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ROME - Pope Benedict XVI yesterday authorised four new sainthoods at a mass at the Vatican attended by several dignitaries.
The fourth canonisation ceremony held by the pope since he took over the pontificate took place under pouring rain. Those elevated to sainthood included a French nun and three priests from Malta, the Netherlands and Poland.
The pope canonised Frenchwoman Marie-Eugenie Milleret, who founded the Religious of the Assumption Order in 1838, which is today present in 34 countries.
She was beatified by former pope Paul VI on February 9 1975 in Rome.
Beatification, officially the Catholic Church's recognition that a dead person has entered heaven and can intercede on behalf of those who pray in their name, is the first step towards declaring sainthood.
Pope Benedict XVI said Milleret had "perceived the importance of transmitting to the young generations, especially young women, an intellectual, moral and spiritual training which turned them into adults capable of taking charge of their lives, their families and knowing how to contribute to the church and society".
Maltese priest Georges Preca, who lived from 1880 to 1962, became the first saint from the island nation. Preca founded the Society of Christian Doctrine order and translated several religious texts into the local language.
"This was a priest who dedicated himself entirely to evangelisation with his writings, his spiritual path and above all with the example of his own life," the pope said.
Simon de Lipnica, a 15th century Polish Franciscan who gave his life for those suffering from the plague, was also proclaimed a saint. When Krakow was ravaged by a plague epidemic between 1482 and 1483, he tended to the sick and gave the sacraments, until he too was infected and died.
Dutch priest Charles de Saint-Andrew (1821-1893) was highly admired, the pope said, adding that "people flocked in droves to listen to his wise counsel". The pope has announced 10 other new saints so far. -Sapa-AFP