Pope beatifies controversial German nun

 

Pope John Paul, looking tired and speaking with difficulty, put five Catholics on the road to sainthood today, including the 19th century German mystic nun who inspired Mel Gibson's film on Christ's passion.

At the same ceremony in St Peter's Square, he beatified Austria's last emperor, Karl I. Some of Europe's current  crowned heads and members of Italy's ex monarchy attended.

As has become customary, the pope, who suffers from Parkinson's disease, did not read all the mass and what he did read was hard to understand. A cardinal celebrated part of the mass while the pope sat on a throne on the sidelines.

Aides read part of his sermon in French, German and Spanish before around 25,000 people gathered in St Peter's Square.

The most controversial of the five new beatified - the last step before sainthood - was Anne Catherine Emmerick, a sickly German mystic nun who lived from 1774 to 1824 and has been called "Mel's Muse".

Gibson used her book, The Dolorous Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ, for inspiration in some of the most grisly details of the hit film  The Passion of the Christto complement the gospel accounts.

Emmerick, who is said to have had the bleeding wounds of Christ and to have survived long periods without eating, became a nun and her visions of Christ's passion and death were written down by poet Clemens Brentano and used in Gibson's film.

In the part of his homily read for him in German, the pope did not mention Emmerick's book, which has found a new readership among today's traditionalist Catholics. But he praised her pious character and concern for the poor.

Critics have said the beatification of Karl I, last emperor of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, was wrong because his army used poison gas during World War One.

The pope praised Karl as a man who sought peace and was guided by his Christian faith in his political decisions.

"In his eyes, war was something horrible," the pope said.

Also beatified were Pierre Vigne and Joseph-Marie Cassant, French priests who lived in the 17h and 19th centuries, and Maria Ludovica De Angelis, an Italian nun who lived in the 19th and 20th centuries.

The pope has now beatified  over 1,000 people, more than all his predecessors combined.