05/12/2015, 00.00
PALESTINE – ISRAEL – VATICAN
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Pope Francis to canonise two Palestinian nuns, “blessing" for a Middle East thirsty for peace

by Joshua Lapide
Mother Marie-Alphonsine Danil Ghattas and Mariam Baouardy will be proclaimed saints next Sunday in St Peter's Square. Mahmoud Abbas will attend. No word on whether Israel will send a representative. The miracles required for canonisation occurred in Cana of Galilee and in Sicily. The two new saints are possible sign of reconciliation between Jews, Christians, and Muslims.

Jerusalem (AsiaNews) – Pope Francis will canonise two Palestinian nuns next Sunday in St Peter's Square: Mother Marie-Alphonsine Danil Ghattas (1847-1927), of Jerusalem, founder of the Congregation of the Sisters of the Rosary, and Mariam Baouardy (1846- 1878), a Carmelite nun born in the village of I'billin, Galilee who founded the Carmelite convent in Bethlehem, and took the religious name of Sister Mariam of Jesus Crucified.

The two women religious are the first Arab saints of the Holy Land. Both lived at a time when nothing divided Palestine and Israel; neither knew of the conflicts that followed. For this reason, they are seen as a sign of peace for the Holy Land and the Middle East.

“The news of the canonization of these two holy women is a blessing from heaven on our land, devastated by violence yet persevering in our longing for peace and justice,” said Mgr Fouad Twal, the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, in the pastoral letter he issued for the occasion.

“This long-awaited announcement of the double canonization restores in us our trust and hope in Christ. The Lord wants to comfort our country, torn apart by conflicts and wars, and our people who continue to suffer and endure through injustices.”

Mariam Baouardy was born to a Greek Catholic family in 1843. As an adult, she joined the Carmelite order at a convent in France. She established convents in India and Bethlehem, and planned to build one in Nazareth but died at the age of 35.

During her life, she received the grace of the stigmata. A mystic, she also received many visions in which she interacted with Jesus. Her canonisation process began back in 1927. She was beatified by John Paul II in 1983.

Mother Marie Alphonsine joined the Congregation of the Sisters of St Joseph of the Apparition at age 15.

She established the Congregation of Sisters of the Most Holy Rosary, an order devoted to pastoral work, care for children, seniors and young people, the poor, but also against moral poverty. She experienced a fruitful spiritual motherhood, especially with Arab women. She was beatified by Pope Benedict in 2009.

The miracles that led to proclamation of their holiness are recent.

In the case of Mother Marie-Alphonsine, it took place on the very day of her beatification. Two days before, a man from Kfar Kanna (Cana of Galilee), Emile Salim Mounir Elias, an expert surveyor, was working in Bayt Dajan, near Holon (Jaffa) when he received a 30-40,000 volts jolt. He was in a coma for two days, his heart showing no signs of life. After his relatives placed their trust in Marie-Alphonsine, he woke up.

Mariam Baouardy’s miracle involved the healing of a Sicilian boy, Emanuele Zito, who suffered from congenital heart failure. After surgery, which doctors felt was of little use, the child went through a prodigious recovery. His parents had entrusted him to Mariam Baouardy, whose holiness they had encountered during a pilgrimage to the Holy Land.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas will attend the ceremony in St Peter’s. So far, it is unclear whether the State of Israel will send a representative.

For the Patriarchal Vicar of Jerusalem, Mgr William Shomali, it is important to show that these two new saints mean something beyond the confines of the Catholic Church.

“I believe that not only Christians but also Muslims and Jews can be happy, because two persons from our country joined the highest degree of human righteousness, spiritual wisdom and mystical experience of God,” he said at a press conference two days ago.

“The two saints lived in Palestine before it was divided. They did not know the Israeli-Arab conflict. I am sure they follow our situation from heaven and will continue to intercede for peace and reconciliation in the Holy Land.”

“By coincidence, both are called Mary, Miriam. It is extraordinary: This name is common to Jews, Christians, Muslims and Jews. May they become a bridge between us all.”

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