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CATHOLIC CHURCH

Pope Francis names 35 new saints

Pope Francis declared 35 new saints on Sunday, nearly all of them martyrs drawn from the bloody history of Catholicism's spread in Latin America.

Pope Francis names 35 new saints
Pope Francis leads a mass for the canonization of 35 new saints on October 15, 2017 in St Peter's Square in Rome. Photo: Tiziana Fabi/AFP.

Before a crowd of some 35,000 in St Peter's square, the pontiff carried out the rite of canonization for 30 martyrs massacred in Brazil in the 17th century.

The two priests and 28 lay people were slaughtered by Dutch Calvinists and indigenous people in 1645, and in some cases had their hearts torn from their chests after being tortured and mutilated.

Catholicism's spread in southern Brazil started at the very end of the 1500s with Jesuit missionaries and priests from Portugal, but the arrival of Calvinists in the coming decades meant persecution for Catholics.

The new saints also included three teens slain in 16th-century Mexico due to their embrace of Catholicism. One of them, who had attempted to convert his father, was beaten to death by him.

The other two canonized were a priest from Spain who devoted his life to studying therapeutic plants in the 19th century, and an Italian priest who died in the 1700s after spending his life criss-crossing the southern end of his country.

Neither of those men are considered martyrs by the Catholic Church.

“The saints who were canonized today, and especially the many martyrs, point the way,” Pope Francis said on Sunday. “They did not say a fleeting 'yes' to love, they said 'yes' with their lives and to the very end.”

Photo: Tiziana Fabi/AFP

A tapestry on the facade of St Peter's Basilica shows Andrea de Soveral, Ambrogio Francesco Ferro, Matteo Moreira, and thirty martyrs murdered in Brazil in the 17th century. Photo: Tiziana Fabi/AFP.

Francis has frequently spoken out against the persecution of Christians, especially those targeted in the Middle East.

The Pope also announced he was calling a global assembly of bishops that would be devoted to the Amazon region, with an emphasis on indigenous people.

He said the aim was to find new ways to evangelize in that region, noting that indigenous people are “often forgotten” and face an uncertain future due to deforestation in the Amazon.

POPE FRANCIS

Pope Francis meets Viktor Orban in worldview clash

Pope Francis met with the anti-migration Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban behind closed doors on Sunday at the start of a brief visit to Budapest where he will also celebrate a mass. 

Pope Francis meets Viktor Orban in worldview clash
The Pope embarked on September 12 on his 34th international trip for a one-day visit to Hungary for an international Catholic event and a meeting with the country's populist leader, and a three-day visit to Slovakia. Photo: Tiziana FABI / AFP

The head of 1.3 billion Catholics — in Hungary to close the International Eucharistic Congress — met Orban, accompanied by Hungarian President Janos Ader, in Budapest’s grand Fine Arts Museum.

The Vatican television channel showed the pope entering the museum, but did not show images of the two men meeting, but Orban posted a photo of the two shaking hands on his Facebook page.

On one hand, Orban is a self-styled defender of “Christian Europe” from migration. On the other, Pope Francis urges help for the marginalised and those of all religions fleeing war and poverty.

But the pope’s approach to meet those who don’t share his worldview, eminently Christian according to the pontiff, has often been met with incomprehension among the faithful, particularly within the ranks of traditionalist Catholics.

Over the last few years, there has been no love lost between Orban supporters in Hungary and the leader of the Catholic world.

Pro-Orban media and political figures have launched barbs at the pontiff calling him “anti-Christian” for his pro-refugee sentiments, and the “Soros Pope”, a reference to the Hungarian-born liberal US billionaire George Soros, a right-wing bete-noire.

‘Not here for politics’

From early Sunday, groups of pilgrims from around the country, some carrying signs with their hometowns written on them, were filing under tight security toward the vast Heroes’ Square in Budapest, where the pontiff will say mass to close the 52nd International Eucharistic Congress.

“We are not here for any politics, but to see and hear the pope, the head of the Church. We can hardly wait to see him. It is wonderful that he is visiting Budapest,” Eva Mandoki, 82, from Eger, some 110 kilometres (70 miles) east of the capital, told AFP.

Eyebrows have also been raised over the pontiff’s whirlwind visit.

His seven-hour-long stay in 9.8-million-population Hungary will be followed immediately by an official visit to smaller neighbour Slovakia of more than two days.

“Pope Francis wants to humiliate Hungary by only staying a few hours,” said a pro-Orban television pundit.

Born Jorge Bergoglio to a family of Italian emigrants to Argentina, the pope regularly reminds “old Europe” of its past, built on waves of new arrivals.

And without ever naming political leaders he castigates “sovereigntists” who turn their backs on refugees with what he has called “speeches that resemble those of Hitler in 1934”.

In April 2016, the pope said “We are all migrants!” on the Greek island of Lesbos, gateway to Europe, bringing on board his plane three Syrian Muslim families whose homes had been bombed.

‘Hungary Helps’

In contrast, Orban’s signature crusade against migration has included border fences and detention camps for asylum-seekers and provoked growing ire in Brussels.

Orban’s supporters point instead to state-funded aid agency “Hungary Helps” which works to rebuild churches and schools in war-torn Syria, and sends doctors to Africa.

Orban’s critics, however, accuse him of using Christianity as a shield to deflect criticism and a sword to attack opponents while targeting vulnerable minorities like migrants.

Days before the pope’s arrival posters appeared on the streets of the Hungarian capital — where the city council is controlled by the anti-Orban opposition — reading “Budapest welcomes the Holy Father” and showing his quotes including pleas for solidarity and tolerance towards minorities.

During the pope’s stay in Budapest he will also meet the country’s bishops, and representatives of various Christian congregations, as well as leaders of the 100,000-strong Hungarian Jewish community, the largest in Central Europe.

Orban — who is of Calvinist Protestant background — and his wife — who is a Catholic — are to attend the mass later Sunday.

Around 75,000 people have registered to attend the event, with screens and

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