It is one of the oldest cities in the world, rich with culture and monuments to ancient civilizations. But, as our Bill Carey tells us, it's the more recent accomplishments of two upstate New York women that is drawing many American pilgrims to Rome this weekend.
ROME -- Every sunrise reveals why Rome is called an eternal city. It is a modern metropolis that is shoehorned into the ruins of an ancient empire. It is a place rich in history that laid the foundation for much of the Western World. But, this week, for a large group of pilgrims, the sites that have drawn millions of visitors over the years have paled in comparison to an event that will be taking place on Sunday.
The portraits of seven new saints now adorn Saint Peter's Basilica. Many of the Americans walking these streets are focused on two in particular. Sister Marianne Cope was the Syracuse nun who helped care for those suffering from leprosy on the forgotten peninsula of Kalaupapa.
Syracuse pilgrims have found themselves sharing time with groups from Hawaii, including many of the patients who still live in what was once a place of exile. The people of Hawaii consider Marianne their saint.
"She just became part of us. I think she spoke to all of us to come and see her become a saint," said Yvonne Pascua, Hawaiian pilgrim.
Another large contingent in Rome this weekend comes from places all over the country, where Native Americans call home. They have waited for years and decades for Kateri Tekakwitha, the young Indian girl from the Mohawk Valley to be named a saint. They have come for her canonization.
"Yes, yes. It's finally here. We've been praying for it a lot. So we're thankful," explained Cindy Giff, a Native American.
Dennis Coochyuma, another Native American, added, "Praying, praying every day that she will become a saint. Now it's happening, so a lot of people are here for that."
Catholic leaders who have accompanied various pilgrimage groups to the Vatican continue to say that this weekend could have profound impact on American catholics, and that it could bring new enthusiasm to their faith.
"This, being the year of faith, this is the way to help us all follow her example," said Bishop Larry Silva, Honolulu Roman Catholic Diocese.