On Sunday Pope John Paul canonised 120 Chinese and foreign missionaries killed in the church's five-century - and ongoing - struggle in China.
    China's Communist government, stung by the decision to hold the ceremony on the country's national day, called the martyrs "evildoing sinners" and their canonisation "an open insult".
    It said naming of the church's first Chinese saints threatened to worsen already difficult relations with China. The date of the canonisations was particularly enraging to China - falling on China's National Day celebrating 51 years of communist rule.
    The Vatican has denied that Sunday's ceremony was politically motivated. Vatican officials say Sunday was chosen, not because it was China's National Day, but because it marks the feast of Saint Therese of Lisieux, patron saint of missionaries.
    "The church only intends to recognise that those martyrs are an example of courage and coherence for all of us, and give honour to the noble Chinese people," Pope John Paul told a crowd which thronged St. Peter's Square on a rainy morning.
    However, the Holy Father did take note of Chinese Roman Catholics forced to worship in secret and unable to attend Sunday's ceremony.
    "I wish to assure you once more that I pray for you every day," he told his far-off followers.
    John Paul named three other new saints as well, all nuns: one-time socialite Katharine Drexel, who devoted her life and inheritance to founding schools for American Indians and blacks; one-time Sudanese slave Guiseppine Bahkita, and Maria Josefa del Corazon de Jesus Sancho de Guerra, the first saint of Spain's Basque people.
3 Oct 00

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