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Indian Catholics cheer first woman saint

The Age (Australia)
October 9, 2008 - 12:36PM

A young Roman Catholic nun who once disfigured herself to avoid marriage will become India's first woman saint on Sunday when she is canonised by Pope Benedict XVI.

A large number of Indian clergy and pilgrims are expected to attend the special mass at the Vatican for Sister Alphonsa Muttathupadathu, who died in 1946 at the age of 36.

She is only the second Indian to be elevated to sainthood after the 16th century martyr, Gonsalo Garcia, who was canonised in 1862. Albanian-born Mother Teresa of Calcutta, who died in 1997, was beatified in 2003 - the first step to sainthood.

Sister Alphonsa's pending canonisation has caused great excitement among Catholics in India and comes at a time when the Christian community in India has been feeling under considerable threat.

Around 35 people have been killed and numerous churches burned since August in anti-Christian violence in the eastern state of Orissa which has been strongly condemned by Pope Benedict.

Hardline Hindu groups have long accused missionaries of bribing poor tribespeople and low-caste Hindus to convert to Christianity by offering free education and health care.

"In these times, the canonisation is an encouraging moment for those suffering in the name of Jesus," said Father Alphonse Arokiam, who heads one of the churches dedicated to the popular saint-elect.

Christians account for 2.3 per cent of India's billion-plus Hindu majority population.

Such is the importance attached to Sunday's ceremony that the Communist government in Sister Alphonsa's home state of Kerala in southern India has despatched a cabinet minister to the Vatican.

And thousands are expected to crowd the site of her tomb in the small Keralan town of Bharananganam on Sunday for their own celebrations.

"It's a matter of great joy for the Indian Christian community that one of its believers is being canonised," said Father Dominic Emmanuel, spokesman for the Delhi Catholic archdiocese.

Born in 1910, Sister Alphonsa was so determined to enter a convent that she deliberately stepped into a burning fire to disfigure her feet so that her aunt would stop pressuring her to marry.

She was plagued by serious illness for much of her relatively short life, but was known for her stoicism and compassion. After her death, numerous miracles were attributed to her and her burial place became a pilgrimage site, especially for those seeking relief from ill health.

"She was not famous, she led an uneventful life. But she was able to see God's hand in her suffering and receive it with joy," said Arokiam.

The main miracle attributed to her intercession and approved by the Vatican involved the reported cure in 1999 of a one-year-old boy, Jinil Joseph, who was born with a birth defect affecting his lower limbs.

After a visit to Sister Alphonsa's tomb, his legs apparently straightened despite his parents being told they would only do so with expensive surgery.

"I pray to Sister Alphonsa every day for curing me. She made my life normal and I'm indebted to her for the miracle cure," said Jinil, who will be at the Vatican canonisation ceremony

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Kerala-born Sister Alphonsa
to be conferred sainthood tomorrow

Thiruvananthapuram, October 11, 2008 (Press Trust of India)- Two millennia of Indian Christianity will have its greatest moment of joy and pride when Pope Benedict XVI elevates Kerala-born Sister Alphonsa to the status of saint on Sunday.

Sister Alphonsa will become the first Indian woman to achieve the high spiritual position in the hall of fame and veneration of the Catholic Church.

Winding up the long-drawn process of canonisation which began half-a-century back, the Pontiff would confer sainthood on her along with three others from other parts of the world at a special four-hour long mass and allied ceremonies starting from 12.30 pm IST.

Hundreds of Keralite Christians from different parts of the world are expected to attend the event at the Vatican and share the jubilation.

Live screening, special services and a memorial meeting have been planned in the small town of Bharanangnam in Kerala's Kottayam District, where the self-effacing Alphonsa led her short life of unflinching faith in the first half of the 20th century.

The three others to be made saints are Italian priest and founder of Missionaries of Sacred Hearts of Jesus Fr Geatano Eerrico, Swiss foundress of the Congregation of Fransiscan Sisters of Mary Help of Christians Maria Bernarda Butler and Narcisa de Jesus Martillo, an Ecuadorian lay person.

According to church history, the first Indian person to become a Catholic saint was Gonzalo Garcia, a Jesuit born in Vasai near Mumbai. He died a martyr at Nagasaki in Japan in 1597 and was raised to the status of a saint in 1862.

According to Church sources, elevation of Sr Alphonsa as a saint is of special significance to Indian Christians as she is a 'home-grown' person born and brought up in the 2000-year old Syrian Christian traditions of Kerala.

According to church historians, Kerala is the cradle of Indian Christianity with St Thomas the apostle preaching the faith by landing at Crangannore (Kodungallur) in AD 52.

Alphonsa was born in a family of modest means as the fourth child of Muttathupadath Ouseph and Marian on August 19, 1910 at Kudamaloor in Kottayam district. She was christened Annakutty by her relatives.

She lost her mother when she was three-months old and her life was full of physical pain and suffering which she bore by seeking solace in deep spirituality tempered by steely faith in the providence above.

Since a very young age, she had shown an inclination for spiritual life. According to biographers, during her childhood she once deliberately burnt one of her legs so that she could avoid being accosted by suitors when she grew up.

Her will prevailed when she joined the convent of Poor Clares of Fransican Order at Bharananganam near her village in 1927. She spent the rest of her life there till her death in 1946.

When she was alive, people from the sleepy farming village and the hamlets around used to call on the unassuming nun who would pray for them to mitigate their sufferings. Some of the miracles attributed to her were said to have happened then.

Poster at St. Alphonsa Church in New Delhi.

Sister Alfonsa, Indian saint,
model of Christian charity

by Nirmala Carvalho

New Delhi, Oct. 11 (AsiaNews) - "I always remember her smiling face, all of us students knew that she was suffering from different ailments and was sick, but she was always smiling."

This is the personal recollection of Fr. Francis Vadakel, 72, about Blessed Alfonsa of the Immaculate Conception, who tomorrow, October 12, will be proclaimed a saint by Pope Benedict XVi in St. Peter's Square.

"She was a great consolation to students during examinations" Fr. Francis continues, "she understood the anxiety of children during the exams and was a counselor and adviser to the children."

There was something about her that "made her different from the others," and "grace was visible on her face."

The place where she is buried - the church of Blessed Alfonsa in the district of Kottayam - is still a pilgrimage destination for people who come to her tomb to pray and leave flowers."

"And not just Catholics, but many Muslims and Hindus too, attracted by the purity of her young long-suffering life and by her healing powers."

The baptismal name of the blessed is Anna Muttathupadam; she was born on August 19, 1919, in Kudamaloor, in Kerala, and at the age of 17 she entered the Congregation of the Immaculate Conception.

In 1936, she took perpetual vows at the monastery of the Claretians of Malabar in Bharananganam. Her work was teaching, but she soon had to leave it for health reasons. She bravely endured her illness until her death, on July 28, 1946, at the age of just 36.

The bishop of Palai began the diocesan process of beatification in 1955, and on November 9, 1984, she was declared venerable. On February 8, 1986, Pope John Paul II beatified her in Kottayam, in India, together with another Indian blessed, Kuriakose Elias Chavara.

“This is a great moment for the Indian Church," says Cardinal Varkey Vithayathil, head of the Indian bishops' conference, "God has raised up to the highest honour a person who the world considered useless and sickly. Today Blessed Alfonsa will be a living catechesis that the Catholic Church produces children who are holy bearing fruit, and in a twist of irony curing the sick, the humble one who understands the intimacy of union with Christ through suffering.”

The cardinal compares the life of the blessed with the experience of St. Teresa of Lisieux, in which the brevity of life marked by "physical suffering" is exalted by the "salvific dimension" that is present in faith in Christ, at a particular moment of the Indian Church, marked by the martyrdom and violence against Christians in many areas of the country.

"We live in a time," continues the president of the Indian bishops, "where the world wants to deny suffering and the cross, even the tremendous scientific and technological progress unfortunately are used to get rid to the suffering through any means there are other sinister developments. Some cast doubt on the right to life of the newborn disabled baby, and of others who are incurably sick and old, and of those whose lives - they judge - are no longer useful to society or meaningful to themselves. Due to this we see termination of pregnancy when the foetus is abnormal, and even euthanasia are all the result of the inability to accept this suffering."

The life of Blessed Alfonsa is taking on an even greater value in India, a society where there is still a rigid separation among the castes, and the underprivileged are kept at the margins of society.

"The canonization of Blessed Alfonsa," Cardinal Vithayathil concludes, "should force us to confront the grim reality upon which our success and world dominance depend - all money, power and other attractions end with death, but a live lived in holiness, in faith and lived communion with Christ, lives and continues to bear fruit even after the passing away of our mortal life."

Three U.S. churches named
for Sister Alphonsa, Oct 11, 2008

Three churches in the United States were named after Sister Alphonsa even before her canonization by Pope Benedict XVI on October 12 in the Vatican, reports the web-based news service

Sister Alphonsa lived in Bharanganam in Kottayam District in Kerala, India. Her mortal remains are buried there.

Parishioners at the Saint Alphonsa Church in San Fernando in Los Angeles claim that it is the first church to be named after her.

The church was started as a mission of the St. Thomas Syro-Malabar Diocese of Chicago in 2001. Sister Alphonsa was still a 'Blessed' (beatified), and there was no indication when she would become a saint. Beatification is the last step before canonization.

