CNS PHOTO | CHARLES PLATIAU, REUTERS

France is marking the 600th anniversary of the birth of St. Joan of Arc.

January 23, 2012

French President Nicolas Sarkozy praised his country's patron, St. Joan of Arc, for helping "forge the national conscience.

For the Church, Joan is a saint.

For the republic, she's the incarnation of the finest French virtues, including a patriotism that consists of loving one's homeland without resenting others," the president said Jan. 6 after attending Mass at Domremy to mark the 600th anniversary of her birth.

Celebrations throughout the year will include Masses, conferences and theatre productions, as well as a national pilgrimage in February. St. Joan, a 19-year-old peasant girl, was burned at the stake in Rouen in 1431 after rallying a French army against English invaders and lifting the siege of Orleans.

The national heroine is widely credited with altering the course of the 1337-1453 Hundred Years War and strengthening French nationhood.