Pope Francis has proclaimed 35 new saints, most of whom were martyrs killed as Catholicism spread in South America.

Among them are the “martyrs of Natal” – a group of 30 Catholics massacred by armed groups led by Dutch Calvinists. The group, killed in north Brazil in 1645, included a child and a priest who had been celebrating Mass at the time of the attack.

The other saints included the “Child Martyrs of Tlaxcala,” three children who were among Mexico’s first native converts and were killed for refusing to renounce the faith, as well as Ss Angelo da Acri, an Italian Capuchin priest known for his defence of the poor, and Faustino Miguez, a Spanish priest who started a school for girls.

In a homily Pope Francis said that, like the new saints, Christians were called to live their faith as a love story with God who wants a relationship that is “more than that of devoted subjects with their king”.

Without a loving relationship with God, Christian life can become empty and “an impossible ethic, a collection of rules and laws to obey for no good reason,” the Pope said during Mass in St Peter’s Square.

“This is the danger: a Christian life that becomes routine, content with ‘normality’, without drive or enthusiasm, and with a short memory,” he said.

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