[Modificato da TERESA BENEDETTA 11/10/2008 18.29]
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India's Catholics celebrate
first woman saint

By Phil Stewart and D. Jose

VATICAN CITY/BHARANANGANAM, India, Oct. 12 (Reuters) - Pope Benedict created India's first woman saint Sunday and appealed for an end to anti-Christian violence there that has claimed dozens of lives since August.

Church bells rang and firecrackers went off as India's faithful followed the Vatican ceremony on television from southern Kerala state, where Sister Alphonsa had lived as a nun until her death more than six decades ago.

"As the Christian faithful of India give thanks to God for their first native daughter to be presented for public veneration, I wish to assure them of my prayers during this difficult time," Pope Benedict said in Rome.

Alphonsa is credited with curing illness and disease after her death in 1946, with the Vatican approving the reported miracle cure of Genil Joseph, a congenitally deformed child, in 1999. Alphonsa was beatified in 1986.

The canonization comes at a time when Christians, who make up just over 2 percent of India's billion-plus population, have come under fresh attack amid long-running tensions over religious conversions.

The murder of a Hindu leader in eastern Orissa state in August sparked some of the worst anti-Christian riots in decades, killing about 35 people and damaging dozens of churches.

"I urge the perpetrators of violence to renounce these acts and join with their brothers and sisters to work together in building a civilization of love," said the pope, who also made three people from other countries saints.

Thousands of Christians packed into a small church and a school auditorium in the Kerala town of Bharananganam, where Alphonsa lived, to watch the canonization ceremony.

Special masses were also held in Catholic churches across Kerala, where Saint Thomas, one of the 12 apostles, is believed to have arrived in 52 AD, bringing Christianity to India, a secular country with a dominant Hindu population.

"At a time when evil is so widespread, it is good to have something like this to keep our spirits up," said Sister Grace Kalriparambil, 77, who knew Alphonsa.

Alphonsa is India's second saint after Gonsalo Garcia, of Portuguese parentage, who was canonized in 1862. Albanian-born Mother Teresa, who served the poor and destitute in Kolkata, was beatified in 2003, a first step to canonization.

The Pontiff noted that Alphonsa, who deliberately disfigured herself at a young age to ward off suitors and enter the convent, had led a life of "extreme physical and spiritual suffering."

Catholics in India hoped Sister Alphonsa's sainthood would bring them strength.

"The elevation of Sister Alphonsa will help Christians to face the attacks across other parts of the country," said Father Joseph Kunnathuparampil.

Alphonsa, who died at the age of 36, was beatified in 1986 during former Pope John Paul II's visit to India, which has seen increased intolerance in the past two decades with a revival of Hindu nationalism.

Her tomb became a pilgrimage site and she was credited with several miracles, particularly curing illness and disease.

Roman Catholics account for 70 percent of India's Christian minority.

Indian Christians celebrate
canonisation of their first woman saint

by Emmanuelle Andreani

VATICAN CITY (AFP) - About 40,000 people attended a ceremony Sunday at which Pope Benedict XVI canonised four new saints, among them Sister Alfonsa, an Indian nun who became the country's first woman saint.

Many of those in St Peter's Square in Rome had come from India, among them large numbers of priests and nuns.

Born in 1910, Sister Alfonsa was so determined to enter a convent that she deliberately stepped into a burning fire to disfigure her feet so that her aunt would stop pressuring her to marry.

She was plagued by serious illness for much of her relatively short life, but was known for her stoicism and compassion. After her death, numerous miracles were attributed to her and her burial place became a pilgrimage site, especially for those seeking relief from ill health.

Recalling in his homily the life of the new saint the pope said she had been "an exceptional woman, who today is offered to the people of India as their first canonised woman saint."

She had lived in "extreme physical and spiritual suffering," the pope said.

She "was convinced that her cross was the very means of reaching the heavenly banquet prepared for her by the Father.

"May we imitate her in shouldering our own crosses so as to join her one day in paradise."

"This canonisation is very important to us, especially in this moment, when we are persecuted in India," said Sister Ceelia, a member of the same Franciscan Clarist order as the new saint, who was born Anna Muttathupandathu, and known as Alfonsa dell'Immacolata Concezione.

India's Christian minority, making up lttle more than two percent of the population, has felt particularly threatened in recent months.

Attacks by Hindu extremists on Christians in the eastern Indian state of Orissa have left 35 people dead since August.

Tens of thousands have fled and hundreds of houses and dozens of churches been burned down.

"Groups of criminals and mercenaries attack us because we educate the poor in our churches, preventing them from falling into their clutches," said Sister Teresa, another member of the order.

Benedict condemned the violence perpetrated against Christians in India and Iraq.

"I invite you to pray for peace and reconciliation.... I think of violence against Christians in Iraq and India," he said after the ceremony.

"As the Christian faithful of India give thanks to God for their first native daughter to be presented for public veneration, I wish to assure them of my prayers during this difficult time," Benedict said.

"I urge the perpetrators of violence to renounce these acts and join with their brothers and sisters to work together in building a civilisation of love," he said.

Hundreds of visitors to the sleepy town of Bharananganam in Kerala state in southwestern India offered special prayers ahead of the canonisation of Sister Alfonsa.

"I have been coming here for the past 20 years to seek blessings from her for my family, especially for my children's studies," said government official VJ Joseph.

"Today is an important day as the holy Church is declaring her a saint," said Joseph, who came with his wife and two children.

Others to be canonised at Sunday's ceremony included the Ecuadorian Narcisa de Jesus Martillo Moran (1832-1869), Swiss nun Maria Bernarda Buetler (1848-1924), who worked as a missionary in Ecuador and Colombia.

[Modificato da TERESA BENEDETTA 12/10/2008 20.28]
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Non-Catholics seek help from Catholic saint

The rainsoaked streets of the village of Bharananganam in Kerala state were filled with throngs of Christians, Hindus, and Muslims visited the tomb of St. Alphonsa.

Monday, October 13, 2008 By UCA News

The sleepy streets of Bharananganam village in Kerala state were filled with people who came to the village's St. Mary's Church, which houses Saint Alphonsa's tomb.

Church bells chimed and firecrackers were set off across Kerala when Pope Benedict XVI declared the Clarist nun a saint at St. Peter's square at 1:30 p.m., Indian time.

It rained heavily in the morning but about 50,000 people visited the tomb all the same, said Father Augustine Palackaparambil of Palai diocese, which now covers the area. The diocese, together with other dioceses in Kerala, plan a four-day commemoration starting on Nov. 9 in Bharananganam village, Father Palackaparambil, media coordinator for that event, told UCA News.

Saint Alphonsa, born in 1910, joined the Franciscan Clarist convent in Bharananganam and lived there until she died in 1946. The village is near Kottayam, a town 2,650 kilometers south of New Delhi.

"People of different faiths have visited the tomb and offered prayers. The chapel was packed for the 5 a.m. Mass," Father Palackaparambil said. He added that Masses were offered every hour from the morning until the canonization ceremony started at St. Peter's Square in the Vatican.

Ramesh Chandran, a Hindu and bank employee, said he visits the tomb once every year to offer prayers. I've received great favors from the saint. Whenever I have a problem or difficulties in life, I pray to her. I'm very happy today," he said about the canonization.

Also among the crowd at the tomb was Sarina Ibrahim, 14, who lives 20 kilometers from Bharananganam. The Muslim girl told UCA News she seeks the saint's help in her studies because "Saint Alphonsa is a saint of all" not only Christians.

Close to 10,000 people assembled at the St. Mary's auditorium near the church to watch the live telecast of the canonization ceremony from the Vatican. Media reported about 100,000 people attended the event.

During the internationally televised program, the pope also declared three other saints, Maria Bernarda Butler from Switzerland, Narcisa de Jesus Marlillo Moran from Ecuador and Father Gaetano Errico from Italy.

Five Franciscan Clarist nuns who knew Saint Alphonsa in the 1940s watched the canonization ceremony and reminisced with UCA News. They recalled how they interacted with the nun, who died at the age of 36, and said they were excited to have met India's first woman saint.

The nuns said they conversed with Sister Alphonsa as primary class students at St. Mary's School in Bharananganam, where the congregation has a school and a convent.

Sister Grace Kalariparambil said she was 5 years old when she first met the saint. "My aunt was a nun and roommate of Saint Alphonsa. Whenever I visited my aunt, Saint Alphonsa used to hug me. She was very fond of children," the now 77-year-old nun recounted.

Sister Fathima Mary, 80, recalled that when she finished high school, Saint Alphonsa invited her to join the congregation. "She was very loving. Her face was always beaming with compassion," Sister Mary said.

Sister Josetta, who attended the saint's funeral Mass, told UCA News she enjoyed talking to her. "I've vivid memories of meeting her on several occasions. Our meetings are the sweet memories of my childhood," the 71-year old nun said.

With Sister Alphonsa's canonization, India now has two saints. The other, Gonzalo Garcia, part Portuguese, was born in western India's Vasai region. The Franciscan lay brother was martyred in Nagasaki, Japan, in 1597 and was declared a saint in 1862.

14/10/2008 06.35
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I have not really done a search about the three other saints canonized yesterday, so let me start by what is available from news agency sources in terms of photographs, and their official Vatican biographies, starting with St. Alphonsa, since all the preceding stories are about her.


ALPHONSA OF THE IMMACULATE CONCEPTION was born in Kudamalur, the Arpookara region, in the diocese of Changanacherry, India, on August 19, 1910, of the ancient and noble family of Muttathupadathu.

