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Sunday, October 11, 1998 Published at 02:27 GMT 03:27 UK

World: Europe

Pope makes Jewish-born nun saint

Sister Edith Stein has been canonised by the Pope

The Pope has made the Jewish-born nun, Edith Stein, a saint at a mass in the Vatican - a move strongly criticised by Jewish groups.

David Willey: "Pope John Paul has created more saints than other pope in history"
They object to her canonization as a Roman Catholic martyr, saying she died because of her Jewish background.

It is the first occasion since biblical times that a Jewish-born person has been made a saint.

Edith Stein, who died in the Auschwitz concentration camp during World War II, was honoured as a Catholic martyr at a mass in the Vatican attended by some 20,000 people.

[ image: Pope John Paul addresses the mass service]
Pope John Paul addresses the mass service
Pope John Paul described her as "an eminent daughter of Israel and the faithful daughter of the Church".

He also used the occasion to throw a bridge between Christians and Jews by announcing that the Church will commemorate the Holocaust on August 9 each year, in memory of the Carmelite nun.

"Never more the Holocaust", the Pope said.

"For any ethnic group, any people, any race, in any corner of the earth."

But Jewish groups, including the Simon Wiesenthal Centre, objected to Edith Stein's canonisation saying she died because of her Jewish background and not, as the Church says, as a reprisal for Catholic protests against the Nazis in the Netherlands where she had taken refuge.

The BBC's Religious Affairs Correspondent, Jane Little, says Edith Stein has become a symbol of Jewish-Christian tensions over the Holocaust with her canonisation being interpreted in widely different ways.

'Christianisation of the Holocaust'

[ image: Worshippers attend the canonisation service in St Peter's Square]
Worshippers attend the canonisation service in St Peter's Square
The Pope, who identifies with the philosophical writings of the nun, considers her a martyr, killed along with other Christian converts.

Others insist Edith Stein was gassed as a Jew, not a Catholic, and that this event is a mistaken attempt by the church to make amends for its questionable record during the Nazi period.

The Simon Wiesenthal Centre had called for the canonisation to be postponed indefinitely, charging that making her a saint would be a 'Christianisation of the Holocaust.'

There was also criticism of the speed of the canonisation process - a procedure which can often span centuries but Pope John Paul took the first step by beatifying Edith Stein just 11 years ago despite the fact that she is credited with only one miracle.

Confusing signals

Edith Stein was born a Jew, became an atheist, and then converted to Catholicism.

She entered a convent in Cologne, but fled to the Netherlands in 1938 after the Nazis stepped up their anti-semitism campaign.

Much earlier, she had appealed to Pope Pius XII to speak out against the Nazis.

He did not and his perceived silence during the war, and possible canonisation, has become a major sticking point in Jewish-Christian relations.

They were put under further strain just a week ago when the Pope beatified the Croatian wartime Archbishop, Cardinal Stepinac.

Jewish groups accuse him of collaborating with the Nazi puppet-regime in Croatia.

For many, making Edith Stein a saint marks another confusing signal from Pope John Paul, who has made great efforts to heal Jewish-Christian divisions.

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