Vatican City, (ZENIT.org)
Deborah Castellano Lubov reports from Rome on the Canonization of Palestinian Nuns:
“This grand event 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.”
These were the words of Fr. Rif'at Bader, director of the Catholic Center for Studies and Media in Amman, Jordan, regarding the canonization of Sisters Marie-Alphonsine Danil Ghattas, who founded the Sisters of the Most Holy Rosary of Jerusalem, and of Carmelite Maryam Baouardy, known as Mary of Jesus Crucified.
Pope Francis will canonize the two Palestinian blesseds along with two European religious--French Jeanne-Emilie de Villeneuve and Italian Maria Cristina of the Immaculate Conception Brando--this Sunday in St. Peter's Square in the Vatican.
Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas, who meets with the Pope on Saturday, will also be present. This visit takes place in the wake of the bilateral commission of the Holy See and Palestine issuing a joint statement this week, which was seen as a recognition of its statehood.
The Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, Fouad Twal, will lead a delegation of more than 2,000 people from the Palestine territories and Jordan.
“Patriarch Fouad Twal affirmed--Fr. Rif'at recalled--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.'”
“As the Holy Land, wrecked by violence and dissent, has for some time had a tarnished image," he noted, "our two saints emerge to restore its sanctity, reminding us that sanctity is possible even in the most difficult circumstances."
Cardinals and bishops who live in Rome and from around the world will attend, along with many prelates from Libya, Egypt, Iraq and Libya.
"The canonization of the sisters "during these dark times," the priest said, is an invitation from the Pope 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," he said.
Turning to the sisters, he noted, they are both named Mary. "This name," he pointed out, "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.”
"The two saintly nuns, whose canonization coincides with the Church celebrations of the year of consecrated life and the 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."
Fr. Rif'at reminded those present how Mary of Jesus Crucified endured act of extremism and almost faced death by those who tried to force her to change her religion.
Yet, she wouldn't cave-in to the pressure, and "she now intercedes for those who are being killed because of their religion and their religious affiliation," he said.
Mary of Jesus Crucified's life, he underscored, is "a cry urging respect for religious and ethn c differences as well as acknowledging human beings as creatures who are made in the image and likeness of God.”
Looking at the other Palestinian blessed, the priest noted how Marie-Alphonsine set up the first Arab religious congregation, which "put the Arab world on the map" in the realms of religious education.
Discussing its impact, he said that the rosary schools associated with this religious congregation have a prominent and influential presence in Jordan, Palestine, Lebanon, the Gulf states and Rome. During the late 19th and early 20th century, the 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," he said, "as a direct result of the active contribution of nuns and religious congregations to literacy education.”