From her birth, the life of the Blessed was marked by the cross, which would be progressively revealed to her as the royal way to conform herself to Christ.

Her mother, Maria Puthukari, gave birth to her prematurely, in her eighth month of pregnancy, as a result of a fright she received when, during the sleep, a snake wrapped itself around her waist.

Eight days later, the 28 of August, the child was baptised in the Syro-Malabar rite by the Fr. Joseph Chackalayil, and she received the name Annakutty, a diminutive of Anne. She was the last of five children. Her mother died three months later.

Annakutty passed her early infancy in the home of her grandparents in Elumparambil. There she lived a particularly happy time because of her human and Christian formation, during which the first seeds of a vocation flowered.

Her grandmother, a pious and charitable woman, communicated the joy of the faith, love for prayer and a surge of charity towards the poor to her. At five years of age the child already knew how to lead, with a totally childish enthusiasm, the evening prayer of the family gathered, in accordance with the Syro-Malabar custom, in the “prayer room”.

Annakutty received the Eucharistic bread for the first time on November 11, 1917. She used to say to her friends: “Do you know why I am so particularly happy today? It is because I have Jesus in my heart!”.

In a letter to her spiritual father, on the 30 of November 1943, she confided the following: “Already from the age of seven I was no longer mine. I was totally dedicated to my divine Spouse. Your reverence knows it well”.

In the same year of 1917 she began to attend the elementary school of Thonnankuzhy, where she also established a sincere friendship with the Hindu children. When the first school cycle ended in 1920, the time had come to transfer to Muttuchira, to the house of her aunt Anna Murickal, to whom her mother, before she died, had entrusted her as her adoptive mother.

Her aunt was a severe and demanding woman, at times despotic and violent in demanding obedience from Annakutty in her every minimal disposition or desire. Assiduous in her religious practice, she accompanied her niece, but did not share the young girl’s friendship with the Carmelites of the close-by Monastery or her long periods of prayer at the foot of the altar.

She was, in fact, determined to procure an advantageous marriage for Annakutty, obstructing the clear signs of her religious vocation. The virtue of the Blessed was manifested in accepting this severe and rigid education as a path of humility and patience for the love of Christ,and tenaciously resisted the reiterated attempts at engagement to which the aunt tried to oblige her.

Annakutty, in order to get out from under a commitment to marriage, reached the point of voluntarily causing herself a grave burn by putting her foot into a heap of burning embers.

“My marriage was arranged when I was thirteen years old. What had I to do to avoid it? I prayed all that night... then an idea came to me. If my body were a little disfigured no one would want me! ... O, how I suffered! I offered all for my great intention”.

The proposal to defile her singular beauty did not fully succeed in freeing her from the attentions of suitors. During the following years, the Blessed had to defend her vocation, even during the year of probation when an attempt to give her in marriage, with the complicity of the Mistress of Formation herself, was made.

“O, the vocation which I received! A gift of my good God!.... God saw the pain of my soul in those days. God distanced the difficulties and estabblished me in this religious state”.

It was Fr. James Muricken, her confessor, who directed her towards Franciscan spirituality and put her in contact with the Congregation of the Franciscan Clarists. Annakutty entered their college in Bharananganam in the diocese of Palai, to attend seventh class, as an intern student, on the 24th of May 1927.

The following year, on the 2nd of August 1928, Annakutty began her postulancy, taking the name of Alphonsa of the Immaculate Conception in honour of St. Alphonsus Liguori, whose feast it was that day. She was clothed in the religious habit on the 19th of May 1930, during the first pastoral visit made to Bharananganam by the Bishop, Msgr. James Kalacherry.

The period 1930-1935 was characterised by grave illness and moral suffering. She could teach the children in the school at Vakakkad only during the scholastic year 1932.

Then, because of her weakness, she carried out the duties of assistant-teacher and catechist in the parish. She was engaged also as secretary, especially to write official letters because of her beautiful script.

The canonical novitiate was introduced into the Congregation of the Franciscan Clarists in 1934. Though wishing to enter immediately, the Blessed was only admitted on the 12th of August 1935 because of her ill health.

About one week after the beginning of hernovitiate, she had a haemorrhage from the nose and eyes and a profound organic wasting and purulent wounds on her legs. The illness deteriorated, to such a point that the worst was feared.

Heaven came to the rescue of the holy novice. During a novena to the Servant of God Fr. Kuriakose Elia Chavara - a Carmelite who today is a Blessed — she was miraculously and instantaneously cured. [What other cases are there, if any, of a saint having been the beneficiary himself/herself of someone else's miracle!]

Having re-started her novitiate, she wrote the following proposals in her spiritual diary: “I do not wish to act or speak according to my inclinations. Every time I fail, I will do penance... I want to be careful never to reject anyone. I will only speak sweet words to others. I want to control my eyes with rigour. I will ask pardon of the Lord for every little failure and I will atone for it through penance. No matter what my sufferings may be, I will never complain if I have to undergo any humiliation, I will seek refuge in the Sacred Heart of Jesus”.

The 12th of August 1936, the feast of St. Clare, the day of her perpetual profession, was a day of inexpressible spiritual joy. She had realised her desire, guarded for a long time in her heart and confided to her sister Elizabeth when she was only 12 years old: “Jesus is my only Spouse, and none other”.

Jesus, however, wished to lead His spouse to perfection through a life of suffering. “I made my perpetual profession on August 12, 1936,
August 1936 and came here to Bharanganam on the following 14th. From that time, it seems, I was entrusted with a part of the cross of Christ. There are abundant occasions of suffering... I have a great desire to suffer with joy. It seems that my Spouse wishes to fulfill this desire”.

Painful illnesses followed each other: typhoid fever, double pneumonia, and, the most serious of all, a dramatic nervous shock, the result of fright on seeing a thief during the night of Oct. 15, 1940).... Her state of psychic incapacity lasted for about a year, during which she was unable to read or write.

In every situation, Sister Alphonsa always maintained a great reserve and charitable attitude towards here Sisters, silently undergoing her sufferings. In 1945 she had a violent outbreak of illness.

A tumour, which had spread throughout her organs, transformed her final year of life into a continuous agony. Gastro-enteritis and liver problems caused violent convulsions and vomiting up to forty times a day: “I feel that the Lord has destined me to be an oblation, a sacrifice of suffering... I consider a day in which I have not suffered as a day lost to me”.

With this attitude of a victim for the love of the Lord, happy until the final moment and with a smile of innocence always on her lips, Sister Alphonsa quietly and joyfully brought her earthly journey to a close in the convent of the Franciscan Clarists at Bharananganam at 12.30 on the 28th July 1946, leaving behind the memory of a Sister full of love and a saint.

Alphonsa of the Immaculate Conception Muttathupadathu was proclaimed Blessed by Pope John Paul II in Kottayam, India, on February 8, 1986.

With today’s Canonisation, the Church in India presents its first Saint to the veneration of the faithful of the whole world. Faithful from every part of the world have come together in a single act of thanksgiving to God in her name and in a sign of the great oriental and western traditions, Roman and Malabar, which Sr. Alphonsa lived and harmonised in her saintly life.

[Modificato da TERESA BENEDETTA 14/10/2008 23.09]
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I apologize for the uneven lines - it is redious enough to adjust line lengths on a PDF document, as it has to be done line by line, and even then, one tends to miss in places, so this is what happens when one tries to do it at 2 o'clock in the morning! I will go in and make the adjustments as soon as I have the chance.


MARY BERNARD (Verena Bütler) was born in Auw, in the Canton of Aargau, in Switzerland, on the 28th of May 1848 and was baptised
on the same day.

She was the fourth child of Henry and Catherine Bütler, modest but exemplary country people, who educated the eight children born of their marriage in the love of God and of neighbour.

Gifted with excellent health, Verena grew up happy, intelligent, generous and a lover of nature. She began to attend school at seven years of age.

The fervour and commitment with which she made her First Communion, on the 16th of April 1860, remained constant in her for the rest of her life. Devotion to the Eucharist would, in fact, form the foundation of her spirituality.

Having completed her elementary studies at the age of 14, Verena
dedicated herself to farm work and experienced affection for a worthy young man with whom she fell in love. On feeling the call of God, she broke off the engagement in order to turn completely to the Lord.

During this period in her life she was granted the grace of enjoying the presence of God, feeling Him very close. She herself said: “To explain this state of soul to someone who has never experienced anything similar is extremely difficult, if not impossible”.

And also: “The Holy Spirit taught me to adore, praise, bless and give thanks to Jesus in the tabernacle at all times, even at work and in real life.

Drawn by the love of God, she entered a convent in her region as a postulant at 18 years of age. However, becoming aware that it was not the place to which the Lord was calling her, Verena very quickly returned home.

Work, prayer and apostolic activity in the parish kept her desire for the consecrated life alive. At the suggestion of her Pastor, Verena
entered the Franciscan Monastery of Mary Help of Sinners in Altstätten on the 12th of November 1867.

She took the Franciscan habit on the 4th of May 1868, taking the name of Sister Mary Bernard of the Heart of Mary, and made her Religious Profession on the 4th of October 1869 with the firm proposal of serving the Lord until death in the contemplative life.

She was very soon elected Mistress of Novices and Superior of the
Community on three occasions, carrying out this fraternal service for
nine consecutive years. Her zeal and love for the Kingdom of God had prepared her to begin a new missionary experience.

