Pope canonizes first-ever Latin American martyrs, calls special Synod for the Amazon region

Thirty of the saints were persecuted by Dutch Calvinists in Brazil in the 17th century

Monument dedicated to the Martyrs of Natal. Photo courtesy of Carla Salgueiro/Flickr/Public Domain.

Altogether 35 new saints, the majority of them martyrs, were canonized by Pope Francis on Sunday at a Mass celebrated in front of 35,000 faithful in St. Peter’s Square.

Those canonized by the pope included 30 martyrs, both priests, and laypersons, who suffered anti-Catholic persecution in 1645 at the hands of Dutch Calvinists in Brazil, Vatican Radio reported.

Three indigenous children in 16th-century Mexico who were martyred for refusing to renounce their Catholic faith were also made saints, along with a 20th-century priest from Spain and an Italian priest who died in 1739.

“The saints who were canonized today, and especially the many martyrs, point the way,” Pope Francis said in his homily. “They did not say a fleeting ‘yes’ to love; they said ‘yes’ with their lives and to the very end.

“The robe they wore daily was the love of Jesus, that ‘mad’ love that loved us to the end and offered his forgiveness and his robe to those who crucified him.”

Brazilian Archbishop Jaime Vieira Rocha of Natal told journalists during a media briefing on Oct. 13 prior to the canonizations that the “Martyrs of Natal,” offer a “new opportunity, hope, and a renewal of faith,” Catholic News Service reported.

The Martyrs of Natal — Bl. Andre de Soveral, a Jesuit priest; Bl. Ambrosio Francisco Ferro, a diocesan priest; Bl. Mateus Moreira, a layman; and 27 others — were killed in 1645 in a wave of anti-Catholic persecution carried out by Dutch Calvinists in Natal, Brazil.

“The grace of their canonization will certainly help create a society that is less vengeful, less violent, more fraternal,” and encourage Catholics to stand up “for the dignity of the people”, the archbishop said.

Meanwhile, Pope Francis has announced a special assembly of the Synod of Bishops for the Pan-Amazon region that will focus on the needs of indigenous people, new paths for evangelization, and on the crisis facing rain forests.

“Accepting the desire of some Catholic bishops’ conferences in Latin America, as well as the voice of various pastors and faithful from other parts of the world, I have decided to convene a Special Assembly of the Synod of Bishops for the Pan-Amazon region, which will take place in Rome in the month of October 2019,” the pope said after the canonization Mass.

Pope Francis said special attention will be paid to indigenous people who are “often forgotten.” He added that they were “without the prospect of a serene future” because of the crisis of the Amazonian rainforest.

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