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Mother Teresa is 5th beatified candidate from India
October 19, 2003 22:25 IST
Mother Teresa's beatification puts her in line with four other Roman Catholic persons from India so far declared 'blessed' or beatified by the Vatican and assigned feast days in accordance with laws of the Roman Catholic church.
According to sources in Kolkata, all the four have been beatified at various points of Pope John Paul II's reign, a testimony of his personal interest in creating as many role models as possible within the Roman Catholic church.
While the Pope waived the customary five-year period for the sainthood process for Mother Teresa to begin and declared her 'beatified' within six years of her death in 1997, data available with the church indicate that it took nearly a century after their death for the other four candidates to be elevated to the blessed status.
Of the four, Blessed Joseph Vaz was born on April 21, 1651 at Benaulim, Goa. He was ordained priest in 1676 after which he travelled extensively on foot along the western coast and into Sri Lanka. He died in Kandy, Sri Lanka on January 7, 1711.
Father Vaz was declared blessed by Pope John Paul II on July 6, 1997. His feast day is on January 7.
Another of the peers, Father Kuriakose Elias Chavara was born near Alapuzha in Kerala on February 10, 1805. He was ordained priest in 1829 and with two other fellow priests, founded the Carmelite Missionaries of India (CMI) congregation in 1831.
A renowned educationist and social reformer of his time, Father Chavara was appointed a vicar of the Syro-Malabar church and brought about many liturgical reforms.
Chavara died on June 3, 1871 and was buried in Koonammavu on January 4. His relics were transferred to Mannanam on May 24, 1889. His cause of cannonisation was taken up in 1953 and he was declared blessed by Pope John Paul II in 1986. His feast day is celebrated on January 4.
Blessed Sister Alphonsa Muttathadill, was born on August 19, 1910 at Kudamaloor near Kottayam in Kerala. She joined the Fransiscan Clarist Congregation at Bharananganam in 1927 and received the habit on May 19, 1930.
Sister Alphonsa, who took her perpetual vows on August 12, 1936, had a life full of suffering and sickness. She is said to have had a miraculous cure in December 1936 at the intercession of Blessed Kuriakose Chavara. She contracted pleural pneumonia in June 1939 and fell ill once again in 1940.
Even as she was administered the sacrament of the sick on September 24, 1941, she recovered subsequently. She fell ill once again in July 1945 and died on July 28, 1946.
A diocesan inquiry for her cause began on December 2, 1953 and she was declared blessed by Pope John Paul II on February 8, 1986 at a function in Kottayam, Kerala. Her feast day is on July 28.
The fourth among the peers, Blessed Maria Theresa Chiramel, was born in Puttencheria near Thrissur, Kerala, on April 26, 1876.
Although she had no formal education, Blessed Maria, however, emerged as a great educationist and social reformer. In 1913, she set up a prayer house at Puttencheria where she founded her Holy Family Congregation on May 14, 1914. She died at Kuzhikattussery, Thrissur on June 8, 1926. The cause of her beatification was taken up in 1982 and she was declared beatified on April 9, 2000 by Pope John Paul II. Her feast day is on June 8.
There is only one cannonised person of Indian origin, St Gonsalo Garcia, who was born in 1557 at Vasai near Mumbai.
Under the patronage of a Jesuit priest Father Sebastian Gonsalves, he studied in a Jesuit school from 1564 to 1572. At the age of 15, Father Gonsalves took him to Japan from where he went to the Philippines as a lay missionary.
He came under the influence of a Franciscan priest Father Peter Baptister and began working among leprosy patients. In June 1587, he joined the Friars Minor or the Franciscan order and made it his solemn profession on July 3, 1588.
In 1594, he went to Japan where he set up a leprosy home in Meako, Kyoto and built a cloister in Osaka in 1595.
Around 1596, the Japanese emperor began persecuting Christians and on February 5, 1597, 26 missionaries, including Gonsalo Garcia, were taken to the Nagasaki hills and crucified. Garcia was beatified in 1629 and Pope Pious IX cannonised him on June 8, 1862.
Two other non-Indians, who made this country their home like Mother Teresa, have also been cannonised or declared saints by the Vatican.
Of the two, Spain-born St Francis Xavier, who was among the seven who founded the Society of Jesus along with St Ignatius Loyola in 1534, came to India in 1541. He worked for seven years in Goa converting thousands into Christianity.
In 1549, he travelled to Malacca and Japan and returned to India in 1551. Next year, he travelled to China, a forbidden country then. While waiting at the island of Shangwan for a ferry to the mainland, he was taken ill and died a week later on December 3, 1552. He was cannonised in 1622.
Portugal-born St John de Britto, joined the Society of Jesus on December 17, 1662 and came to India as a Jesuit priest in 1673.
Living like an Indian sanyasi in food and habit under an Indian name Arulananda, he worked in and around Madurai where he was accepted by one and all.
King Sethupathi, who ruled Marava where de Britto worked, was hostile towards Christians and on a complaint from one of his nieces, ordered de Britto's executed.
On February 4, 1693, which coincided with the Christian festival of Ash Wednesday, de Britto was taken to Oriyur hills and executed. His body was left on a stake and became food for animals. Only the skull and bones remained.Later, his remains were taken to Goa and from there to the Portuguese capital Lisbon. On April 8, 1852, he was declared 'blessed' by Pope Pious IX and cannonised on June 22, 1947 by Pope Pious XII.
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