On Sunday, the Roman Catholic Church's new pontiff, Pope Francis, held his first canonization ceremony, and it was most certainly one for the record books. Francis named over 800 new saints during the ceremony, which is already nearly double the number of saints that were declared by Pope John Paul II, whose 480-some canonizations in total were more than those of all of his predecessors since 1588 combined.
Many of the 800 new saints are 15th century martyrs who were approved as a group for sainthood by Pope Francis' predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI. The 813 "Martyrs of Otranto" were beheaded by Ottoman soldiers for refusing to convert to Islam.
Francis, who is trying to improve the Catholic church's relationship with the Muslim world, attempted to handle the possibly awkward moment by declining to mention the word "Islam" in his entire speech marking the canonizations. Rather, Francis emphasized the Christian faith of the martyrs and a nod to ending inter-religious violence, stating:
"Let us ask God to sustain those many Christians who, in these times and in many parts of the world, right now, still suffer violence, and give them the courage and fidelity to respond to evil with good."