TIMES NEWS NETWORK Thiruvananthapuram:
With the Vatican deciding to announce full sainthood to Sister Alphonsa of Bharananganam, Kerala, on October 12 this year, the cradle of Christianity in the country has earned the distinction of producing the first completely ‘‘Indian’’ saint who also happens to be a woman.
The date of Sister Alphonsa’s canonization was announced after a ‘‘consistory’’, or formal meeting, of Pope Benedict XVI and other cardinals at St Peter’s Basilica on Saturday.
Sister Alphonsa’s beatification — recognition by the church of a dead person’s accession to heaven — was ordained by Pope John Paul II during his visit to Kerala in February 1986. Her journey to sainthood reached its final stages more than two decades later when, in June 2007, Pope Benedict XVI authorized her canonization after he approved a miracle attributed to her on May 11, 1999. The miracle was the healing of a one-year-old boy, Jinil, who could not walk because of a disability. Jinil began walking the day his parents took him to the Sister’s tomb for prayers.
Sister Alphonsa will be the second saint from India after Gonsalo Garcia and the first woman. Garcia, who was canonized in 1862, was partly Indian. He was from Vasai, near Mumbai, and is believed to have been crucified in Nagasaki in 1597. In joining the ranks of other Catholic saints, Sister Alphonsa’s canonization comes ahead of Mother Teresa’s, who too has been beatified and declared ‘‘blessed’’ by the Vatican.
Sister Alphonsa’s tomb at Palai in Kottayam is a famous Christian pilgrimage and draws thousands of faithful. News received with jubilation, fireworks
Thiruvananthapuram: Believers say numerous miracles — apart from the one approved by the Pope — have occurred at the tomb of Sister Alphonsa. The occurrence of these miracles are confirmed by sources at the Clarist Congregation of which sister Alphonsa was a part.
The news of her imminent sainthood was received with jubilation and fireworks at Alphonsa Chapel at the Forane Church at Bharananganam. Said Sister Celia of the Franciscan Clarist Congregation, ‘‘I am leaving for Rome. This is the last step to her sainthood.’’ Priests at Bharananganam held the Holy Mass throughout the day, even as pilgrims thronged the ancestral house of the Sister at Kudamaloor, about 40km from Bharananganam.
‘‘With her attaining full sainthood, Sister Alphonsa’s portrait can be placed at Catholic churches all over the world and she can be venerated. Churches and Catholic institutions can be named after her,’’ said Reverend Babu Joseph, the spokesman of Catholic Bishop’s Conference of India. In Mumbai, the Kerala Catholic Association (KCA) announced several functions to mark the momentous occasion. ‘‘Hundreds of devotees from Kerala, who are now settled in different parts of India, will prepare to travel to Rome in October to attend the official canonization ceremony,’’ said KCA president Johnson Theratil.
Born Anna Muttathupadathu on August 2, 1910, in Kudamaloor, a village near Kottayam, to Muttathupadathu Ouseph and Mariam in the Archdiocese of Changanacherry, Kerala, she lost her mother when she was just three. She was looked after and brought up by her maternal aunt. As a child, Anna was inspired by St Therese of Lisieux; she wanted to follow the religious path and stoutly resisted her family’s wish that she get married. TNN
Kolkata: Though churches in Kolkata were happy that Sister Alphonsa had been granted sainthood, there were murmurs that the same honour should be conferred immediately on Mother Teresa, who is ‘‘more well-known and a Nobel laureate’’.
The Missionaries of Charity expressed happiness at the canonisation plans, but added that they were ‘‘trying their best to fast-track the procedure of conferring sainthood on Mother Teresa’’.
Confirming a miracle by Mother Teresa, Pope John Paul II had beatified her on October 19, 2003, at St Peter’s Square in Rome.
To be recognised as a saint, the Vatican needs to recognise a second miracle performed by her.
‘‘It is great news that Sister Alphonsa has been declared a saint. Mother Teresa, too, will be given the honour and it is just a matter of time. The Vatican has to find another miracle, which I am sure they will do. They have their own procedure and we must pray for Mother,’’ said Father Gregory Monteiro of Francis Xavier Church, Bowbazar.
Road to Sainthood
A local bishop investigates the candidate’s life and writings for evidence of heroic virtue, reports to the Vatican
Congregation for Cause of Saints evaluates the candidate’s life. If it approves, the pope proclaims the candidate ‘venerable’, a role model of Catholic virtues
The next step, beatification, allows a person to be honoured by a particular group or region. Beatification requires proof that the person was responsible for a posthumous miracle. Martyrs — those who died for the religious cause — can be beatified without evidence of a miracle
If there is proof of a second posthumous miracle, the person can be canonized (considered a saint)