Nun who saved Jews during WW2 canonised by Pope Francis

A nun of the Saint Bridget Order with a statue of Sweden's Maria Elisabeth Hesselblad, who was canonised in St Peter's Square.Reuters

Pope Francis has canonised a nun who is recognised by world Jewry as "Righteous Among the Nations" because of the Jewish lives she saved during the genocide of the Nazi Holocaust. 

The Pope canonised Sister Maria Elizabeth Hesselblad of Sweden, who at great risk to herself, hid 12 Jewish families in the convent in Rome where she was Mother Superior during the last six months of the war.

 At the same mass yesterday he canonised a Polish monk, Stanislaus Papczynski of Jesus and Mary, for his work with the poor in the 17th century.

Pope Francis preached a powerful sermon on God's victory over suffering and death.

"In the Passion of Christ, we find God's response to the desperate and at times indignant cry that the experience of pain and death evokes in us," he said. "He tells us that we cannot flee from the Cross, but must remain at its foot, as Our Lady did. In suffering with Jesus, she received the grace of hoping against all hope."

He said this was the experience of both Stanislaus and Maria Elizabeth Hesselblad.

A view of Saint Peter's Square as Pope Francis leads the mass for the canonisation of Sister Maria Elisabeth Hesselblad and Polish priest Father Stanislaus of Jesus and Mary.Reuters

With each and every sinner, he said, Jesus makes the victory of life-giving grace shine forth.

"He says to Mother Church: 'Give me your children', which means all of us. He takes our sins upon himself, takes them away and gives us back alive to the Mother Church. All that happens in a special way during this Holy Year of Mercy."

The two new saints were two children of the Church Church who are exemplary witnesses to this "mystery of resurrection". 

Hasselblad, the first Swedish saint in more than 600 years, was a convert to Catholicism.

A tapestry showing Swedish nun Sister Maria Elisabeth Hesselblad hangs from a balcony as Pope Francis leads the mass for her canonisation in Saint Peter's Square.Alessandro Bianchi/Reuters

She is the second Swede to be canonised, after Saint Bridget 625 years ago.

She was a nurse who also dedicated her life to helping improve relations between Catholics and non-Catholics, and for promoting the Church to Christians and non-Christians.

She was honoured by Yad Vashem Holocaust remembrance centre in Israel as one of the Righteous Among the Nations in 2004, an award given to non-Jews who helped Jews during the Holocaust. She died in Rome in 1957, aged 87.