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Pope canonizes first saints from Colombia, Mexico

By CNN Staff
May 13, 2013 -- Updated 1036 GMT (1836 HKT)
Pope Francis is kissed by a boy on Sunday in St.Peter's Square at the end of a canonization service.
Pope Francis is kissed by a boy on Sunday in St.Peter's Square at the end of a canonization service.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • New saints include 800 Italians beheaded in 15th century by Islamist invaders
  • Colombia's president attended the ceremony
  • The nuns served in their home countries in 1900s

(CNN) -- Pope Francis canonized the first saints of his papacy -- including the first ever honored from Colombia and Mexico -- at a Mass on Sunday at St. Peter's Square, according to the Vatican website.

Laura Montoya of Colombia and Maria Guadalupe Garcia Zavala of Mexico were made saints for their work as nuns in their home countries.

Pope Francis also canonized 800 Italian martyrs who refused to convert to Islam in the 15th century and were beheaded.

"Let us look on the new saints in the light of the word of God proclaimed, a word that invited us to be faithful to Christ, even unto martyrdom; a word that recalled to us the urgency and the beauty of bringing Christ and his Gospel to everyone; a word that spoke to us about the witness of charity, without which even martyrdom and mission lose their Christian savour," he said.

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Montoya spent more than 30 years living with indigenous people in Colombia during a time when they were considered "wild beasts," the Vatican website said. She infused hope in them, the pope said.

She died in 1949.

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos Calderon attended the ceremonial Mass.

Garcia, known as Mother Lupita, helped hide the archbishop of Guadalajara and priests during the Mexican crackdown on religion of the 1920s, the website said. She was also known for begging for poor and infirm people before she passed away in 1963.

"This is what it means to touch the flesh of Christ," Francis said.

The Italian martyrs were residents of the Adriatic seaside town of Otranto. They were killed in 1480 by raiding Islamist forces that were seeking to take over Europe, the Vatican website said, quoting Donald Prudlo, an associate professor of medieval history at Jacksonville State University in Jacksonville, Alabama.

"The significance of their sacrifice was clear," he told Vatican radio. "(The) townsmen had in reality saved Europe. Their bravery gave Christendom time both to regroup, and to realize the gravity of the threat."

"As we venerate the martyrs of Otranto," the pope said, "let us ask God to sustain those many Christians who, in these times and in many parts of the world, right now, still suffer violence, and give them the courage and fidelity to respond to evil with good."

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