New Energy for Mideast With Beatification of Native
Jerusalem-Born Nun Founded Local Congregation
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NAZARETH, NOV. 25, 2009 (Zenit.org).- The beatification of a Jerusalem-born founder of a religious congregation should be an impetus for Christians in the Holy Land to keep trusting in Mary, says a Vatican official.
Archbishop Angelo Amato said this Sunday when he presided over the beatification rite of Blessed Marie Alphonsine Danil Ghattas (1843-1927).
Faithful from all over the Holy Land, including Jordan and Syria, filled the Basilica of the Annunciation in Nazareth to celebrate the beatification of the Palestinian religious.
His Beatitude Fouad Twal, Latin patriarch of Jerusalem, presided over the Mass.
Born Soultaneh Maria in Jerusalem in 1843, she went on to found the Congregation of the Sisters of the Most Holy Rosary of Jerusalem, the only native congregation of the Holy Land. She died in Ain Karem on March 25, 1927.
Archbishop Amato stressed in particular the work carried out by the religious to make "the dignity and nobility of women shine even more."
He said her sanctity shows how the Gospel is rooted in the land of Jesus and Mary. "Blessed [Marie Alphonsine] had a special love for this land, her land, the land blessed by Jesus," Archbishop Amato said. "The Holy Family of Nazareth was for her, her family, and Mary was her heavenly Mother."
Not only is she a "credible witness of the Gospel," but also "a glory of the Catholic Church and a precious pearl of this noble land of Jesus," the Vatican official added.
And he prayed that her beatification would give new impetus to the local Church so that it will "continue to trust in Divine Providence and in the effective protection of Mary, the Mother who never leaves her children alone."
Illustrating the Gospel
In the homily, Patriarch Twal said that Mother Marie Alphonsine "is a precious image, Arab and from Jerusalem, a splendid illustration of the Gospel of Christ."
He spoke of how Blessed Marie Alphonsine received repeated visits from the Virgin Mary, who asked her to found "a local congregation of religious for the daughters of her country, which should take the name Rosary Sisters."
The Congregation of the Rosary, said the patriarch, "was, is and will be the right arm of the Latin patriarchate in schools, parishes and institutions. Together, generation after generation, the priests of the Latin patriarchate and the Religious of the Rosary have witnessed and witness the Gospel in the diocese and in other Arab countries."
The patriarch stressed that silence "was the expression of her profound holiness and of her incredible humility."
"A life without the cross and without suffering is a utopia," he concluded.
Benedict XVI also spoke of Blessed Marie Alphonsine before he prayed the Angelus on Sunday with crowds in St. Peter's Square.
He said that Mother Ghattas has the merit of having founded "a congregation formed solely of women of the region, with the purpose of religious instruction, to overcome illiteracy and improve the conditions of the women of that time in the land where Jesus himself exalted their dignity."
The Pontiff affirmed, "The beatification of this very significant figure of a woman is of special comfort to the Catholic community in the Holy Land and it is an invitation to always trust, with firm hope, in Divine Providence and Mary's maternal protection."
Mother Marie Alphonsine is the second Palestinian Blessed of modern times, after Mariam Bawardi (1846-1878) a Carmelite religious of the Greek-Melkite Church, beatified in 1983. However, Blessed Marie Alphonsine is the first to be beatified in the territory of the Patriarchate of Jerusalem, in keeping with the new practice introduced by Benedict XVI.