World

Pope canonizes 2 nuns from 19th century Palestine in hopes of encouraging Mideast Christians

  • The tapestry of St. Marie Alphonsine Ghattas  hangs from a balcony in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican prior to the start of the canonization ceremony led by Pope Francis Sunday, May 17, 2015. The pontiff will canonize two 19th-century nuns from what was then Ottoman-ruled Palestine. The new saints, Mariam Bawardy and Marie Alphonsine Ghattas, are the first from the region to be canonized since the early days of Christianity.(AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)

    The tapestry of St. Marie Alphonsine Ghattas hangs from a balcony in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican prior to the start of the canonization ceremony led by Pope Francis Sunday, May 17, 2015. The pontiff will canonize two 19th-century nuns from what was then Ottoman-ruled Palestine. The new saints, Mariam Bawardy and Marie Alphonsine Ghattas, are the first from the region to be canonized since the early days of Christianity.(AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)  (The Associated Press)

  • Pilgrims wait for Pope Francis arrival to celebrate a canonization ceremony of four new saints in St.Peter's Square at the Vatican, Sunday, May 17, 2015.  Among them are Arab nuns Sts. Mariam Bawardy and Marie Alphonsine Ghattas, who lived in what was Ottoman-ruled Palestine in the 19th century. They are the first from the region to receive sainthood since the early days of Christianity and are the first Arabic-speaking Catholic saints. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)

    Pilgrims wait for Pope Francis arrival to celebrate a canonization ceremony of four new saints in St.Peter's Square at the Vatican, Sunday, May 17, 2015. Among them are Arab nuns Sts. Mariam Bawardy and Marie Alphonsine Ghattas, who lived in what was Ottoman-ruled Palestine in the 19th century. They are the first from the region to receive sainthood since the early days of Christianity and are the first Arabic-speaking Catholic saints. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)  (The Associated Press)

  • Pilgrims wait for Pope Francis arrival to celebrate a canonization ceremony of four new saints in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican, Sunday, May 17, 2015.  Among them are Arab nuns Sts. Mariam Bawardy and Marie Alphonsine Ghattas, who lived in what was Ottoman-ruled Palestine in the 19th century. They are the first from the region to receive sainthood since the early days of Christianity and are the first Arabic-speaking Catholic saints. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)

    Pilgrims wait for Pope Francis arrival to celebrate a canonization ceremony of four new saints in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican, Sunday, May 17, 2015. Among them are Arab nuns Sts. Mariam Bawardy and Marie Alphonsine Ghattas, who lived in what was Ottoman-ruled Palestine in the 19th century. They are the first from the region to receive sainthood since the early days of Christianity and are the first Arabic-speaking Catholic saints. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)  (The Associated Press)

Pope Francis has canonized two nuns from what was 19th century Palestine in hopes of encouraging Christians across the Middle East who are facing a wave of persecution from Islamic extremists.

Sisters Mariam Bawardy and Marie Alphonsine Ghattas were among four nuns who were made saints Sunday at a Mass in St. Peter's Square. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and an estimated 2,000 pilgrims from the region, some waving Palestinian flags, were on hand for the canonization of the first saints from the Holy Land since the early years of Christianity.

Church officials are holding up the new saints as a sign of hope and encouragement for all Christians in the Mideast at a time when violent persecution and discrimination have driven many Christians from the region of Christ's birth.