Bells chime in Kerala as devout mark sainthood of Alphonsa

October 12th, 2008 - 5:59 pm ICT by IANS  

Thiruvananthapuram, Oct 12 (IANS) Bells tolled across Catholic churches in Kerala Sunday and tears of joy rolled down the cheeks of the devout as far away in the Vatican the Pope declared Sister Alphonsa a saint, the first Indian Catholic woman to be canonised.It is a Sunday that Catholics in Kerala will never forget.

The Catholic community in the state comprises of the Roman Catholic, Latin Catholic and the Malankara Syrian Church, which together constitute over 50 percent of the Christian community that comprises 23 percent of the 32 million population of Kerala.

The most excitement was witnessed at the St Mary’s Church, Bharananganam, in Kottayam district, where the tomb of Saint Alphonsa is located. Since early morning, thousands came to pray at her tomb.

Thousands waited patiently at church premises for the moment, and when the proclamation was made by the Pope, the bells chimed and many were seen in deep prayer.

At several Catholic churches, the function at the Vatican was beamed live on widescreen television sets.

“This is something unbelievable and I am really excited that I hail from the place associated with Saint Alphonsa,” said Saramma Thomas. “You just wait and see, this church (at Bharananganam) will now scale newer heights. It has already witnessed miracles both small and big. From now on it will be a busy church and lots of miracles are going to be witnessed,” she said.

The main celebration at Bharananganam will be held Nov 9, and is expected to draw around 100,000 people. The event will be presided over by Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, head of the Congregation of Oriental Churches in the Vatican, and former president A.P.J. Abdul Kalam.

Alphonsa was born in Kudamaloor, a village near Kottayam, to Joseph and Mary on Aug 19, 1910.

Having lost her mother at a very young age, she was brought up by her maternal aunt and educated by an uncle who was a priest. She faced several health problems, which eventually claimed her life on July 28, 1946.

On Dec 2, 1953, Eugène-Gabriel-Gervais-Laurent Cardinal Tisserant inaugurated the diocesan process for her beatification and Alphonsa was declared a ‘Servant of God’. On July 9, 1985, she received the title Venerable Sister Alphonsa.

She was beatified on Feb 8, 1986, by Pope John II at the Nehru Stadium in Kottayam.

From now on, new churches will be consecrated in her honour, people can pray in her name and children can be named after her.

However, for the rest of the Christian community, it was business as usual. The day passed off as another Sunday, with not even a mention of what was taking place in the Vatican.

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