Having willingly accepted the invitation of Msgr. Peter Schumacher, Bishop of Portoviejo in Ecuador, who, outlining the precarious situation of his people, asked her to come to his Diocese. Mary Bernard clearly saw the will of God, who was calling her to be an announcer of the Gospel in that far away country, in this invitation.

Having overcome the initial resistance of the Bishop of St. Gall
and obtained a regular pontifical indult, Sr. Mary Bernard and six companions left the Monastery in Altstätten and set out for Ecuador on the 19th of June 1888. Only their light of faith and zeal to announce the Gospel sustained the Blessed and her companions in the difficult separation from their beloved Monastery and Sisters.

In her intentions, Mary Bernard thought of giving birth to amissionary
foundation dependent on the Swiss Monastery. The Lord, however, made her instead the foundress of a new Religious Congregation, that of the Franciscan Missionary Sisters of Mary Help of Sinners.

They were received paternally by the Bishop, who entrusted to Mary Bernard the community of Chone, which presented a distressing spectacle because of the total lack of priests, scant religious
practice and rampant immorality.

Mary Bernard became “everything to everyone”, placing prayer, poverty, fidelity to the Church and the constant exercise of the works of mercy at the base of her missionary work. She, together with her daughters, began an intense apostolate among families, deepening their knowledge of the language and of the culture of the people. The first fruits did not delay in maturing. The Christian life of the people blossomed again as if by magic.

The new Franciscan Congregation also grew in number and two filial houses were founded in Santa Ana and Canoa. Very soon after, however, the missionary work of Mother Mary Bernard was marked by the mystery of the Cross.

Many indeed were the sufferings to which she and her daughters were submitted: absolute poverty, torrid heat, uncertainty and difficulties of every kind, risks to their health and security of their lives, misunderstanding on the part of ecclesiastical authorities and, besides, the separation of some Sisters from the community, establishing themselves later as an autonomous congregation (the Franciscans of the Immaculate: Blessed Charity Brader).

Mary Bernard underwent all this with heroic fortitude and in silence without defending herself or nourishing resentment towards anyone, but forgiving them from her heart and praying for those who made her suffer.

As if all these trials were not enough, a violent persecution in 1895,
begun by forces hostile to the Church, obliged Sr. Mary Bernard and
her Sisters to flee from Ecuador. Without knowing where to go, she
went, with 14 Sisters, towards Bahia, from where she continued
towards Colombia.

The group was still wandering when it received an invitation from
Msgr. Eugene Biffi to work in his Diocese of Cartagena. So, on the 2nd
of August 1895, the feast of the Porziuncola of Assisi, the Foundress
and her Sisters, exiled from Ecuador, reached Cartagena, and were
received paternally by the Bishop.

They found hospitality in a female hospital, commonly called a “Pious Work”. The Lord had led her by the hand towards that asylum, where Mother Mary Bernard would remain to the end of her life.

After the house in Cartagena, the Foundation was extended not only in Columbia but also in Austria and Brasil. With a compassionate heart, authentically Franciscan, she engaged above all in relieving the spiritual and material needs of the poor, whom she always considered to be her favourites.

She used to say to the Sisters: “Open your houses to help the poor and
marginalised. Give preference to the care of the indigent over all
other activity”.

The Mother guided her Congregation over thirty years. Even after resigning from the Office of Superior General, she continued to animate her dear Sisters with feelings of true humility, especially through the example of her life and her words and writings.

Struck by piercing hypogastric pains, while at the “Pious Work”
in Cartagena, an establishment of her Daughters, and loved and
venerated by all as an authentic saint, Mary Bernard quietly went to
sleep in the Lord on the 19th of May 1924.

She was 74 years of age, 56 in the consecrated life and 38 in missionary life. News of her death spread quickly. The Pastor of the Cathedral of Cartagena announced her passing away, saying to the faithful: “A saint has died in this city, this morning: the reverend Mother Bernard!”

Her tomb immediately became a centre of pilgrimage and a place of prayer. The apostolic zeal and ardour of charity of Mother Mary Bernard are being re-lived today in the Church, particularly through the0Congregation founded by her, present at the moment in various
countries on three continents.

The Blessed can be pointed out as an authentic model of “inculturation”, the urgency of which the Church has underlined for an efficient announcement of the Gospel (cf. Redemptoris Missio, n. 52). She incarnated perfectly her orienting motto: “My guide, my star, is the Gospel”.

During her life, she found support and comfort in God alone. From the time she abandoned her homeland, to which she never went back, when she left her dear Monastery in Altstätten and during her untiring apostolic activity, she was always sustained by a solid spirituality of unceasing prayer, heroic charity towards God and her neighbour, by a faith that was solid as rock, by an unlimited trust in the Providence of God, by evangelical strength and humility, and by a radical fidelity to the commitments of her consecrated life.

From her contemplation of the mysteries of the Most Holy Trinity, the Eucharist and the Passion of the Lord, she also drew the gift of mercy
towards all, which she practised and left as the particular charism of
her Congregation.

Very devoted to the Virgin Mother of the Lord, she wished her Congregation to have Our Lady Help of Sinners as mother, protector and life model in her discipleship of Christ and in her missionary activity.

As a Franciscan, she cultivated the same veneration which St. Francis of Assisi nourished for “Holy Mother Church”, Pastors and priests, whom she called “the anointed of the Lord”.

The Blessed left an admirable example of the biblical woman: strong, prudent, mystical, spiritual teacher and notable missionary. She left the Church a wonderful testimony of dedication to the cause of the Gospel, teaching all, especially today, that it is possible to unite
contemplation and action, life with God and service to humanity,
bringing God to men and women, and men and women to God.

The Servant of God Pope John Paul II conferred the title and
honour of Blessed her on the 29th of October 1995. The Holy Father,
Benedict XVI, inscribed her in the register of Saints on the 12th of
October 2008.

A nun holds up a statue of St. Mary Bernard in celebrations held in Cartagena, Colombia.

A Swiss delegation from St. Mary Bernard's home country at the Vatican rites.

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Photos below show Ecuadorian faithful celerbating the cnonization Saturdya night and Sunday monring in Codol, her hometown:

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18/10/2008 13.58
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[Completely eclipsed in my parish by One World Week - I've posted the pic out of respect for Saint Luke, God bless him!]

20/10/2008 15.04
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Parents of St. Therese of Liseux
Beatified in Lisieux October 19, 2008

I apologize I have not been able to do 'due diligence' on picking out the best 'wrap-up' story about the Martins, but in the meantime, here is a reflection from someone who has been writing about saints for some time. I will put in more informative stories later. Let me just say that watching the Beatification Mass for them yesterday - tiece, on direct and on replay - was a most edifying and gratifying spiritual experience.

His wife's a 'saint',
but so is he


Father Martin is the author of the book My Life With the Saints.

After their wedding in Alençon, France, on July 13, 1858, Louis Martin and Zélie Guérin refrained from sex for 10 months.

The impetus for that arrangement, known as a "Josephite marriage" (after the celibate relationship between St. Joseph and his wife, Mary), came from Louis, who had earlier hoped to enter a monastery. Eventually, a frustrated Zélie escorted her husband to a local priest, who assured them that raising children was a sacred activity.

They took his advice: Before her death in 1877, Zélie bore nine children -- five of whom joined religious orders.

We would know little about Louis or Zélie were it not for their youngest daughter, Thérèse, who entered a Carmelite monastery in Lisieux and became one of the church's most popular saints. St. Thérèse of Lisieux, the "Little Flower," was canonized in 1925.

This Sunday in the basilica of Lisieux, Louis and Zélie will be beatified, the Catholic church's final step before canonization, positioning them to join the rarefied company of saints who were married.

That brief list includes Saints Peter, Monica, Thomas More and the American-born Elizabeth Ann Seton. The roster of saints married to one another is even shorter: Isadore and Maria, 10th-century Spanish farmers, are among the few.

The Lisieux ceremony follows the Vatican's approval, in July, of the required miracle -- the healing of a man with a malformation of the lung. But the beatification raises questions about the models of life being presented to Catholics. What can a man and woman who planned to live celibately say to married couples today?

The two traditional roles of the saints are the patron (who intercedes on behalf of those on earth) and the companion (who provides believers with an example of Christian life). And the paucity of lay saints -- more specifically, married ones -- in the roster is somewhat embarrassing.

Two reasons underlie this anomaly: the outmoded belief, almost as old as the church, that the celibate life was "better" than married life, and the fact that the church's canonization process is an arduous one, requiring someone to gather paperwork, interview contemporaries if that is still possible and present the case to the Congregation for the Causes of Saints.

Certainly there have been as many saintly wives and husbands as there have been holy priests and nuns. But religious orders and dioceses know how to navigate the canonization procedures on behalf of bishops, priests, brothers and sisters.

By contrast, how many families have the resources to embark on the decades-long process on behalf of even the holiest mother or father? As a result, married Catholics have few exemplars other than Mary and Joseph, whose situation was hardly replicable.

Since the Second Vatican Council, which emphasized the "universal call to holiness," Rome has stepped up its efforts to canonize more lay and married people. The Vatican hopes to expand the "calendar of saints" beyond those who sport miters, collars and veils in order to provide Catholics with lives that they can emulate, not simply admire. But do Louis and Zélie fit the bill?

No one doubts that the Martins led the traditional life of "heroic sanctity" required for sainthood. Though obviously biased, St. Thérèse wrote: "The Good God gave me a father and mother more worthy of heaven than of earth." They were devoted to one another, to their children and to their faith.

