Canadians celebrate canonization of first Native American 0
Cathy Rice couldn't contain her excitement Sunday morning as she witnessed the faithful streaming into St. Francis Xavier Mission in Kahnawake, near Montreal, to celebrate the canonization of Kateri Tekakwitha.
Tekakwitha, a 16th century convert known as “Lily of the Mohawks," became the first Native American to gain sainthood Sunday.
Her tomb is in the Mission, and Rice says nearly 300 people packed the 350-seat church for a prayer vigil Saturday night. She said a re-broadcast of the canonization mass in Rome was shown at the church, at a school nearby and also streamed into people's homes.
Ceremonies were also held at Tekakwitha’s birthplace in Ossernenon, NY.
"A lot of people have different opinions about her being canonized but regardless of their beliefs, she's a Mohawk woman from our community and we honour her," Rice told QMI Agency in an interview from the Mission. "There's a lot of excitement here and people are very emotional today."
In a statement, Kahnawake Grand Chief Michael Ahríhron Delisle Delisle Jr. said, “Kateri’s canonization is a very significant event, not only for the Mohawk faithful, but for Native people throughout North America…and beyond. We know that there will be millions of people sharing in the celebrations of this day. The fact that a quiet and unassuming woman of peace who died so long ago will be acknowledged and remembered at this level is something we can all be proud of.”
Rice said that a couple of hundred people from Kahnawake flew to Rome to attend the canonization mass. They joined thousands of pilgrims who converged on St. Peter’s Square, including many from the United States’ 2.5 million-strong Native American population.
In his homily, Pope Benedict said, “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!”
Portraits of the new saints, including French Jesuit Jacques Berthieu, Italian priest Giovanni Battista Piamarta, the Spanish nun Carmen Salles y Barangueras, and German laywoman Anna Schaffer hung from the marble facade of St. Peter’s Basilica, and the crowds cheered as each name was called.
Saint Kateri, born in 1656 in what is now New York state to a Mohawk father and an Algonquin mother, impressed missionaries with her devotion, taking a lifetime vow of chastity and punishing herself by placing hot coals between her toes and sleeping on a bed of thorns.
When she died at the age of 24, witnesses said smallpox scars on her face disappeared, and people reported seeing visions of her.
-- with files from Reuters