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Last Updated: Sunday, 16 May, 2004, 13:28 GMT 14:28 UK
Pope canonises pro-life heroine
Pope gives blessing
Pope John Paul II has created almost 500 saints
Pope John Paul has created six new saints at a ceremony in the Vatican.

Thousands attended the ceremony, which included the canonisation of an Italian woman who has become a symbol of the anti-abortion movement.

Gianna Beretta Molla died of cancer in 1962 after refusing life-saving treatment that would have involved the termination of her pregnancy.

She is the first married woman to become a Roman Catholic saint in modern times, Vatican officials say.

Other new saints include a 19th-century Lebanese priest, Nimatullah al-Hardini, who has been praised for his tolerance towards other religions.

Example

Sunday's ceremony raises to more than 480 the number of saints created by John Paul II during his 25-year papacy.

Portrait of Gianna Beretta Molla
The extreme sacrifice that took away her life is evidence that only those who have the courage to give themselves totally to God and his brethren can fulfil themselves
Pope John Paul II

Among those attending were Gianna Beretta Molla's 91-year-old husband and children, including the daughter she died after giving birth to.

The BBC's Frances Kennedy in Rome says she could be described as the Catholic Church's most contemporary saint, a 20th-Century wife, doctor and mother.

When the curtain was drawn back from the huge image of the new saint in front of Saint Peter's Basilica, it showed a colour photo of a smiling woman with a 1950s hairstyle and a child in her arms.

"The extreme sacrifice that took away her life is evidence that only those who have the courage to give themselves totally to God and his brethren can fulfil themselves," the pope told the crowds gathered in the square.

The Vatican sees Molla as an example, and correspondents say her elevation underlines the Church's absolute opposition to abortion.

During her pregnancy she told doctors that the baby's life was more important than her own.

She died at the age of 39, shortly after giving birth.

Critics have said the decision suggests the Church values the life of an unborn child above the well-being and safety of a woman.

The other four new saints are Spanish priest Josep Manyanet i Vives, from Catalonia, and three Italians - Luigi Orione, Hannibal Maria di Francia and Paola Elisabetta - all born in the 19th century.


SEE ALSO:
Pope praises 'sensitive' women
06 Jun 03  |  Europe
Pope creates new Spanish saints
04 May 03  |  Europe
Pope creates controversial saint
06 Oct 02  |  Europe


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