VATICAN CITY – Pope Benedict XVI canonized five new saints Sunday, including Portugal's 14th century independence leader and a nearly blind Italian monk who died of the plague after tending to the sick.
Benedict presided over the ceremony in a packed St. Peter's Square, decorated with tapestries featuring pictures of each of the five. He praised each as a model for the faithful and said their lives and work were as relevant today as they were some 700 years ago.
Benedict singled out the Rev. Arcangelo Tadini, who lived at the turn of the last century and founded an order of nuns to tend to factory workers at the dawn of the industrial era. Tadini also created an association to provide emergency loans to workers experiencing financial difficulties.
"How prophetic was Don Tadini's charismatic intuition, and how current his example is today, in this time of grave economic crisis!" Benedict marveled in his homily.
The only non-Italian canonized Sunday was Nuno Alvares Pereira, who helped secure Portugal's independence from the Spanish kingdom of Castile, leading Portuguese forces in the critical Battle of Aljubarrota in 1385.
After leaving the military, he entered religious life as a Carmelite and changed his name to Nuno de Santa Maria. He dedicated himself to the poor, never taking the privileges that would have been afforded to him as a former commander.
He is remembered as a national hero today in Portugal, with street signs named after him in many towns, but also as a humble man of great spirituality.
"The canonization of Nuno Alvares Pereira honors one of the personalities that most clearly mapped out our national history," Portuguese President Anibal Cavaco Silva said in Lisbon.
Also canonized Sunday was Bernardo Tolomei, a nearly blind monk who founded the Benedictine Congregation of Santa Maria di Monte Oliveto in the 1340s. He died in 1348 along with 82 of his monks after leaving the safety of his monastery to tend to plague victims in Siena.
Benedict praised his dedication, saying he died "as an authentic martyr of charity."
The others canonized were Gertrude Comensoli and Caterina Volpicelli, 19th century Italian nuns who founded religious orders.