During their first year of marriage, the couple took into their home a young boy whose mother had died. And whenever Louis and Zélie were apart, they exchanged the tenderest of letters. "Your husband and true friend who loves you forever," Louis wrote.

One lesson that believers might take from the new "blesseds" is that sanctity comes in many styles. If it were up to their youthful selves, neither would have married: Zélie wanted to be a nun as much as Louis hoped to be a monk.

After setting aside their celibacy, they provided a warm home for their children, five of whom fulfilled their parents' thwarted hopes for life in a religious order. The wife died early; the grieving husband struggled with mental illness, including hallucinations in which he saw "frightful things," according to his daughter Céline.

Throughout their complicated lives Blessed Louis and Zélie Martin tried to love as best they could, something that is still relevant -- and not just to married couples. And whose life, and which saint's life, is "typical" anyway? Holiness, as the lives of the saints remind us, always makes its home in humanity.

For those who are interested, here is a most useful link:

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Saint Mary Salome

Saint Mary Salome was the wife of Zebedee and the mother of the apostles John and James the Greater. Known as the "Sons of Thunder", these two great men were among the first to be chosen by Jesus to follow Him. Mary Salome, their mother, would be one of the "three Marys" to follow Jesus and minister to Him and His disciples. Thought to be the financial source for their travels, Mary Salome, along with Mary Magdalene and others, would give all they had to further the works of Jesus and His followers.

Mary Salome was a witness to the crucifixion, entombment and was mentioned by St Mark as one of the women who went to anoint the Lord's body, finding Him to be resurrected. In the Gospel, Mary Salome asks what place her sons will have in the Kingdom. Jesus tells her that it is the Father who decides and that they will have to follow His example and earn their place in paradise. Legend says that after Pentecost, Mary Salome would travel to Veroli, Italy where she would preach the Gospel for the rest of her life. She would become the patron saint of this historic city.

Many women of this day and age can relate to a women of such faith as Mary Salome. She watched her sons drop what they were doing, leave the family business and follow a man they knew little about. At first, this must have been frightening. But, just as many mothers have watched their sons leave, maybe to go off to war, great faith carried her through and even led her to take up the same cause as her sons. May we all have the faith and love of Mary Salome.

This Wednesday, October 22nd, we celebrate the feast day of St Mary Salome, mother of the apostles John and James.

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Saints: Miracle Workers

The Tampa Tribune
Published: October 20, 2008

Darlene Yetta doesn't. As owner of Just for Heaven's Sake, a South Tampa Catholic gift store, she hears lots of stories from customers who believe a saint has interceded on their behalf.

Who couldn't use some divine intervention about now?

Want to sell your house? Call on St. Joseph, a carpenter whose homebuilding skills ensured that his son Jesus and wife, Mary, always had a roof over their heads. Have a desperate cause for which there seems no solution? Turn to St. Jude, a martyr whose New Testament letter stresses that the faithful should persevere when the going gets harsh.

"We think nothing of asking a friend to pray for us," Yetta says. "So what's wrong with going the next step and asking for some saintly intercession?"

By definition, saints demonstrated high levels of sanctity and holiness during their lifetimes and, usually, are recognized posthumously by a religious denomination. Catholics claim the bulk of them — some 10,000 have been recognized by the church — but nearly every religion has its super-revered, those whose wisdom and grace merit special status.

"They were ordinary people just like us, who lived on Earth and did exemplary things in their lives," Yetta says. "I call them everyday heroes."

In early centuries, Catholic saints earned their due mainly by popular local acclamation. Some suffered brutal deaths in the name of God. Thankfully, that bloody chapter in history subsided, with deep spirituality and selfless sacrifice becoming more common paths to sainthood.

These days, achieving saintly status is a lengthy, bureaucratic process overseen by the Vatican. It includes a thorough examination of the nominees' lives for heroic virtue and doctrinal orthodoxy, and their association with miracles.

And what the church giveth, the church can taketh away. Christopher, a third-century martyr and one of the most beloved saints, got a demotion in the 1969 reform of the Roman calendar.

According to legend, a child asked Christopher to carry him across a river. That child turned out to be incredibly heavy — he was actually Jesus, carrying the weight of the world on his shoulders. Thus, Christopher became the patron saint of travelers.

Centuries later, a church review of Christopher's story found no evidence to support it. So he lost his Feast Day (July 25) and is now recognized only on local diocesan calendars. But that doesn't stop Catholics from wearing St. Christopher medals or hanging his image on their car's rearview mirror.

The most prolific bestower of saintly status was the late Pope John Paul II, who named 476 saints in his 27-year tenure — more than the combined total named during the preceding 500 years. Some speculate he will one day hold the title of St. John Paul himself.

Unity Across Time, Space

The Rev. Pat McCloskey, editor of St. Anthony Messenger magazine, a Cincinnati-based publication, says saints give us "strength, protection and companionship." He says they are "daily reminders of the providence of God."

"Look at how they overcame situations that seemed impossible. They showed us that in a world running amok, there is nothing beyond God's care and control," McCloskey says.

Saints also are meant to remind the living of a connection between this world and the hereafter, uniting all believers across time and space.

Over the years, some saints have become "patrons" of particular causes, groups or special interests, usually for particular circumstances in their own lives. They're listed in alphabetical order at — from beekeepers (St. Ambrose) to youth (St. Aloysius Gonzaga, among others).

Headache sufferers can ask St. Teresa of Avila for relief, and dogs have a special friend in St. Roch.

Catholics pray to patron saints in hopes they will intercede with God in their favor. McCloskey says he has some troubles with that concept.

"It may give the impression that God is pretty difficult to deal with, and you need a friend in court. Someone to run interference or fix a parking ticket for you," he says. "I prefer the idea that saints are there to remind us that this is always God's world, and while we have plenty of reasons to be concerned these days, we don't have to despair."

My Cousin, The Saint

Justin Catanoso found that comfort in a saint with whom he shares an unusual bond.

In 2001, he learned that Pope John Paul II had beatified his grandfather's cousin, Padre Gaetano Catanoso, four years earlier.

Justin Catanoso, a North Carolina-based business editor who teaches at Wake Forest University, was a lapsed Catholic at the time. But this new knowledge prompted him to journey back to the old country to learn more about the man who dedicated his life to serving the poor and founding an order of nuns. He was at St. Peter's Square with his wife and daughters on Oct. 23, 2005, when Pope Benedict XVI canonized the miracle worker from Calabria, Italy.

The experience has helped him cope with his brother's death and to confront his own shaky spiritual moorings. He tells the story in his recently published book, "My Cousin The Saint: A Search for Faith, Family and Miracles" (William Morrow, $24.95).

"As a journalist, I felt a certain obligation to research this when I found out I was related to an actual saint," Catanoso says. "The more I found out, the more inspired I got. I wanted to get to know this compelling person and learn from him."

He has now reconnected to the faith of his childhood and his forefathers. "I've got a foot in the door, but I'm still asking a lot of questions," he says. Like many Catholics, he's comforted by what saints can offer in these trying times, and he understands why believers turn to saints for miracles, blessings and prayerful favors.

But Catanoso cautions to keep the focus on the bigger picture. He suggests looking at the lives the saints led as examples for our own, such as helping our neighbors with both material and moral support.

That's what a saint would have done.

"Saints had the consistency of faith through hard times. They had a trust in God when everything seems upside down," Catanoso said. "They've been recognized for a reason. And we can learn much from them."

So you say we could use a miracle about now? There's a patron saint for just about every cause imaginable. Work at a suffering restaurant? Talk to St. Martha. Worried about gas prices? Try St. Eligius. Need to get your house sold? St. Joseph's your man.

The belief is simple: Follow the example set by your patron saint, and ask him or her for intercessory prayers.

Here's a look at the popular patrons for today's troubling times.

Born: About 590
Feast Day: Dec. 1
Patron for: Gas station workers
Back story: An extremely skillful metal smith, Eligius used his talents and wealth for the benefit of humanity. One of his notable acts: He founded a convent that housed 300 virgins.

Born: 1260
Patron for: Cancer patients
Back story: After learning he was afflicted with cancer of the foot, he prayed fervently the night before the appendage was to be amputated. When he awoke the next morning, the cancer was gone.

Born: First century
Feast Day: July 29
Patron for: Waiters and waitresses
Back story: A Scripture tells how Jesus came to Bethany to share a meal with three good friends. One, Lazarus, rose from the dead, and another, Mary, caused a commotion when she anointed Jesus with an expensive perfume. The third was Martha. All that was said of her was, "Martha served."

Born: Of heavenly origin, date unknown
Feast Day: Sept. 29
Patron for: Banking, grocers, police, paratroopers
Back story: He was one of the good angels in the battle fought in heaven against Satan and his followers. He's described in Scripture as "one of the chief princes" and leader of the forces of heaven in their triumph over the powers of hell.

Born: 1181
Feast Day: Oct. 4
Patron for: Merchants, ecology (and, of course, animals)
Back story: The son of a wealthy businessman, Francis was happy, charming and a natural born leader. He was a knight before an encounter with God changed everything. He became a pacifist and renounced his wealth, giving up all to pursue a simple life and to honor creation.

Born: 1567
Feast Day: Jan. 24
Patron for: Writers and journalists
Back story: A prolific writer, Francis is said to have converted some 40,000 people to Catholicism. He believed the worst sin was to judge people or gossip against them.

