Canonization of Sister Alphonsa
In Times of Strife a Woman Saint Brings Cheer
Thiruvananthapuram (October 11, 2008): Thousands
of Christians were flocking to a small town in southern India on
Saturday (October 11, 2008) to celebrate the planned canonisation of a Roman Catholic nun,
against a backdrop of the worst anti-Christian
riots in decades.
Sister Alphonsa will become India's first woman saint when she is
canonised by Pope Benedict at a special ceremony at the Vatican on
Sunday, October 12, 2008
"It is a very important event and a big recognition for a woman born in
a simple, ordinary Indian family," said Archbishop Raphael Cheenath in
eastern Orissa state, where recent attacks on Christians have killed
about 35 people.
"At this time of suffering, it will help us and inspire us."
Tens of thousands of people were thronging a church in the town of
Bharananganam in Sister Alphonsa's native Kerala state ahead of the
Special masses are being held in all Catholic churches in the state,
where Saint Thomas, one of the 12 apostles, is believed to have arrived
in 52 AD, bringing Christianity to India.
Bells will ring and firecrackers will burst across Kerala when the Pope
declares Sister Alphonsa a saint at 1.30 p.m. said Father Dominic
Vechoor, chancellor of Palai diocese, where she was a nun from 1927 till
her death in 1946.
The canonisation ceremony will be telecast live from the Vatican, where
a large number of church and state officials and pilgrims from India are
expected to be present.
About 100,000 people are expected on Sunday when mass will begin at the
crack of dawn, said Lukos Joseph, trustee of the Alphonsa Church in
Bharananganam, where roads have been smoothed and the church and convent
sport a fresh coat of paint.
Second Saint in India
Christians make up 2.3 per cent of
India's billion-plus population, with Roman Catholics accounting for 70
percent of the minority that is largely concentrated in the country's
south and northeast.
Alphonsa will be India's second saint after Gonsalo Garcia, of
Portuguese parentage, who was canonised in 1862.
Albanian-born Mother Teresa, who served the poor and destitute in
Kolkata, was beatified in 2003, a first step to canonisation.
Alphonsa Muttathupadathu was born in Kudamaloor, a village near Kottayam,
and lost her mother at a young age. She was brought up by a maternal
aunt, a strict, religious woman, according to a local resident who knew
A beautiful girl, Alphonsa received several marriage proposals early on,
but was determined to enter the convent and stepped on burning chaff to
disfigure herself and deter suitors.
Her aunt then agreed to send her to the convent. Sickly even as a child,
Alphonsa suffered from various illnesses till she died at the age of 36.
Her tomb, close to the Franciscan Clarist convent where she lived,
gradually became a pilgrimage site and she was credited with several
miracles, particularly curing illness and disease. She was beatified in
1986 during the former Pope's visit to India, a secular country which
has seen increased intolerance in the past two decades with a revival of
"It's a matter of immense pride for us since one of our believers is
being bestowed with the sainthood," said Vechoor.
"It will strengthen the church in the country."