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Pope Francis canonises two Palestinian nuns

Alberto Pizzoli, AFP |Pilgrims wave Palestinian flags before a holy mass in St Peter's square for the canonisation of four blessed nuns, two of whom lived in Ottoman Palestine, on May 17, 2015

Pope Francis on Sunday canonised two Palestinian nuns who lived during the 19th century, amid a show of support for the occupied territories and a renewed interest in restarting peace talks with Israel.


Francis, who has not hesitated to wade into politics since he became the leader of the Catholic Church in 2013, named the two women as saints in a ceremony in Saint Peter’s Square.

The event came just days after the Vatican formalised its de facto recognition of the State of Palestine. The treaty gives legal weight to the Holy See's longstanding recognition of Palestinian statehood, despite clear annoyance by Israeli authorities.

The canonisation of Sister Marie-Alphonsine Danil Ghattas, founder of the Sisters of the Most Holy Rosary of Jerusalem, and Mariam Baouardy, who founded a Carmelite convent in Bethlehem, was not directly connected with the new accord between the Vatican and the State of Palestine.

Attended by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and a delegation of senior clergy including the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem Fouad Twal, the ceremony was also meant to highlight Pope Francis’s longstanding drive to help embattled Christian communities in the Middle East, many of whom face persecution from Islamic extremists.

Church officials are holding up the new saints as a sign of hope and encouragement for Arab Christians at a time when violent persecution and discrimination have driven many of them from the region of Christ's birth.

‘Example’ for all religions

Saint Peter’s Square was decked out for the occasion with portraits of the Palestinian women and two other newly sanctified nuns – the French Jeanne-Emilie de Villeneuve and Italian Maria Cristina of the Immaculate Conception Brando.

An estimated 2,000 pilgrims from the region, some waving Palestinian flags, were on hand for the canonisation of the first saints from the Holy Land since the early years of Christianity.

In a statement as he departed for the Vatican last week, the Patriarch Twal said the two Palestinian churchwomen, who entered religious orders as teenagers in the late 1800s and died in 1927 and 1878 respectively, were an example for Christians, Muslims and Jews.

“It is a sign of our modern time which suggests that we can talk about the three religions without any discrimination,” the patriarch said in a statement as he departed for the Vatican.

On Saturday, the pope met Abbas for a private visit, calling him “an angel of peace”.

(FRANCE 24 with REUTERS and AP)


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