Pope Francis canonized a Swedish woman and a Polish man in a mass at St. Peter’s Square, adding the two to the list of Catholic saints. The Swedish-born Elizabeth Hesselblad hid Jews in a convict during World War II.
Polish President Andrzej Duda and Swedish Culture Minister Alice Bah-Kuhnke attended the Sunday ceremony at the Vatican, along with hundreds of pilgrims from both countries.
The pope proclaimed Elizabeth Hesselblad a saint, alongside Stanislaus Papczynski, who founded a religious order in 17th century Poland.
The two new saints had “stayed tightly linked to the passion of Christ” the pope said.
Second saint in Sweden
Hesselblad was born to a Lutheran family in Sweden in 1870, and left for the US in her teens to find work as a nurse. She converted to Catholicism in her thirties. Eventually, Hesselblad moved to Rome and became a nun, serving as mother superior in the closing years of World War II.
The ex-nurse reportedly saved lives of over 60 Jews by hiding them in her convent, as well as the lives of other opponents of the Italian and German regimes.
Israel’s Holocaust center Yad Vashem awarded her the title of “Righteous Among the Nations,” reserved for non-Jews who helped the Holocaust victims. Hesselblad died in Rome in 1957.
Through the ceremony on Sunday, Hesselblad became only the second Swedish saint in history, following in the footsteps of Saint Bridget in 1391. The Scandinavian country has been staunchly protestant for the most of the last 500 years.
Church listing miracles
The late Pope John Paul II paved the way for Hesselblad’s cannonization in 2000, by beatifying her and declaring an unexplained healing of a woman to be Hesselblad’s work. Last year, Pope Francis approved the second miracle needed to achieve full sainthood. The Church believes that Hesselblad healed a young boy in Cuba of his brain tumor, according to the Catholic World Report.
The Vatican also beatified Stanislaus Papczynski in 2007, recognizing a healing of an unborn Polish boy as the work of the 17th century religious figure. Another faith healing supposedly took place in the same year, according to American National Catholic register.
Pope Francis is set to visit both Poland and Sweden this year, traveling to Krakow in July and attending an October ceremony on the 500 years of the Lutheran revolution in Sweden.