A new age of diplomacy is coming to the Vatican as Pope Francis made two nuns from the 19th-century Palestine the latest Catholic saints.
The ceremony took place in Saint Peter’s Square mere days after the Vatican formalized its de facto recognition of the State of Palestine on Sunday.
The decision seems to be aimed at encouraging Christian commitment across the Middle East where they are facing a wave of persecution and discrimination from Islamic extremists, which in turn has driven many Christians away from the region of Christ’s birth,
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and an estimated 2,000 pilgrims from the region attended the canonization of Sister Marie-Alphonsine Danil Ghattas founder of the Sisters of the Most Holy Rosary of Jerusalem, and Sister Maryam Bawardy, who founded a Carmelite convent in Bethlehem.
They were canonized along two other nuns – Saint Jeanne Emilie de Villeneuve from France, and Saint Maria Cristina of the Immaculate Conception from Italy.
Pope Francis spoke about the women at the end of the Mass praising them for their good deeds: “Inspired by their example of mercy, charity and reconciliation, may the Christians of these lands look with hope to the future, following the path of solidarity and fraternal coexistence”.
Sister Ghattas was born in Jerusalem in 1847. She is known for opening girls’ schools, fighting female illiteracy, and co-founding the Congregation of the Sisters of the Rosary, which today boasts dozens of centers all over the Middle East.
Sister Bawardy was born in 1843 in the Galilee region of northern Israel, then called the village of Ibilin. She is believed to have received the “stigmata” — bleeding wounds like those that Jesus Christ suffered on the cross — and died at the age of 33 in Bethlehem where she had founded a Carmelite order monastery earlier in life.
The Pope was especially proud of Ghattas for showing people the importance of becoming responsible for one another and living lives of service to one another, and especially proud of Bawardy’s for having been “a means of encounter and fellowship with the Muslim world”.
Fouad Twal, the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, who accompanied President Mahmoud Abbas at the canonization, gave a statement saying that the event is a colossal one as this is the first time since “the days of the apostles” that Palestinians have been canonized.
He went on to call it a positive sign of our modern, contemporary time which seems to suggest that we can talk about the three religions without any discrimination.
President Abbas gave a statement of his own, saying that the country is proud of the event. All they want is Palestine is peace, a type of peace that transcends religion.
The canonization also offers great help to the people of Palestine in their cause, as it enforces their desire to build a sovereign, independent and free Palestine based on the principles of equal citizenship.
The president ended his speech by urging Palestinian Christians not to flee the region, but to stay and to fight for the right to have equal citizenship and liberty.
Image Source: dw.de