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Puerto Rican on road to canonisation

Pope John Paul II beatified five holy men and women on Sunday, including a layman from Puerto Rico, the island's first native to be beatified.

Puerto Ricans in the crowd in St. Peter's Square cheered and waved the island's flag when the Holy Father read out the name of Carlos Manuel Rodriguez, an office clerk who died in 1963 after dedicating his life to the church.

Also beatified were: Esther Blondin of Quebec, who, using the religious name Mother Marie Anne, founded the Congregation of the Sisters of St. Ann in 1850 to educate poor rural children; Caterina Cittadini and Caterina Volpicelli, Italian women who founded religious orders in the 19th century; and Manuel Gonzalez Garcia, bishop of Malaga and Palencia, Spain, who died in 1940 after living through the difficult years of the Spanish civil war.

Last month, the pope beatified 233 martyrs - nuns, priests and lay people who died in the Spanish civil war. That ceremony stood out as the largest number ever beatified in a single ceremony, reflecting the pontiff's determination to give his faithful many role models, including from modern times.

"Help us to follow, in our way, the path of holiness, especially when it becomes difficult," the pope said.

Banners decorated with images of the five were draped over the facade of St Peter's and were unveiled after the pope declared them blessed.