Born: Eighth century
Patron for: Troubled marriages
Back story: Gengulf was a knight who faithfully served Pepin the Short, the mayor of the palace of Merovingian kings. He had a disastrous marriage with an unfaithful wife, and finally left her, dedicating his life to penance and almsgiving. He was reportedly assassinated by his wife's lover as he lay sleeping.

Born: 1603
Feast Day: Sept. 18
Patron for: Air travelers
Back story: Joseph, a priest in the Franciscan order, was often seen levitating while saying Mass or praying. Once, as Christmas carols were being sung, he soared to the high altar and knelt in the air.

Sources: "Butler's Lives of Saints";;; and "All Saints: Daily Reflections on Saints, Prophets, and Witnesses for Our Time."

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India's new saint
comes alive on big screen

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM, India, Oct. 27 (Reuters) – A film about a Roman Catholic nun who was declared India's first woman saint, opens in cinemas in November, just weeks after the Pope canonized her in a special ceremony at the Vatican.

Sister Alphonsa, who deliberately disfigured herself at a young age to ward off suitors and enter the convent, died at the age of 36 more than six decades ago.

Her tomb in the southern Indian state of Kerala, became a pilgrimage site and she was credited with several miracles, particularly curing illness and disease.

Last month, Pope Benedict declared Sister Alphonsa a saint, and soon after a local filmmaker announced that he was making a film on her life, hoping it would spark interest in the saint's life, who is little known beyond her native state.

"St. Alphonsa," made in the regional Malayalam language and spoken in the nun's native state of Kerala, begins with a priest narrating the story of her life to a group of children visiting her tomb.

"I was a regular visitor to her tomb. I have experienced a divine feeling after making the film," said V. S. Jose, who co-directed the 90-minute film with Jayeendra Sharma.

"I am sure the viewers will also get the same feeling."

Alphonsa's canonization took place on October 12, at a time when Christians, who make up just over 2 percent of India's billion-plus population, have come under fresh attack amid long-running tensions over religious conversions.

But the film steers clear of religious riots, piecing together the saint's life with the help of books and people who were associated with Alphonsa.

"St. Alphonsa" was shot in locations around Bharananganam, where Alphonsa lived until her death.

"It shows the ancestral home of the saint, the school where she studied and the convent where she served as a nun," Jose said.

The low-budget film, slated for release in Kerala on November 6, features an actress who closely resembles the nun.

Alphonsa is India's second saint after Gonsalo Garcia, of Portuguese parentage, who was canonized in 1862.

Albanian-born Mother Teresa, who served the poor and destitute in Kolkata, was beatified in 2003, a first step to canonization.
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PapaBear, are you going to be there?

Father Damien's canonization spurs travel plans

By Honolulu Star-Bulletin staff

POSTED: 01:30 a.m. HST, Nov 22, 2008

The date has not been set yet for the canonization of Father Damien DeVeuster, but Hawaii Catholics are making plans for festivities here and in Rome.

Pope Benedict XVI is expected to declare the priest a saint no sooner than next fall, a date that will not be set until a February meeting of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints at the Vatican.

A local commission appointed by Hawaii Catholic Bishop Larry Silva has begun plans for a pilgrimage tour that will take islanders to Rome for the ceremony and to Belgium, homeland of the priest who died in 1889 in Kalaupapa after serving leprosy victims there for 16 years.

Randy King, president of Seawind Tours & Travel, said there has been "a flood of calls" since an announcement that his company was selected to organize the tour. King and members of the commission will visit Rome in January to assess hotel accommodations and other tour locations.

There will be options for tour members. There will be at least five days in Rome, King said. Other options will include a visit to Belgium, particularly Tremeloo, Damien's birthplace, and the opportunity to add extra days in Italy or France.

A day trip will be planned to Assisi in Italy, the home of St. Francis, a 13th-century monk who founded the Franciscan religious order. The side trip is in honor of Mother Marianne Cope, who led Franciscan sisters from New York to Hawaii to care for leprosy patients in 1883. Her cause has cleared the second of three steps in the Vatican's bureaucratic process of declaring a saint.

People interested in the pilgrimage may register at or call 949-4144. King said information updates will be offered as the planning moves forward. About 200 people traveled with Seawind Tours to the 1995 Damien beatification ceremony in Brussels, Belgium.

The Father Damien/Mother Marianne Commission also plans celebrations in Hawaii.

The bishop has been informed that a relic of Damien, one of his bones, will be given to the Hawaii diocese. It will be enshrined in Our Lady of Peace Cathedral in downtown Honolulu, where Damien was ordained.

The Eternal Word Television Network has notified the diocese that it will televise the canonization rites.

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Canonization of Fr Damien

Sadly, there's still that pesky dialysis treatment, not covered by insurance when done outside the U.S. - at $1700 a treatment it's not really in my budget.  Only the good Lord could arrange that ...

Hey, maybe the canonization could be done in Hawaii?  Only dreaming ... Bishop Larry couldn't afford the security for having Papa come, I'm sure ... but, one can only dream ...  EVERYONE has a secret desire to come to Hawaii, don't they?  And think about the remaining patients of Hanson's disease - to have the canonization take place in Kalaupapa in Fr Damien's church!!!  But, I'm sure that little enclave couldn't support the crowds that would come ...  so, on to Rome and Assisi!

I'm sure some of my friends will want to go and they can take some leis for the Holy Father (another dream!) for me ... 

[SM=g27828] [SM=g27828] [SM=g27828] [SM=g27828] [SM=g27828]

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November 24, 2008

There have been a series of beatifications and canonizations for the Christian martyrs of Japan, most of them from the 17th century:

- The 26 Martyrs of Japan (1597)
On February 5, 1597, twenty-six Christians – six European Franciscan missionaries, three Japanese Jesuits and seventeen Japanese laymen including three young boys – were executed by crucifixion in Nagasaki. These individuals were raised on crosses and then pierced through with spears. They were canonized by Blessed Pius IX in 1862 and are listed in the liturgical calendar as St. Paul Miki and companions, with their feast day on Feb. 6
- 205 Martyrs of Japan (1597–1637), beatified in 1867
- 16 Martyrs of Japan (1633–1637), beatified in 1981, canonized in 1987
- 2 Martyrs of Japan (1632), beatified in 1989
- Petrus Kibe Kasui and 187 Companion Martyrs of Japan, to be beatified on Nov. 24, 2008

Cardinal Saraiva Martins, former Prefect of the Congregation for the Cause of Sainthood, presided at the rites in representation of Pope Benedict XVI.

Vatican beatifies
5 priests and 183 lay martyrs
from the 17th century

in Nagasaki

NAGASAKI, Japan, November 24 (AFP) – The Roman Catholic Church on Monday beatified 188 Japanese martyrs from the 17th century in the western city of Nagasaki, the first-ever ceremony of the kind held in the country.

More than 30,000 Christians from Japan and numerous Asian nations gathered at a baseball stadium in Nagasaki for the spectacle.

During the ceremony -- a public act of blessing martyrs, Cardinal Jose Saraiva Martins, a representative of Pope Benedict XVI, declared the beatification, a stage that comes before sainthood in Catholicism.

The 188 Japanese martyrs were mostly laypeople who were tortured to death between 1603 and 1639, for practising their religion.

The beatification ceremony in Japan comes 27 years after then Pope John Paul II visited the country and told an archbishop in Nagasaki that Japan is a country of martyrs and that they should be recognized. [This is rather misleading, since martyrs in Japan were canonized as early as 1862 - see Table above - and that on that same trip, John Paul II in fact beatified 16 martyrs of Japan [though most of them were foreign missionaries to Japan) in the Philippines, the first time beatification rites were ever held outside the Vatican.]

Pope Benedict XVI issued the decree last year.

Many grey-robed nuns and priests were among the tens of thousands of Christians also from overseas namely Southeast Asia, South Korea and the Philippines, solemnly listening to the words from the pope's envoy.

But no government officials were invited to the beatification -- not even Prime Minister Taro Aso, Japan's first Christian leader.

As many as 30,000 Japanese are believed to have been martyred for following Christianity, which was introduced to the country by the Portuguese Jesuit priest Francis Xavier in 1549 but banned by the government for 250 years.

Before Monday’s ceremony, which was organized by the Japanese Catholic Church, 42 people from Japan had reached sainthood and 205 Catholics with ties to the country had been beatified—all at the initiative of the Vatican.

Manabu Kozasa, right, a descendant of the Rev. Julian Nakaura, who was one of the first Japanese to travel to Rome and receive blessings from the Pope some 400 years ago, is blessed by Pope Benedict XVI in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican Wednesday, Oct. 1, 2008.

Nakaura, who endured torture called 'the pit' with which his body was hung upside down into a hole filled with excrement until he died on the fourth day, is among 188 Japanese Christian martyrs who were killed from 1603 and 1639, and who were beatified today.

The faithful at the beatification rites.

Entire families and children
among the 188 martyrs beatified today

Among the 188 martyrs beatified in Japan today, there are five iests (four Jesuits and an Augustinian) and 183 lay faithful, including children and entire families. They all died 'in odium fidei', the Japanese Bishops have said, for defending the right to profess their faith freely. e.

The bishops say the beatification of the 17th century martyrs is seen as a source of inspiration for the Christians of Japan. The 'martyr families' are a reminder that every family, as a domestic church, is called to live and bear witness to the faith.

