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    Catholics in Delhi celebrate over Sr. Alphonsa's sainthood

    New Delhi, Oct 12 (PTI): Church bells peeled across the national capital and special prayers were held as Sister Alphonsa, a Catholic nun from Kerala who passed away 62 years ago, was today conferred with Sainthood by Pope Benedict XVI at a solemn function in the Vatican.

    The Catholic community on Sunday hailed Sister Alphonsa, who became the first Indian woman to be canonised, as "an inspiration for the Indian people to follow".

    "Sister is an inspiration for Indian people and her elevation as Saint has contributed to the pride of all the churches," Father Cosmos of Catholic Bishops Conference of India (CBCI) told PTI.

    He said today's event was an important moment in the history of Indian church. "This also shows that Christians living in India are not foreigners," he said.

    Sister Alphonsa is the second person from India to be canonised by the Catholic church, the first being Gonzalo Garcia, a Franciscan monk born to an Indian mother and Portuguese father.

    While the Roman Catholic church has over 10,000 canonised saints, in India this is the first time that someone from its flock has been elevated to full sainthood, church sources said.

    Catholics also took out religious processions in several parts of the national capital and the NCR region.

    Many Keralites attended special mass in churches across the capital. Mass was also held at Vasant Kunj's St Alphonsa Church.

    Sister Alphonsa, who lived a quiet religious life, was hailed for a number of miracles, including two which were officially put up to the Pope.

    One of the miracles attributed to her related to the healing of a young boy's twisted feet after his family prayed at her tomb at the Alphonsa Chapel at Bharananganam near Kottayam.

    The beatification process, the last formal step before sainthood, of Sister Alphonsa began in 1996 by Pope John Paul II, who had declared her a 'Blessed Servant of God', when he visited India.

    Thousands of people in the Vatican watched the ceremony where the Pope declared Alphonsa from Bharanganam village in Kottayam district, who died at a young age of 36 in 1946, as a saint.


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