Two new Palestinian Saints: a sign of hope for the men and women of the Middle East
Vatican City, 15 May 2015 (VIS) – This morning in the Holy See Press Office Fr. Rifat Bader, director of the Catholic Centre for Studies and Media in Amman, Jordan, presented the figure of the Palestinian blesseds Sister Marie-Alphonsine Danil Ghattas, founder of the Sisters of the Most Holy Rosary of Jerusalem, and the descalzed Carmelite Maryam Baouardy (Mary of Jesus Crucified). Along with another two women religious, the French Jeanne-Emilie de Villeneuve and the Italian Maria Cristina of the Immaculate Conception Brando, they will be canonised by Pope Francis this coming Sunday in St. Peter’s Square.
The solemn celebration will be attended by cardinals and bishops resident in Rome and from various parts of the world, including a delegation of 2124 people from the Palestine territories and Jordan headed by the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, Fouad Twal. The Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas will also be present, along with numerous prelates from Lebanon, Iraq, Morocco, Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Cyprus.
“Patriarch Fouad Twal affirmed that ‘the declaration of the sainthood of the two nuns from Palestine is a spiritual event of prime importance for the citizens of the Holy Land, amid the difficulties we are experiencing, as the two saints enlighten our path’”, said Fr. Badir. “As the Holy Land, wrecked by violence and dissent, has for some time had a tarnished image, our two saints emerge to restore its sanctity, reminding us that sanctity is possible even in the most difficult circumstances. The canonisation of the two girls from the East during these dark times is an invitation from His Holiness Pope Francis to pray, knowing that only prayer can miraculously help save our faith in the midst of these times of trial. Now we have two new saints who represent a model of perfection for Christians, as well as for Muslims and Jews alike. They are both named Mary, and this name is widespread and commonly used among all three traditions. It is a sign of our modern time which suggests that we can talk about the three religions without any discrimination”.
This grand event”, added Fr. Badir, “is a message of solidarity and encouragement to the Christians of the Holy Land, especially for those in all other Middle East countries, to those who have been forcibly displaced and deported from their home countries, and to all those who suffer persecution, and whose persecutors sometimes think that by killing they are offering a sacrifice to God, as Jesus Himself warned”.
The new saint Mary of Jesus Crucified was “subjected to acts of extremism and an attempt on her life, seeking to force her to change her religion. She now intercedes for those who are being killed because of their religion and their religious affiliation. Her life and intercession are a cry urging respect for religious and ethnic differences as well as acknowledging human beings as creatures who are made in the image and likeness of God”. St. Marie-Alphonsine “succeeded in gaining the support of the religious authorities to set up the first Arab religious congregation, and placing the Arab world on the map in the fields of education and religious teaching”.
“Furthermore, the rosary schools associated with this Arab religious congregation have a prominent and influential presence in Jordan, Palestine, Lebanon, the Gulf states and Rome. We realise that during the late 19th and early 20th century this religious congregation contributed to increasing the Arab role in culture, social awareness, spiritual guidance and education of generations of men and women. Illiteracy has been eliminated in many parts of the Middle East as a direct result of the active contribution of nuns and religious congregations to literacy education”.
He concluded, “The two saintly nuns, whose canonisation coincides with the Church celebrations of the year of consecrated life and the blessed Marian Month of May, pray that the Lord would bring peace and calmness to our hearts and minds, and that we will return to worshipping the Almighty. … We view the consecration of the founder of the Rosary Sisters as an invitation to intensify the daily Rosary prayers in Churches, houses, and parish groups to bring peace, love and mutual respect among all the peoples of the Middle East”.