The 188 Japanese martyrs to be beatified are classified in the Canonical Process as "Fr Peter Kibe and 187 companions." They were killed between 1603 and 1639.

Peter Kassui Kibe was born in 1587, when Japan still suffered persecutions. In February 1614, an edict declared the closing of all Catholic churches and the internment of all of Nagasaki's priests. Immediately following this act, the priests and laity who led the communities were exiled.

Kibe was ordained a priest on November 15, 1620 and made his vows, as a Jesuit, on June 6, 1622. He was captured in Sendai in 1639, along with two other priests. He was tortured for 10 days, and refusing to renounce the faith, was martyred in Tokyo.

One of his companions in martyrdom was Michele Kusurya, named 'the Good Samaritan of Nagasaki.' He marched up the 'hill of the martyrs,' located outside the city, singing psalms. He died, as did many of the others, tied to a pole and burned at a slow fire.

Another of the soon-to-be blesseds was Nicholas Keian Fukunaga. He died after being thrown into a muddy well, where he prayed in a loud voice until the very end, asking forgiveness 'for not having brought Christ to all the Japanese, beginning with the Shogun.'

Among the martyrs, there are 52 faithful from Kyoto, martyred in 1622, and 53 from Yamagata, who died in 1629.

One of the most moving testimonies is of an entire family of Kyoto - ­ John Hashimoto Tahyoe and his wife, Thecla - martyred along with all their children on October 6, 1619.

The Catholics who survived the persecution had to remain in hiding until the arrival of the European missionaries in the 19th century.

Japan was evangelized by St Francis Xavier, between 1549 and 1552. Immediately following its initiation, the Church passed through an intense persecution. The first martyrs, led by Saint Paul Miki, were crucified in Nagasaki in 1597 and canonized in 1862 by Pius IX. Another 205 were beatified in 1867.

Catholic News Agency has a videoclip about the Nagasaki martyrs:

The Japanese Martyrs

The Japanese martyrs were led by a priest named Fr. Peter Kibe Kasui, who was introduced to the faith by St. Francis Xavier’s group of Jesuit missionaries.

The Jesuits were so successful that the number of Christians in Japan grew to 400,000 in 50 years.

However, this growth soon drew the opposition of Tokugawa Ieyasu who was named the new shogun of Japan in 1600, according to the Hawaii Catholic Herald. By 1614 his desire to protect Buddhism and his people from outside influences led him to wage an intense campaign of persecution against the Japanese Christians.

All missionaries were banned from the island nation and all churches were ordered destroyed. Although Tokugawa died in 1616, his sons Hidetada and Iemitsu continued the persecutions, which claimed the lives of some 4,000 believers, according to the Catholic Encyclopedia.

Fr. Kibe was tortured to death by being hung upside down with his head immersed in a pit filled with excrement and animal carcasses.

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Blessed Grimoaldo
Blessed of the Purification (Fernando Santamaria) was born May 4, 1883 in Pontecorvo, Frosinone, the oldest of five children. He professed his Passionist vows at the age of 17 on March 6, 1900 and began his studies for the priesthood at the Ceccano retreat. Two years later he contracted acute meningitis and died on November 18, 1902. His rapid ascent to the heights of perfection are attributed to his exceptional devotion to Mary Immaculate, to whom he had been consecrated as a child. Pope John Paul II declared him Blessed on January 29, 1995.

Wanted to share this with you. I found his story on the blog of the Transalpine Redemptorists.
[Modificato da maryjos 27/11/2008 23.11]

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Thank you for Fr. Grimoaldo's story, Mary. I hope other members will remember to post any stories/images/reflections they may have acout saints and blesseds on this thread.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

More about the Christian amrtyrs of Japan

Acts of the Martyrs of Japan

On November 24, another 188 of them were proclaimed blessed, all of them killed for the faith.
The mystery of Christianity in the Land of the Rising Sun, repeatedly persecuted but always reborn,
even from the harshest trials

ROMA, November 26, 2008 – A samurai carrying the cross is not a conventional image. But there were some of these among the 188 Japanese martyrs of the seventeenth century who were proclaimed blessed two days ago in Nagasaki. There were noblemen, priests – four of them – and one religious.

But most of them were ordinary Christians: farmers, women, young people under the age of twenty, even small children, entire families. All of them were killed for refusing to renounce the Christian faith.

The beatification of "Fr. Peter Kibe and his 187 companions" was the first ever celebrated in Japan. The new blesseds joined 42 Japanese saints and 395 blesseds, all of them martyrs, elevated to the honors of the altar beginning with Pius IX.

The new blesseds were martyred between 1603 and 1639. At the time, there were about 300,000 Catholics in Japan, evangelized first by the Jesuits, with St. Francis Xavier, and then also by the Franciscans.

The initial flowering of Christianity was followed by terrible persecutions. Many people were killed, with an unprecedented cruelty that did not spare women and children. In addition to the killings, the Catholic community was decimated by the apostasy of those who abjured the faith out of fear. But it was not annihilated.

Part of it went underground, and kept the faith alive by transmitting it from parents to children for two centuries, even without bishops, priests, and sacraments.

It is recounted that on Good Friday in 1865, ten thousand of these "kakure kirisitan," hidden Christians, emerged from the villages and presented themselves in Nagasaki to the astonished missionaries who had just recently regained access to Japan.

As it had been three centuries before, in the beginning of the twentieth century Nagasaki again became the city with the strongest Catholic presence in Japan.

On the eve of the second world war, two out of three Japanese Catholics lived in Nagasaki. But in 1945 came a terrible new extermination. This time it was not from persecution, but from the atomic bomb dropped on their city.

Today, there are just over half a million Catholics in Japan. They are a small proportion in relation to a population of 126 million. But they are respected and influential, thanks in part to an extensive network of schools and universities. And if to those of Japanese birth are added the immigrants from other Asian countries, the number of Catholics doubles, and exceeds one million.

"But I do not believe that the criterion of statistics is the best for judging the value of a Church," said Cardinal Peter Seichi Shirayanagi, archbishop emeritus of Tokyo, in an interview with AsiaNews on the eve of the beatification of the 188 martyrs.

The difficulty that Catholicism has in spreading not only in Japan, but in all of Asia, is a problem that has long troubled the Church.

The Jesuits, for example, were convinced that after the second world war Japan was fertile soil for a great missionary expansion. For this reason, they sent some of their most talented people to the country.

The current superior general of the Society of Jesus, Adolfo Nicolás, 71, lived in the Far East beginning in 1964, mainly in Tokyo, as a professor of theology at Sophia University, as the provincial of the Jesuits in Japan, and most recently, from 2004-2007, as the moderator of the Jesuit conference of East Asia and Oceania. In addition to Spanish, Italian, English, and French, he speaks Japanese fluently.

Fr. Pedro Arrupe, superior general of the Jesuits from 1965-1983, also spent many years in Japan. And so did Fr. Giuseppe Pittau, who was interim director of the Society.

The beatification of the 188 martyrs has in any case brought the attention of all of Japan back to the presence in its midst of the "little flock" that is the Catholic Church. Their martyrdom for faith in Christ has become known to a much wider public. And it is a story that in many ways recalls the acts of the martyrs of the first Christian centuries, in imperial Rome.

"Semen est sanguis christianorum," the blood of the martyrs is fruitful seed, Tertullian wrote at the beginning of the third century.

Here is how a missionary of the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions, Fr. Mark Tardiff, connected the martyrdom of the 188 new Japanese blesseds to that of the martyrs of early Christianity, in a commentary written for AsiaNews:

Like the martyrs of the first centuries
by Mark Tardiff

The stories of the Japanese martyrs beatified on November 24 take us back nearly 400 years, but reading their stories takes us back to the Acts of the Martyrs of the early Church.

The samurai Zaisho Shichiemon was baptized on July 22, 1608. He took the name of Leo, that of the great pope who had halted the barbarian invasions. But his story much more closely resembles the life of Saint Justin, the second century philosopher who, after discovering the Truth in Christ, would not renounce him, and died as a martyr.

Hangou Mitsuhisa, the feudal lord under whom Zaisho served, had prohibited his men from becoming Christians. The priest whom Zaisho asked to baptize him reminded him of this, telling him that he could be punished or even killed.

"I know," he replied, "but I have understood that salvation lies in the teaching of Jesus, and no one can separate me from Him."

As in the case of many martyrs, this was not only a mental conviction, but a mystical relationship. One day, Zaisho told a friend, "I don't know how this happened, but I now find myself thinking about God constantly."

He was arrested and ordered to renounce his faith. He answered, "I would obey in any other matter, but I cannot accept any order that is opposed to my eternal salvation."

On the morning of November 17, 1608, four months after his baptism, he was executed in the street in front of his house.

St. Francis Xavier reached Japan in 1549 and began the preaching of Christ in the land of the rising sun. Within sixty years the Shogun (the military ruler of Japan) unleashed a persecution of the young Church which rivalled in fury that of the Emperor Diocletian at the beginning of the fourth century.

Women and children were caught up in the maelstrom, and their stories remind us of St. Perpetua, St. Felicity, and St. Agnes.

On December 9, 1603, Agnes Takeda watched as her husband was beheaded, and then reverently picked up his head and held it to her chest. The chronicler tells us that, at the sight, not only the crowd but even the executioners were moved to tears. The separation of the devoted couple was brief, because Agnes was martyred later the same day.

