News24

Aus, Canada to get first saints

2010-02-19 15:30

Vatican City - Australia and the Canadian province of Quebec will have their first Roman Catholic saints - a pioneering nun and a humble healer - on October 17, Pope Benedict XVI announced on Friday.

Australia's Mary MacKillop, a nun revered for her work with needy children as much as for her rebellious streak, is already a national icon.

Australia's ambassador to the Holy See hailed the announcement, saying it was "a terrific salute to an outstanding Australian, a giant leader in education and many other fields."

Tim Fischer added: "There is a great deal of affection and respect for Mary MacKillop. Further, she was a strong leader, a compassionate worker for the poor and a pioneer in education."

In December, Benedict recognised a miracle in which MacKillop apparently cured a woman of cancer, paving the way for her canonisation.

MacKillop, who died in 1909, passed the first stage to sainthood when pope John Paul II beatified her in 1995 after recognising a first miracle attributed to her, in which a woman was said to have been cured of terminal leukaemia.

Melbourne-born MacKillop established her first school in a disused stable and founded an order of nuns at the age of 24.

MacKillop spent her life educating the poor, taking learning to the harsh outback.

But the pioneering educator and social reformer was not without controversy - she was excommunicated in 1871 for alleged insubordination before being welcomed back to the Church four months later.

Hands

Brother Andre, revered for his gifts as a healer, lived from 1845 to 1937 and his admirers built and dedicated Montreal's imposing St Joseph's Oratory to him.

Brother Andre has been credited with thousands of reported miraculous healings.

Diminutive, shy and with little education, he hardly seemed destined to become Quebec's first Catholic saint.

But he reputedly could heal the sick through the laying on of hands and the use of an "inner power."

The faithful say he could simply say in his gruff voice: "Leave your crutches and walk" to cure a crippled person.

In the nave of St Joseph's Oratory dozens of canes are testimony to the cures attributed to Brother Andre, who was born Alfred Bessette.

When he died on January 6 1937, at the age of 91, nearly a million mourners filed past his coffin.

Andre was beatified in 1978 by John Paul II, and a miracle healing was officially recognised by the Vatican on December 19 2009, marking the two steps towards his canonisation.

Pope Benedict, making Friday's announcement in Latin at a consistory or meeting of cardinals at the Vatican, said another four saints will be created on October 17. They are from Poland, Spain and Italy.

They are Poland's Stanislas Soltys (1433-1489), Spain's Candida Maria de Jesus Cipitria y Barriola (1845-1912) and two Italian nuns, Giulia Salzano (1846-1929) and Camilla Battista Varanno (1458-1524).