“We declare and define Blesseds Giovanni Antonio Farina; Kuriakose Elias Chavara of the Holy Family; Ludovico da Casoria; Nicola da Longobardi; Eufrasia Eluvathingal of the Sacred Heart and Amato Ronconi to be Saints and we enroll them among the Saints, decreeing that they are to be venerated as such by the whole Church.”
With these words, Pope Francis declared six new Saints of the Catholic Church. Despite the cold, damp weather in Rome, thousands packed St. Peter’s Square for the event. Prior to the Pope’s declaration, Cardinal Angelo Amato, prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, briefly read their biographies. Each one of them, which include two from Kerala, India, had a special connection with the poor and the suffering.
The Canonization Mass was celebrated on the Feast of Christ the King, the final Sunday in Ordinary time before the first Sunday of Advent. Commenting on the feast, the Pope said that it is a reminder that the Kingdom of God “is a kingdom of truth and life, a kingdom of holiness and grace, a kingdom of justice, love and peace.”
Reflecting on the readings, the Holy Father reminded the faithful of the care and love that the Good Shepherd, Jesus Christ, has for his flock. He added that those called to be pastors cannot stray from Christ’s example in order to not become a hireling, or one who works for money.
“In this regard the People of God have an unerring sense for recognizing good shepherds and in distinguishing them from hirelings,” the Pope said.
Commenting on today’s Gospel, the 77 year old Pontiff said that it teaches what “Jesus’ kingdom requires of us.” The Gospel of St. Matthew was the parable of the Final Judgement, in which the King separates the righteous from the impious.
“Come, O blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me,” the King says to the righteous. The Holy Father noted that salvation begins not in the confession of Christ’s sovereignty, but in the imitation of His works of mercy.
“The one who accomplishes these works shows that he has welcomed Christ’s sovereignty, because he has opened his heart to God’s charity,” the Pope said.
“In the twilight of life we will be judged on our love for, closeness to and tenderness towards our brothers and sisters. Upon this will depend our entry into, or exclusion from, the kingdom of God: our belonging to the one side or the other.”
New Saints: Servants of the Kingdom
Pope Francis commented on the canonization of the six new Saints, saying that each one, in their own way, served the Kingdom of God. Contrasting their lives with the righteous in the Gospel, the Holy Father said that each one responded “with extraordinary creativity to the commandment of love of God and neighbour.”
“They dedicated themselves, without holding back, to serving the least and assisting the destitute, sick, elderly and pilgrims,” he said. “Their preference for the smallest and poorest was the reflection and measure of their unconditional love of God.”
The Pope went on to pray that the new Saints would increase in all Christians the joy of following the Gospel and embracing it “as the compass of our lives.”
Concluding his homily, Pope Francis invited the faithful to follow in the footsteps of the newly canonized Saints.