In 1619 Tecla Hashimoto, pregnant with her fourth child, was tied to a cross together with her three year old daughter and the wood piled around them was set afire. As the flames rose around them, her thirteen year old daughter, tied to a nearby cross, cried out, “Mom, I can’t see anything any more!” Her mother answered, “Don’t worry. In a little while you will see everything clearly.”

Peter Kibe, whose name is mentioned in the liturgical title of this martyrs’ group, had a story as adventuresome as that of St. Cyprian. Already a seminarian, he was exiled with the missionaries to Macao in 1614. His burning desire was to become a priest and return to his people, so he left Macao by ship in 1618 and went as far as Goa in India.

From there he set out alone, crossing the present Pakistan, Iran, Iraq, and Jordan to arrive in the Holy Land. After a visit to the holy sites, he continued on, reaching Rome in 1620. After being ordained a priest, he set out on the return journey, which was complicated by the fact that in the meantime the Shogun had declared the country closed to all but a few strictly controlled contacts with the Dutch.

Peter managed to re-enter Japan in 1630, though, beginning a life as a fugitive priest ministering to the Christians in hiding. In 1633, hearing that the missionary Fr. Fereira had apostatized, he came down from the mountains and sought him out.

“Father,” he said, “let us go together to the station of the military police. After you take back your apostasy, let us die together.” Fr. Fereira refused, and after that Fr. Peter moved his center of activities to the northeast region of Honshu, the main island of Japan.

The military police finally caught up with him in 1639, and he was taken to Edo (present Tokyo), where he was subjected to cruel tortures and, when he refused to renounce his faith, he was killed.

The power of Christ was shown forth in the Japanese martyrs of the seventeenth century as clearly as it was in the Christians of the first centuries.

There is the same clear eyed awareness of their choice, the same unflinching conviction in the face of demands to renounce their faith, the same unbowed and even joyful spirit in the face of cruel suffering, the same more than human strength that witnessed to Another who suffered in them. Torments and death could not overcome them; they were killed and they conquered.

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November 29, 2008
Camaguey, Cuba

Raul Castro attends
beatification Mass

HAVANA, Cuba, Nov. 29 (Reuters) - Cuban President Raul Castro attended a ceremony for the country's first religious beatification on Saturday in another sign of warming relations between the Communist-ruled island and the Catholic Church.

Left, Castro beside Caridad Diego, Cuba's director of religious issues; right, a deacon presents Castro with the Missal.

Dressed in a dark suit, Castro sat in the first row at the mass conducted with a Vatican envoy for Father Jose Olallo, the first Cuban to receive such honors on the island in its more than 500 years of Catholic history.

After Fidel Castro came to power in an armed revolution in 1959, Cuba expelled priests and Catholics faced decades of official atheism. Ties improved after Cuba guaranteed religious freedom in 1992 and Pope John Paul II visited six years later.

Cuban state-run television showed several thousand people packed into a plaza in Camaguey, around 330 miles from Havana, for the ceremony for Olallo, who worked with cholera sufferers and died in 1889.

Raul Castro took over governing Cuba in 2006 when his brother fell ill. He was made president in February and has since begun introducing reforms, such as allowing Cubans for the first time to buy cell phones and computers.

Catholic beatification is the third of the four steps to sainthood. In a rare move, the state-run newspaper Granma dedicated the front page of its Friday edition to Olallo's recognition by the Church.

In 2007, the Pope beatified another priest born in Cuba, but he was raised and died in Spain.

The Vatican said in February Pope Benedict would like to visit Cuba at the invitation of Raul Castro and his ailing brother. The Pontiff's top aide was the first foreign official to meet Raul Castro when he become president.

CAMAGUEY, CUBA, Nov. 29 (RTTNews) - In a first ceremony of its kind to take place in Cuba, and attended by Cuban President Raul Castro Ruz, the beatification of Friar Olallo was announced by Cardinal Jose Saraiva, representative of Pope Benedict XVI.

The beatification is the first step leading to sainthood for Friar Jose Olallo Valdes born February 12, 1820 in Havana, when Cuba was a Spanish colony.

The mass held at the Plaza de la Libertad square was also attended by Vice President Esteban Lazo and other government and Communist Party officials.

Friar Olallo's beatification is a landmark for the Catholic Church in Cuba, which had expelled or sent many priest to labor camps. The relation between the State and the Church began to improve after the visit of pope John Paul II to Havana a decade ago.

Friar Olallo worked as surgeon and pharmacist serving the sick and the poor in eastern Camaguey province as a member of the Hospitaller Order of St. John of God, till he passed away March 7, 1889 in his humble hospital cell.

Here's the story filed earlier about Blessed Jose Olalio in NEWS ABOUT THE CHURCH:

First beatification in Cuba:
Brother Jose Olallo Valdez

Havana, Nov 20, 2008 (CNA).- The prefect emeritus of the Congregation for the Causes of the Saints, Cardinal Jose Saraiva Martins, will preside at the Mass of Beatification of Brother Jose Olallo Valdez on November 29 in Camaguey, in the first such ceremony ever to take place on Cuban soil.

In an interview with the magazine Palabra Nueva of the Archdiocese of Havana, Father Felix Lizaso Barruete, the general postulator of the Hospitaller Order of St. John of God, pointed out that while Father Olallo will not be the first Cuban blessed, “He deserves to be recognized because Cuba needs him. Cuba deserves to have a saint.”

“I think he will be canonized soon because the people have a lot of devotion to him and that devotion will only grow. Olallo is today God’s blessing for Cuba,” he added.

The press office of the Archdiocese of Camaguey announced the “Mass of Beatification will take place on November 29, 2008, at 8 a.m. at Charity Square” in Camaguey.

The Mass will be celebrated by Cardinal Jose Saraiva Martins and concelebrated by all the Cuban bishops, including Archbishop Juan de la Caridad Garcia Rodriguez of Camaguey, president of the Bishops’ Conference of Cuba.

Born of unknown parents, Jose Olallo Valdes was born on February 12, 1820 and a month later was left at the Orphanage of San Jose in Havana. He was baptized just days later on March 15.

Br. Olallo Valdes joined the Order of St. John of God at a very young age and was soon moved to Camaguey to assist the victims of the 1835 cholera epidemic as a nurse.

During his time in Camaguey, he suffered the consequences of the anti-religious laws that suppressed all religious orders in Spanish territories. Nevertheless, he remained faithful to his vows and, due to his popularity with the people, the civil authorities allowed him to remain at the hospital, thus becoming the only remaining Brother of St. John of God remaining in Cuba.

After 54 years of devoted service to the sick and the poor, which included times of both famine and war, Br. Olallo Valdes passed away on March 7 1889. His death so moved Camaguey's citizens, that a vast multitude attended his funeral and mourned his passing.

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Girl cured of terminal cancer
brought new Cuban blessed to the altars

Havana, Dec 1, 2008 (CNA).- The website of the Catholic bishops of Cuba announced just hours before the beatification of Brother Jose Olallo Valdes that Daniela Cabrera Ramos was cured of terminal cancer at the age of three and that her healing paved the way for the Cuban priest’s beatification.

Reporter Osvaldo Gallardo Gonzalez interviewed the girl who is today 12. According to the website, she was cured of a fatal type of cancer after her family prayed to Father Olallo for his intercession.

“I remember my veins got pricked a lot. My mom told me that I was very sick with massive cancer in my abdomen and the doctors said I would not survive,” the girl said.

Daniela, who lives with her family on a street dedicated to the Cuban priest, said Father Olallo “dedicated his life to the care of the sick, whom he considered to be his favorites. He was a great nurse.”

“He bought food with his savings and went from door to door leaving food for the sick,” she added, saying her healing happened thanks “to Jesus Christ through the intercession of one of his servants, Father Olallo.”

“Now that I am older I give thanks to God for having chosen me for a miracle, because in my hospital there were many other kids just as sick as me and who died,” she said.

Daniela was present on Saturday at the beatification Mass and said she would be bringing a special petition.

“I will pray to him for a good kidney transplant for my dad and for his healing, that God will place his hands on all the sick children and heal them like he healed me, and that peace and love will reign on the earth,” she said.

Cuba now has second blessed,
a ‘champion of charity’

Havana, Dec 2, 2008 (CNA).- Thousands of Cubans came together on Saturday for the beatification of Father Jose Olallo Valdes, called the Father of the Poor and Champion of Charity, and who is now the second Cuban to be declared Blessed.

Cardinal Jose Saraiva Martins, prefect emeritus of the Congregation for the Causes of the Saints, presided at the celebration, which was the first of its kind to take place in Cuba. Among those in attendance was Cuban President Raul Castro.

“His beatification is a milestone for the Church in Cuba and for the entire nation,” Cardinal Saraiva said, calling Blessed Olallo a “champion” and “apostle” of Christian charity.

Cardinal Saraiva pointed out that “ten years have passed since the historic visit of John Paul II to Cuba” and that the "Diocese of Camaguey and the entire Church in Cuba are experiencing today an unforgettable moment.”

“Faced with an imposing materialistic culture that casts aside the weak and forsaken, let us learn from Father Olallo the virtue of trusting in God, of knowing how to love everyone who is our neighbor.”

During the ceremony, Archbishop Juan Garcia Rodriguez of Camaguey and president of the Bishops’ Conference of Cuba, gave a Bible as a gift to Raul Castro, who was accompanied by Vice President Esteban Lago and the head of religious affairs for the Communist Party, Caridad Diego.

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