March 8, 2002

Pope To Canonise Two During Mexico, Guatemala Visits

Agence France-Presse -- Pope John Paul II will visit Mexico and Guatemala to canonise an Aztec indian and a priest as part of a marathon trip in late July and early August which begins in Canada, the Vatican said Tuesday.

The pontiff, who will soon turn 82, will make a two-day visit to Mexico from July 29 to canonise Juan Diego, a 16th-century Aztec indian who had visions of the Virgin Mary. He will then travel to Guatemala from July 31 to August 1 to canonise Pedro de Betancur, a 17th-century priest.

The trip will begin with an already publicised three-day visit to Canada on July 25 where he will participate in ceremonies marking World Youth Day. The strict timetable contained in the Vatican's official statement regarding the trip appeared to leave no room for a much rumoured stop in New York to enable the pope to visit the World Trade Centre site of the September 11 attacks.

Italian newspapers have frequently referred to the pontiff's desire for such a visit. Vatican spokesman Jaoquin Navarro-Valls made the announcement as he detailed the pontiff's plans to create a total of nine new saints, the best known of which are Italian monk Padre Pio, Spain's Josemaria Escriva — who founded the ultra-conservative Catholic order Opus Dei — and Juan Diego.

Padre Pio, famous for bearing the stigmata, the wounds of Christ's crucifixion, will be canonised in Italy on June 16. Escriva will be canonised on October 6. John Paul II, who has created more saints than any of his predecessors in the Catholic Church's 2,000 year history, will canonise the first five of the new saints at a ceremony in the Vatican on May 19. They include a married Italian nun who joined the Ursuline sisters in 1818, Benedetta Cambiagio Frassinello. According to her biography, she had led a normal married life for two years before entering a convent.

Her husband Giovanni also joined a religious order.

The pope will also canonise 18th century Italian priest Ignazio da Santhia, 17th century Franciscan monk, Blessed Umile da Bisignano, a 16th century Spanish mystic Alonso de Orozco, and a Brazilian nun, Amabile Visintainer. Visintainer has become known since her death in 1942 as Blessed Pauline of the Agonizing Heart of Jesus.

Padre Pio's elevation to sainthood status, just over two years after his beatification, is among the most rapid in the history of the Church. He has a wide following worldwide, but particularly in Italy, where he was treated as a saint by millions during his lifetime.

Escriva, the Opus Dei founder, was a Spanish priest who founded the ultra-conservative lay order in 1928, which has an estimated worldwide membership of 80,000 mostly lay professionals.

The Mexican Aztec Juan Diego became famous when he reportedly saw a vision of the Virgin Mary in Mexico on three occasions in December 1531.

Return to the Frontpage