Pope makes saint of woman who died after refusing abortion

Pope John Paul II named six new saints yesterday, including a woman who became a symbol for opponents of abortion because she refused to end her pregnancy despite warnings that it could kill her.

Pope John Paul II named six new saints yesterday, including a woman who became a symbol for opponents of abortion because she refused to end her pregnancy despite warnings that it could kill her.

The Vatican has long championed the case of Gianna Beretta Molla, an Italian pediatrician who died in 1962 at the age of 39 - a week after giving birth to her fourth child. Doctors had told her it was dangerous to proceed with the pregnancy because she had a tumour in her uterus, but she insisted on carrying the baby to term. In proclaiming her a saint, John Paul praised her "extreme sacrifice" and her simple but profound message.

John Paul also praised the examples of the five others canonised, two Italian priests, Luigi Orione and Hannibal Maria di Francia, and a Spanish monk, Josep Manyanet y Vives, who founded religious orders, a Lebanese Maronite priest, Naamatallah Kassab Hardini, and a wealthy Italian widow, Paola Elisabetta Cerioli, who opened her homes to abandoned children.

John Paul, who will be 84 tomorrow, read his homily himself and appeared in good form as he declared the saints to a crowd of thousands in St Peter's Square.

Among the well-wishers was the Lebanese President, Emile Lahoud, himself a Maronite Catholic who was in Rome to honour Hardini. The priestis credited with healing blind and lame people in the 19th century and is the third Maronite to attain sainthood.

The Pope has made creating new role models one of the hallmarks of his papacy. He has now proclaimed 482 saints in his 25-year pontificate, more than all his predecessors over the past 500 years combined.

In approving the new saints, John Paul confirmed miracles were attributed to their intercession. In Beretta Molla's case, the Vatican says that one of the miracles needed for her to be beatified concerned a Brazilian woman who recovered in 1977 after her fourth pregnancy.

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