Monday, April 27, 2009

Two Medieval Saints Created by Pope Benedict

Pope Benedict created five new saints on Sunday, including Portugal's national hero Nuno Alvares Pereira, a medieval warrior-friar credited with securing Portugal's independence from Castile.

The pope told pilgrims at the canonization in the Vatican that the 14th-century nobleman had shown that "in any situation, even of a military and warlike nature, it is possible to act and live out the values and principles of Christian life."

His canonization has been the subject of much excitement among Roman Catholics in Portugal, with exhibitions about his life drawing large crowds, biographies published and the launch of a commemorative postage stamp carrying his portrait.

The Portuguese Bishops' Conference drew comparisons between the 1383-1385 crisis of succession in Portugal and the current global economic crisis "stemming from a vacuum of moral values," citing the saint's example of sobriety and sharing of wealth.

"We want this to be an anti-crisis celebration. We want the canonization to be a sign of hope," friar Francisco Rodrigues, who led the canonization effort, said earlier this week.

Born in 1360 and appointed Constable of the Kingdom at just 24, his 6,500 Portuguese troops defeated over 30,000 Castilians in the battle of Aljubarrota in 1385 to quash Castilian claims on Portuguese lands, bringing about two centuries of peace.

The richest man in Portugal, Alvares Pereira gave up all his titles and wealth to become a friar in the Carmo Convent he had built in Lisbon, spending his last years in prayer and penitence under the name Friar Nuno of St Mary.

Long venerated in Portugal and its former colonies, there were attempts to canonize him at least as long ago as the 15th century and he was beatified in 1918. But it took a miracle attributed to him in 2000 -- believers say he intervened to cure a woman's eye burned by boiling oil -- to culminate the process.

The other saints created included early 14th-century Sienese aristocrat Bernardo Tolomei, who died along with 82 monks of his order while helping victims of the Great Plague of 1348.

Three 19th-century Italians -- the priest Arcangelo Tadini and two women, Geltrude Comensoli and Caterina Volpicelli, who took vows of chastity and founded congregations of nuns -- were canonized for helping the poor and their dedication to prayer.