The New Saints and Blesseds of 2013 | J. J. Ziegler | CWR
A look at the lives of the holy men and women canonized and beatified in the last year
Blessed John Paul II is sometimes remembered as a “saint maker” who canonized 482 men and women during his 27-year pontificate. Pope Francis, however, is an even more prodigious “saint maker” who has canonized more saints than have all the popes of the past three centuries combined.
During the eighteenth century, 29 saints were canonized; between 1800 and 1903, 80 saints were canonized; and between 1903 and 1978, when Blessed John Paul II assumed the papacy, another 168 saints were canonized. Pope Benedict XVI canonized 45 saints during his eight-year pontificate. Thus 804 saints were canonized between 1700, when Clement IX assumed the papacy, and the election of Pope Francis in March 2013.
If Blessed John Paul was a “saint maker,” it was largely because of his canonizations of large groups of martyrs: 402 of the 482 saints he canonized were martyrs. And so it is with Pope Francis, who has canonized 817 saints, 813 of them martyrs.
St. Antonio Primaldo and his 812 companions were martyred by beheading in 1480 in the southeastern Italian city of Otranto, then a town of 6,000.
Two weeks before their martyrdom, 15,000 Ottoman Turks attacked the town in 140 ships; when the Spanish troops guarding the city retreated to Tuscany, the Turks began their siege. Following heroic resistance by the inhabitants, the invaders captured and plundered Otranto and killed the archbishop, priests, canons, and many lay faithful who had gathered in the cathedral. The surviving women and children were enslaved; males of age 15 or older were told they would live if they converted to Islam. A humble tailor or cobbler, St. Antonio Primaldo, spoke on behalf of them all: he said that they “confessed Jesus Christ as Son of God” and “would wish to die a thousand times rather than renounce Him and become Turks.”
“They refused to deny their faith and died professing the Risen Christ,” Pope Francis preached during the Mass of canonization. “Where did they find the strength to stay faithful? In the faith itself, which enables us to see beyond the limits of our human sight, beyond the boundaries of earthly life.”
St. Laura Montoya (1874-1949), also known as St. Laura of Saint Catherine of Siena, is the first Colombian-born canonized saint. When she was two, her father died in battle, and she grew up in poverty.