ROME - Getting into St. Peter’s Square for the canonization Mass of Sts. John XXIII and John Paul II was not for the faint of heart.

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VATICAN CITY - When preparing for two canonizations that draw nearly 1 million people to Rome, people usually pack essentials like food, water, raingear and sunhats.

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VATICAN CITY - In the humble act of washing his disciples' feet, Jesus is showing all Christians how he wants them to serve others with love, Pope Francis said.

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VATICAN CITY - The often silent plight of sexually abused children, victims of domestic violence, prisoners, the abandoned elderly, the unemployed and immigrants facing hostility will be given a powerful voice during the Stations of the Cross at Rome's Colosseum.

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Catholic Register Associate Editor Michael Swan filed this report while on his way to Rome to cover the conclave to elect a new pope.

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The Catholic Register's Michael Swan reports from Rome to give a Canadian perspective on the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI and the conclave to elect the next Pope.

“He looked right at me.”

Those words, expressed with both reverence and excitement, came from the mouths of almost every member of the Our Lady of Sorrows Ecumenical Choir, just after having been blessed by Pope Benedict XVI at the Papal Mass for the Presentation of Our Lord at St. Peter’s Basilica — certainly, given his resignation announced Feb. 11, one of his last celebrations as our Holy Father.

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VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Wearing Native American beads and feathers, Hawaiian leis, classic Filipino shirts, or German dirndls, Catholics from around the globe gathered in St. Peter's Square to celebrate the recognition of seven new saints.

One of the pilgrims who came to celebrate the canonization of St. Kateri Tekakawita Oct. 21 was Blessed Sacrament Father Dana Pelotte, twin brother of the late Bishop Donald E. Pelotte of Gallup, N.M., the first American Indian bishop of the United States.

"I think the canonization will have a tremendous spiritual effect on the native peoples -- I really do. Being a native person has so much spiritual beauty," and the canonization of Kateri, the first indigenous saint of North America, will strengthen that, said the priest, whose father was of Abenaki descent.

Attending a reception sponsored by the U.S. Embassy to the Holy See in the Vatican Museums' garden Oct. 19, Father Pelotte was constantly approached by American Indian pilgrims who told him of their love for his brother and how pleased he would be by the canonization. "I know he's here in spirit with us today," Father Pelotte told each one of them.

Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Philadelphia, a member of the Prairie Band Potawatomi Tribe, told Catholic News Service that he and his fellow Native American Catholics have been praying for St. Kateri's canonization for a very long time.

The saint was born to an Algonquin Christian mother and a Mohawk father, who died when she was young. She resisted strong pressure from the Mohawks to abandon her faith, so she could be considered a model for those facing religious persecution, the archbishop said.

St. Kateri, who died in 1680 at the age of 24, also is a model for the new evangelization, Archbishop Chaput said.

"She was a young, vibrant member of her community, but she was different from the rest of them because of her unique personal relationship with Jesus Christ, which is what sanctity is generally about -- it's about taking Christ seriously in a personal way, in a way that goes beyond where most of us go."

Clarence "Boogie" Kahilihwa and Gloria Marks were two of nine patient-residents who came to the canonization from Kalaupapa, Hawaii, where the new St. Marianne Cope ministered among people with Hansen's disease, which is commonly called leprosy.

Kahilihwa said St. Marianne left as her legacy "how she felt toward humanity," and that her message is "never underestimate" the value of person, no matter what their sickness is; "and don't be afraid to challenge the unchallenged and down low."

"I could have gone out a long time ago, but I chose to stay" to help care for older members of the community, he said.

Kahilihwa also said part of St. Marianne's legacy is the affirmation that there is no such thing as "a leper," because leprosy "is a disease, not a person."

Marks, like Kahilihwa, came to Rome in 2009 for the canonization of St. Damien de Veuster of Molokai, who founded the Kalaupapa community and who later was among those cared for by St. Marianne.

"I'm really proud because (there are) two of them from the same county, the smallest county in Hawaii," she said.

"Those two put Hawaii on the map. So it's very, very important to us."

U.S. citizens and residents also turned out in large numbers for the canonization of St. Pedro Calungsod, a Philippine teenager and catechist who was martyred in 1672 in Guam, which is a territory of the United States.

At a thanksgiving Mass Oct. 22 at the Altar of the Chair in St. Peter's Basilica, Archbishop Anthony Sablan Apuron of Agana, Guam, called St. Pedro a wonderful model for Catholic youth. "May it never be said that we who had the privilege of witnessing the canonization of San Pedro did not make it heaven!" he told the pilgrims, who included many young people.

The archbishop, who concelebrated the Mass with retired Cardinal Ricardo Vidal of Cebu, Philippines, composed a song in honor of St. Pedro 12 years ago on the occasion of the youth's beatification. Archbishop Apuron sang it during the homily, demonstrating that he, too, saw the martyred saint as a model.

