On Sunday, in a packed St. Peter’s Square, Pope Francis announced his first canonization of new saints, including 813 15th-century martyrs who were beheaded for refusing to convert to Islam.

The 813 “Martyrs of Otranto” were slain in the southern Italian city in 1480, for refusing the demands of the Turkish invaders to renounce Christianity.

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Their approval for sainthood had been given by Pope Benedict XVI, in February, on the same day he announced his retirement.

Immediately after his election, last March, Pope Francis was calling for enhancing the dialogue with Islam, which makes his beatification of the martyrs a confusing signal at best.

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