More than 800 Italian saints were canonized on Sunday by Pope Francis. The saints were mostly unnamed martyrs killed by Ottoman soldiers in the 15th-century.
The massacre happened in Otranto, Italy in 1480 when Ottoman soldiers invaded and killed some 800 people on a hill when they refused to convert to Islam.
Along with the 800 Italian saints, Pope Francis also canonized two Latin American nuns, the first to be named saints in Francis’ pontificate. In his homily during the ceremony on Sunday, the pope also brought attention to the persecution of Christians today.
He stated, “We ask God to sustain the many Christians who, today, in many parts of the world, right now, still suffer violence.” The prayer is not surprising, as the Vatican has already expressed concern regarding attacks on Christians in the Middle East, including the Coptic Christians of Egypt.
The ceremony to canonize 800 Italian saints was marred by a doctor who claimed a nun’s “miracle” cancer cure was actually because of chemotherapy, not divine intervention. The possible sainthood for the 800 martyrs came after the nun, Sister Francesca Levote, allegedly made a miraculous recovery from ovarian cancer in 1981 after she was given a small time to live.
Fellow nuns prayed to the Otranto martyrs to save her. Levote’s recovery from ovarian cancer was considered by the Vatican as an inexplicable miracle required to elevate the 800 Italian martyrs to sainthood.
However, Salvatore Toma, a doctor who treated the nun, disregarded the claim. Instead, he suggested that the nun’s recovery was from medical science, not from God. Toma added that he and his team treated Lavote with a combination of chemotherapy and radiotherapy. He further explained, “And that is how we observed, after about two years, a complete clinical response. I cannot sustain that it was a miracle, but a scientific event.”
Pope Emeritus Benedict confirmed the canonizations of the 800 Italian saints on February 11, the same day he announced his resignation.
[Image via Casa Rosada]