With the approach of the Oct. 17 canonizations of six saints, excitement is rising in the streets of Rome. Often wearing distinctive dress, pilgrims who have gathered for the event include devotees of the first Australian saint and the first Canadian-born male saint.
The day before the event, St. Peter's Basilica was adorned with large-scale images of those who will be the Church's six newest saints.
Four religious sisters, a religious brother and a priest will be canonized in the morning ceremony in St. Peter's Square with Pope Benedict XVI himself presiding. Pilgrims have been filling Rome for days. Many stand out in their colored caps or scarves that show whom they have come to see "raised to the altars."
An estimated 8,000 people have traveled from the other side of the world to see the official recognition of Australia's first saint, Bl. Mary MacKillop. At the age of 24 she co-founded the Congregation of St. Joseph of the Sacred Heart, which still continues to carry out her motto "never see a need without doing something about it." She will be known as St. Mary of the Cross.
Cardinal Archbishop George Pell of Sydney, Australia said that she deserved to be the nation's first saint. He described her as a "fine Australian and an outstanding Catholic" in a Sunday Telegraph article to be published on Oct. 17 also in L'Osservatore Romano.
Br. Andre Bessette of Montreal, Canada will make history as the first Canadian-born man to be named a saint. On Oct. 15, Canada-based Salt and Light television premiered their new documentary on "the miracle man of Montreal." The show is called "God's Doorkeeper: St. Andre of Montreal."
The professionally made film follows Br. Andre from his humble beginnings to his funeral, which drew one million people to the enormous St. Joseph Oratory he built in Montreal. A doorkeeper driven by a deep devotion to St. Joseph, Br. Andre worked many miracles attributed to the saint's intercession. The film shows images of an entire wall at the oratory basilica covered in the crutches of those he helped to heal.
A Polish priest, Fr. Stanislaw Soltys, will also be canonized. President of Poland, Bronislaw Komorwski, and four of the nation's highest Catholic prelates made a visit to the Vatican on the ceremony's eve.
Among them was John Paul II's personal secretary, Cardinal Archbishop Stanislaw Dziwisz of Krakow. They met with Pope Benedict XVI on the eve of the canonization, which coincided with the 32nd anniversary John Paul II's election to the papacy.
The remaining three saints include two Italians, Poor Clare Sr. Camilla Battista Varano and Sr. Giulia Salzano of the Catechist Sisters of the Sacred Heart. Sr. Candida Maria de Jesus Cipitria y Barriola, the Spanish foundress of the Congregation of the Daughters of Jesus, rounds out the "Class of 2010."