among them Sister Alphonsa, an Indian nun who became the country‚s first
woman saint. About 40,000 people attended the ceremony here.
Others to be canonised on the occasion included the Ecuadorian Narcisa de
Jesus Martillo Moran (1832-1869), Swiss nun Maria Bernarda Buetler
(1848-1924), a missionary in Colombia, and Italian Gaetano Errico
(1791-1860) from Secondigliano, in the Naples region.
Many of those in St Peter‚s Square in Rome had come from India. Among them
were large numbers of priests and nuns from Kerala.
Recalling in his homily the life of the new woman saint, who belonged to the
Franciscan Clarist order, the Pope said she had been „an exceptional woman,
who today is offered to the people of India as their first canonised woman
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.‰
The Pope added: „May we imitate her in shouldering our own crosses so as to
join her one day in paradise.‰
Born in 1910 as Anna Muttathupandathu, and known as Alphonsa dell‚Immacolata
Concezione, Sister Alphonsa was so determined to enter a convent that she
deliberately stepped into a burning fire to disfigure her feet so that her
strict 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 at 36 years
of age in 1946, miracles were attributed to her. Her burial place became a
pilgrimage site, especially for those seeking relief from ill health.
Hundreds of visitors to the sleepy town of Bharananganam in Kerala‚s
Christian heartland offered special prayers ahead of the canonisation of
„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 V.J. Joseph. „Today is an important day as the holy Church is
declaring her a saint,‰ said Mr. Joseph, who came with his wife and two
The process of Alphonsa‚s canonisation, the step-by-step procedure of
raising a person to the high pedestal of a saint in the Catholic Church,
began in 1953 with the Church setting up a Diocesan tribunal.
According to Church historians, Kerala is the cradle of Indian Christianity
with St. Thomas, the apostle, preaching the faith after landing at
Crangannore (Kodungallur) in A.D. 52. ˜ Agencies