VATICAN CITY (AP) – Pope Benedict XVI named five new saints Sunday at a Mass closing a three-week meeting of the world’s Roman Catholic bishops that reaffirmed the church’s position on celibacy for priests and other central teachings.

Most of the 250 bishops who attended the Synod of Bishops joined the pope in celebrating the Mass and the ceremony to elevate five men to sainthood.

“Today I have the joy of presiding for the first time over a canonization rite,” Benedict said in an opening prayer. Many of the thousands of people gathered in St. Peter’s Square waved Chilean flags in honor of a Chilean Jesuit who was being canonized.

Benedict also highlighted some of the major issues that emerged during the synod, calling priestly celibacy a “precious gift” and telling lay Catholics there can be no “dichotomy” between their faith and everyday life.

That appeared to be a reference to whether Communion can be denied to Catholic politicians who support laws contradicting church teaching, such as abortion rights – an issue raised by American prelates at the synod. Bishops recommended giving church officials leeway to decide the issue on a case-by-case basis.

Among those canonized Sunday was the Rev. Alberto Hurtado Cruchaga, a Chilean Jesuit who was known for his work with the poor as well as the young.

Two others came from Ukraine: Josef Bilczewski, archbishop of Lviv, who was greatly admired by Catholics, Orthodox Christians and Jews alike during World War I; and the Rev. Zygmunt Gorazdowski, who founded the Congregation for the Sisters of St. Joseph to care for the sick and poor.

Italians Felice da Nicosia, a lay Capuchin who lived in the 1700s, and the Rev. Gaetano Cantanoso, who founded the Veronican Sisters of the Holy Face in 1934, also were canonized.

Benedict’s predecessor, Pope John Paul II, canonized 482 people and beatified 1,338 – more than all the previous popes over the past 500 years combined.

Departing from John Paul’s custom, Benedict is presiding over only saint-making Masses. He has designated cardinals to celebrate Masses for beatification, which is the last step before possible sainthood.

On Saturday, the bishops approved 50 recommendations for Benedict to consider in a future document on the Eucharist, which Benedict confirmed on Sunday he would issue.

In the propositions, the bishops acknowledged the acute shortage of priests around the world, but reaffirmed the church’s stance on celibacy for priests, disappointing some church reform groups.

The bishops also said Catholic politicians should realize their “grave social responsibility” and not support laws that contrast with church teaching. They made no blanket recommendation on whether such politicians should be denied Communion, saying local bishops “should exercise the virtues of firmness and prudence” in deciding.

Benedict referred to the two issues in his homily, saying: “The celibacy that the priests received as a precious gift and the sign of the undivided love toward God and the neighbor is founded upon the Eucharistic Mystery, celebrated and adored.”

“Eucharistic spirituality must also be the interior motor of any activity for the lay persons, and no dichotomy is admissible between faith and life in their mission of Christian animation of the world,” he said.

The pope also sent a special greeting to four Chinese bishops prevented by their government from attending the synod, saying the suffering of their communities was not in vain.

Worship in China is allowed only in government-controlled churches, but millions of Chinese belong to unofficial congregations loyal to Rome.

Benedict has been seeking to re-establish diplomatic relations with China and to unify the two churches to bring China’s estimated 12 million Catholics under Rome’s wing. As part of that effort, he invited four mainland Chinese bishops to attend the synod, but the Chinese church turned down the invitation.

AP-ES-10-23-05 1239EDT

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