VATICAN CITY (AFP) – Tens of thousands of pilgrims gathered in St Peter’s Square to witness Pope Benedict XVI creating the first five saints of his pontificate, all chosen by his predecessor John Paul II.

Tens of thousands of pilgrims gathered in St Peter’s Square to witness Pope Benedict XVI creating the first five saints of his pontificate, all chosen by his predecessor John Paul II.

Flag-waving pilgrims packed the giant Vatican square as the 78-year-old pontiff formally elevated two Poles, two Italians and a Chilean, as giant images of the five men were draped from the balcony of St Peter’s basilica.

The pope was joined for Sunday’s ceremony by 250 bishops from around the world as the mass also marked the end of Benedict’s first Synod as pope, the biggest gathering of Catholic hierarchy since the funeral of his predecessor last April.

Benedict used the occasion to draw attention to official repression of the Vatican-recognized Catholic Church in China, after Rome-appointed bishops were refused permission to travel to Rome for the Synod.

The pope said their absence here had been felt with "real suffering".

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