Francis has approved decrees for 17 on path to sainthood

Pope Francis advanced the sainthood causes of a Lutheran convert who established a branch of the Bridgettine order in Sweden and a US missionary who died while ministering to the wounded in Vietnam.

During a December 14 meeting with Cardinal Angelo Amato, prefect of the Congregation for Saints’ Causes, the Pope signed a decree recognising a miracle attributed to the intercession of Blessed Mary Elizabeth Hesselblad, who refounded the Order of the Most Holy Saviour of St Bridget, better known as the Bridgettines and worked to restore the Order in Sweden and Italy.

Born in Sweden in 1870 and baptised into the Reform Church, she immigrated to the United States in 1886 to earn money for her family back home. After working as a nurse, she converted to Catholicism in 1902. Moving to Rome, she dedicated her life and her religious order to prayer and work for the attainment of Christian unity.

In 1931 Blessed Mary received control of the House of St Bridget in Rome and established a new congregation in England, and in 1937 established a Brigittine foundation in India.

St John Paul II beatified her in Rome in 2000.

The Pope also signed decrees recognising the miracles needed for the beatifications of:

— Fr Ladislao Bukowinski, a Ukrainian priest who died in Kazakhstan in 1974.

— Sister Maria Celeste Crostarosa, an Italian nun who founded the Order of the Most Holy Redeemer in the 18th century.

— Sister Mary of Jesus Santocanale, an Italian nun born in 1852, who founded the Congregation of the Capuchin Sisters of the Immaculate of Lourdes.

— Itala Mela, an Italian laywoman and Benedictine Oblate who died in 1957.

The Pope recognised the heroic virtues of a further four women and eight men, including New Hampshire native Brother William Gagnon — a member of the Hospitaller Order of Saint John of God. Brother Gagnon tended to the sick and wounded during the Vietnam War, before falling ill and dying in Ho Chi Minh City in 1972.

Francis also recognised the heroic virtues of Teresio Olivelli, an Italian layman who spoke out against fascism and Nazism before being arrested and imprisoned. Olivelli died trying to protect a fellow prisoner in a German concentration camp in 1945.