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India's president joins in tribute to country's first female saint

August 12, 2010

Indian president Pratibha Devisingh Patil joined in the August 12 celebrations of the centenary of the birth of St. Alphonsa, India’s first female saint, at her shrine in Bharananganam in the southern Kerala state.

Addressing nearly 100,000 people who gathered at the sprawling compound, the president also unveiled the foundation stone for a 100-bed hospice dedicated to the saint to mark her birth centenary.

A Franciscan Clarist nun, Sister Alphonsa who died in 1946 at the age of 36. Miraculous cures and blessings soon drew hundreds to the obscure village of Bharananganam, making it the most popular pilgrim center in Kerala. Sister Alphonsa was beatified by Pope John Paul II during his visit to India in 1986, and canonized by Pope Benedict XVI on Mission Sunday in 2008.

In his remarks at the celebration, President Patil, who is a Hindu, quoted Mahatma Gandhi, who said that “a saint living in seclusion can perform service by thought alone and there is only one such person in a million.” St. Alphonsa, he said, “was one such rare person, who showed tremendous piety, patience, and forgiveness as she lived within the confines of her convent.”


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