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First American Indian to be canonized

Dec. 20, 2011 at 2:37 PM   |   Comments

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VATICAN CITY, Dec. 20 (UPI) -- A woman who became known as the "lily of the Mohawks" after her death at 24 is to be canonized as the first American Indian saint, the Vatican has announced.

Pope Benedict XVI released a decree Monday, the Italian news agency ANSA reported. The Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha is one of seven people whose canonization was announced.

"The Indian people in the United States and Canada have longed for the canonization of Blessed Kateri from the moment of her beatification," Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Philadelphia, the only American Indian bishop in the United States, told Catholic News Service earlier this month.

Pope John Paul II beatified her in 1980.

Kateri Tekakwitha was born in 1657 in what is now Auriesville, N.Y., and died in 1680 in a French Jesuit mission on the St. Lawrence River. Her father was a Mohawk and her mother an Algonquin Christian.

Orphaned at the age of 4 when her parents died of smallpox, Tekakwitha was brought up by relatives. She left them and took refuge with the Jesuits in what was then French Canada after becoming a Christian against her family's wishes.

Kateri's feast day is July 14. She is the patron of American Indians and of the environment.

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