her canonisation, bolstered by the survival of the Native American boy in 2006. Jake Finkbonner, now 12, attended the ceremony.