His Holiness, Pope Francis, celebrated his first canonization ceremony for new saints at Vatican in Rome, Italy, on May 12, 2013, when he canonized Antonio Primaldo and his companions, the 813 "Martyrs of Otranto, Italy;" Laura di Santa Caterina da Siena Montoya, of Colombia, founder of the Congregation of the Missionary Sisters of Blessed Virgin Mary Immaculate and St. Catherine of Siena; and Maria Guadalupe Garcia Zavala, a Mexican nun known as Mother Lupita, who co-founded the Congregation of Servants of Saint Margaret Mary and the Poor.
Thousands of faithful gathered in St. Peter's Square to attend the service to formally bestow the sainthoods, which had been approved in a decree by Pope Francis' predecessor, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, on February 11, 2013, during the same ceremony in which the latter announced his retirement.
Pope Francis, the first Pope from Latin America popular for his missionary zeal, said the three new saints and the "Martyrs of Otranto" are a source of inspiration for many Christians. He prayed that Christians receive the courage of loyalty and to respond to evil with good. The saints' examples, he said, should encourage people not to get wrapped up in themselves, their own problems, their own ideas, their own interests, but to go out and meet those who need attention, comprehension, and help.
Those who received the Church's highest honor were people who dedicated their lives in the service of God and humanity. In 1480, some 20,000 Turkish troops overran the citadel of Otranto, demanding that the locals, including those who took refuge in the cathedral, convert to Islam. The Turks took 813 men from among those refusing to convert. St. Antonio Pezzulla, also known as Primaldo, was the group's leader, and the first among the martyrs to perish.Colombia's first saint, Mother Laura Montoya, worked as a teacher and spiritual mother to indigenous peoples. The congregation that she co-founded actively works in 21 nations. Born in 1878, Mother Lupita decided at age 22 to help the sick. She assisted Catholics avoid persecution during a crackdown on the faith, including hiding the archbishop of Guadalajara in an eye clinic for 1 1/2 years.
We ask for the prayers and intercession of the Catholic Church's new saints - Saint Antonio Primaldo and the "Martyrs of Otranto," Saint Laura, and Mother Lupita - in our spiritual journey and works. May their love of God and neighbors, their sacrifices, compassion, charity and works of sanctification continue to guide and inspire all of us. May God bless all of us!