VATICAN CITY, April 9 (AP)--Pope John Paul II on Sunday beatified two priests and three nuns, holding them out as an example of goodness and faith.

Throughout his long pontificate, John Paul has singled out exemplary Catholics as models, beatifying and canonizing more people--1,235--than any other pope in history. Nearly 2,000 more cases are pending.

On Sunday, he beatified a Swede who emigrated to the United States and converted from the Lutheran faith, a German-born priest who ministered to immigrants in the United States, an Indian nun, a Colombian priest and an Italian nun.

Beatification is the last step before possible sainthood.

The elaborate ceremony took place under gray skies before thousands of the faithful gathered in St. Peter's Square. Despite the weather, the 79-year-old pontiff seemed in good form, although his hands trembled, a symptom of Parkinson's disease.

The pope praised the Indian nun, Mother Marian Thresia, for remaining "steadfast in the face of frequent misunderstandings and severe spiritual trials."

A mystic who underwent numerous exorcisms, she was born in the state of Kerala in 1876 and spent her life tending to the poorest of the poor. Famous for her visions and religious ecstasies, she founded the Congregation of the Holy Family.

Swedish-born Mary Elisabeth Hesselblad emigrated to the United States when she was 18 and worked as a nurse at Roosevelt Hospital in New York from 1888 to 1904.

A Lutheran, she converted to Catholicism in 1902 and two years later became a nun. She returned to Sweden in 1923 and established the Order of St. Bridget. During World War II, she gave refuge to many Jews and others persecuted by the Nazis.

The Rev. Francesco Saverio Seelos also emigrated to the United States, where he was ordained in Baltimore in 1844. A native of Bavaria, he began his career ministering to German immigrants in Pittsburgh.

Seelos was known for his humility--he once refused appointment as a bishop. During the U.S. Civil War, Seelos went to Washington to lobby to keep his seminary students from being sent to the front.

The Colombian priest, the Rev. Mariano de Jesus Euse Hoyos, spent his life ministering to peasants in his homeland. He was ordained in Medellin in 1869.

He is the first Colombian to be beatified and the pope took advantage of the ceremony to call on the people of Colombia to work toward peace and social justice.

The Italian nun, Anna Rosa Gattorno, took her vows after she was widowed at age 27. A native of Genoa, she founded the Institute of the Daughters of St. Anne in 1866. The order has missions in a number of countries.

Join the Discussion
comments powered by Disqus