"San Pedro proclaimed his faith using human means to attract the Chamorros (native people of Guam) through the use of visual aids, putting the doctrines and teachings to music so as to enable the natives to learn the doctrines of the church more easily," Archbishop Apuron said.

Discalced Augustinian Father Alex Remolino, a Philippine priest working in Rome, said that in addition to being a model for youth, "St. Pedro is a patron saint of our emigrants."

St. Pedro left the Philippines to work with the Jesuits in Guam, and he carried his faith with him, just as many Philippine emigrants do today when they go abroad to study or work, he said.

"Faith is part of our DNA," Father Remolino said. "Wherever we go, we bring the Gospel. It's not just part of our culture, but part of our character."

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Contributing to this story were Carol Glatz and Francis X. Rocca.

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ROME - Scholars are unlikely to agree any time soon on the authenticity of a newly published text containing a reference to Jesus' "wife."

But the tiny papyrus fragment, purportedly dating to the fourth century., has already stirred interest in the early Church's attitudes toward marriage, sex and the role of women.

The fragment of papyrus with eight lines of Egyptian Coptic writing is the "only extant ancient text which explicitly portrays Jesus as referring to a wife," wrote Karen L. King, historian of Christianity at Harvard Divinity School, in an academic paper she delivered Sept. 18 at an international Coptic studies conference in Rome.

"It does not, however, provide evidence that the historical Jesus was married," she wrote, "given the late date of the fragment and the probable date of original composition" at the end of the second century.

The best source of evidence giving an account of Jesus' life and ministry is still the Gospels in the New Testament, King told reporters the next day, "and they are silent about His marital status." But she said the fragment is "direct evidence" that early Christians started debating in the second century whether Jesus could have been married or not.

Fr. Juan Chapa, a New Testament scholar at the University of Navarra in Spain, told Catholic News Service that the "Gospels don't mention marriage, not because they wanted to hide something, but because it was clear that Jesus did not get married, and it's consistent in the Church's tradition." He also noted that the gnostic gospel genre to which the fragment evidently belongs is one of stories about Jesus that mainly take place after the Resurrection, using language that is heavily allegorical. Thus, he said, the fragment's relevant words —"Jesus said to them, 'My wife' ” — were likely not meant as a literal assertion about the life of the historical Jesus.

King said that the significance of the fragment lies in the light it might shed on debates in the early Church over the necessity of celibacy to living a holy life.

According to Michael Peppard, a professor of theology and Coptic language at Fordham University, a belief in asceticism saw rapid development in the second to fourth centuries, especially in Egypt where Christian monasticism was born. Some bishops at the time "were saying that the highest ideal was asceticism," which included renouncing "all the trappings and worries of material life," including marriage. But Peppard said other bishops in the same period "were figuring out how to give everyone their space," and letting it be known it was all right for Christians to live in the world.

The new text published by King may be a sign of early Christians "pushing back" against asceticism and moving closer to mainstream Jewish attitudes "of blessing sex and procreation," Peppard said.

Catholic teaching, Chapa said, holds that "Jesus' celibacy, by differentiating Him from other rabbis, underlines His unique mission to fulfill the kingdom of God, and shows how He embodied the love of God" by renouncing conjugal love.

King said the reference to Jesus' wife could just be a symbol of the Church, akin to the Gospel allegory of Jesus as bridegroom of the Church.
"What if what's missing is saying, 'My wife is the Church?' ” King said.

But both Peppard and King argue that the word does refer to a real person, since the line just below it includes the words: "...she will be able to be my disciple..."

The "wife" in question could be a "spiritual wife," Peppard said. Other texts from the same period uphold "the image of an unconsummated spiritual marriage where the best kind of husband and wife live celibately," he said.

King acknowledged that there would be continued debate over the authenticity of the fragment, whose paper trail goes back only to the 1980s.
"I would say it's a forgery," Alin Suciu, a papyrologist at the University of Hamburg who was attending the conference with King, told the Associated Press. "The script doesn't look authentic" compared to other fourth-century Coptic papyri.

But Roger Bagnall, a papyrologist and director of the Institute for the Study of the Ancient World at New York University, studied the handwriting, the grammar and how the ink was absorbed by the plant fibres, and concluded it was likely to date from the period between 350 and 400.
"We can't ever know or be 100-per-cent sure if it's authentic or a forgery," Peppard said.

King said any properly accredited scholar in the world is welcome to study the papyrus, and that criticism of her findings is part and parcel of any historical study.

"We want to do the best job we can with new historical data," she said.

Chapa called King's discovery "exciting," and nothing for believing Catholics to fear.

"Anything that helps us understand our past, to understand the history of the Church and how the Church defined herself in history," he said, "is very valuable and positive."

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