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Pope Francis gives church hundreds of new saints

VATICAN CITY – Pope Francis has given the Catholic church hundreds of new saints as he leads a canonization ceremony in St. Peter’s Square.

Among those upon whom he bestowed the church’s highest honor Sunday are 813 Italians who were martyred in the late 15th century for refusing to convert to Islam as demanded by Turkish invaders of a southern Italian city.

Two others were canonized – a woman who helped Colombia’s indigenous peoples and is now that country’s first saint, and a Mexican woman who helped Catholics avoid persecution during a government crackdown of the faith in the 1920s.

The new saints were all approved for canonization in a decree read by Pope Benedict XVI on Feb. 11 during the same ceremony in which he announced he was resigning as pontiff.

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