First Lebanese female saint canonized


VATICAN CITY, AP

Pope John Paul appealed for peace in the Middle East on Sunday as he elevated five people to sainthood, including Lebanon’s first woman saint.

A tired-looking John Paul canonized the five amid hymns and the cheers of thousands gathered under the hazy skies at St. Peter’s Square. Images of the new saints, framed by tapestries, adorned the facade of St. Peter’s Basilica.

Among the five was Sister Rafqa, of the Lebanese Maronite Antonine Order, and Lebanon’s first woman saint. Born Butrosiya Choboq Ar Rayes, the young girl took her mother’s name Rafqa when she became a nun.

“May Saint Rafqa watch after those who know suffering, in particular those people of the Middle East confronted with the destructive and sterile spiral of violence!” the pontiff said, speaking in French.

“By her intercession, we ask the Lord to open hearts in the patient search for new paths for peace, hastening the days of reconciliation and harmony,” he said.

Also canonized Sunday were the Rev. Luigi Scrosoppi, founder of the Congregation of the Sisters of Providence of St. Gaetano of Thiene; the Rev. Agostino Roscelli, founder of the Congregation of the Sisters of the Immaculate Conception of Genoa; Bernardo da Corleone, of the Minor Order of Capuchin Friars; and Sister Teresa Eustochio Verzeri, founder of the Institute of the Daughters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

The 81-year-old pontiff has named more than 450 saints since becoming pope in 1978, more than all his predecessors of the last 500 years combined. He has viewed sainthood as a way to point out role models for Catholics and bring recognition to the church in different countries.