VATICAN CITY, Oct. 17 (UPI) -- There was a festive air in Rome Saturday, the day before the Catholic Church gains six new saints, including the first for Australia, observers said.
The Catholic News Agency reported a sense of excitement was palpable in the streets of Rome where Catholic pilgrims, many of them wearing colored caps or scarves, were gathering for the canonization ceremony where Pope Benedict XVI will preside.
About 8,000 people traveled from Australia to Italy for the ceremony that will make a saint of 19th-century nun Mary MacKillop, who was 24 when she co-founded the Congregation of St. Joseph of the Sacred Heart. She lived from 1842 to 1909 and will be known as St. Mary of the Cross after the church determined she was responsible for curing two people of cancer.
"This is a time of celebration for all Australians, who live in a country where every day freedom of religion is applied, respecting the beliefs of others," Italian news agency ANSA quoted Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard as saying.
"Mary MacKillop was a pioneer who personified the essence of our values and the best of the Australian spirit."
ANSA said the others to be canonized are the 19th-century founder of a nuns' order near Naples, Giulia Salzano; a 15th-century nun from Marche, Camilla Battista da Varano; a 15th-century Polish priest, Stanislaw Soltys; a 19th-century Canadian cleric, Andre Bessette; and the 19th-century Spanish founder of another religious order, Candida Maria de Jesus Cipitria y Barriola.
Bessette, of Montreal, will become the first Canadian-born man to be named a saint. The church says he helped numerous people heal from disabilities.
The Canadian Broadcasting Corp. reported more than 2,000 people from Quebec and across North America planned to be in Rome for the ceremony.