BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) — A Vatican ceremony began Sunday morning that will see two Palestinian nuns who lived in Ottoman Palestine during the 19th century gain sainthood.President Mahmoud Abbas arrived at the Vatican to attend the ceremony on Saturday, several days after the Holy See announced that it was preparing to sign its first treaty with Palestine, two years after officially recognizing it as a state.
Marie Alphonsine Ghattas of Jerusalem and Mariam Bawardy of Galilee are the first Palestinians to be canonized.Ghattas was born in Jerusalem in 1843 during the Ottoman era and died in 1927 at the outset of the British Mandate over Palestine. She set up the Holy Rosary Sisters dedicated to women’s education and empowerment, which today has Today the Holy Rosary Sisters have reputable schools in Palestine and in other Arab countries. She was beatified — the final step before canonization — in 2009.
Bawardy was born in Galilee, now in northern Israel, in 1843. She became a nun in France and died in Bethlehem in 1878, establishing a convent in Bethlehem in 1876 which still exists until today. She was beatified by Pope John Paul II in 1983.The recognition of Palestinian Christians by the Pope urged Abbas Saturday to openly express his value of Palestine’s Christian community, which makes up around 8 percent of the population in the occupied West Bank.”On this holy occasion we would like to express appreciation to our Palestinian Christian brothers for their steadfastness and effective contribution to building the Palestinian nation, and we call upon them to stay with us and not to be easily swept by the tide of migration,” Abbas said in a statement, referring to increasing levels of Christian emigration from Palestine in recent years due to restraints placed by the Israeli occupation.Although there are several saints who lived in the region during Christianity’s early days, Bawardy and Ghattas are the first to be canonized from Ottoman-era Palestine.The canonization of a third Palestinian — a Salesian monk — is still under review by the Church.