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Pope denounces anti-Christian violence in India

October 12, 2008 19:10 IST

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While conferring sainthood on Sister Alphonsa, Pope Benedict XVI denounced anti-Christian violence � especially in Orissa and Karnataka -- called for reconciliation.

Watched by over 5,000 Indian Christians who came to Vatican for the historic ceremony from India and other parts of the world as well as thousands of others, the Pope said Sister Alphonsa had been "an exceptional woman, who today is offered to the people of India as their first canonised (woman) saint."

She had lived in "extreme physical and spiritual suffering," the pope said. She "was convinced that her cross was the very means of reaching the heavenly banquet prepared for her by the Father.

The Pope also used the occasion to express his concern over the violence against Christians in states like Orissa and Karnataka.

"I urge the perpetrators of violence to renounce these acts and join with their brothers and sisters to work together in building a civilisation of love," the Pope said in his concluding speech after canonising Sister Alphonsa and three others -- Maria Bernarda Butler from Switzerland [Images], Narcisa de

Jesus Marlillo Moran from Ecuador and Father Gaetano Errico from Italy [Images].

"As the Christian faithful of India give thanks to God for their first native daughter to be presented for public veneration, I wish to assure them of my prayers during this difficult time," he said in his speech which was televised internationally.

Sister Alphonsa's "heroic virtues of patience, fortitude and perseverance in the midst of deep suffering remind us that God always provides the strength we need to overcome every trial", the Pope said.

"I invite prayers for reconciliation and peace in situations which provoke alarm and great suffering," he said.

Many priests and guests who attended the ceremony at the St Peters Square said it was a great day for them particularly when Christians have been targeted in certain states in the country.

A number of Bishops and Cardinals from the country, including members from the Syro-Malabar, Latin and Malankara churches of Kerala [Images] were also present on the occasion.

While conferring sainthood on Sister Alphonsa, the Pope read out passages from the Bible and excerpts from her biography.

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