Nearly a year since taking part in a prayer for Middle East peace in the Vatican Gardens, Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas has been invited to the Vatican a second time, for the canonization Mass of two Palestinians. Bl. Marie-Alphonsine Ghattas and Bl. Mariam Baouardy were both Palestinians born in the 19th century, and foundresses of religious orders. They are to be canonized at a Mass celebrated in the Vatican May 17. The news site abouna.org, run by a priest of the Jerusalem Patriarchate, announced March 22 that Patriarch Fouad Twal of Jerusalem invited Abbas to the Mass while visiting his headquarters in Ramallah, in the West Bank of Palestine. Patriarch Twal “noted that preparations are in full swing to celebrate the canonization of the two nuns, stressing that it is a historic and qualitative event at the religious, ecclesiastical and national levels,” according to the site. Bl. Marie-Alphonsine (1843-1927) was a Turco-British Palestinian and co-foundress of the Congregation of the Rosary Sisters. She was born in Palestine and spent much of her life in Bethlehem and its environs, assisting the poor and establishing schools and orphanages. A mystic and stigmatist, Blessed Mary of Jesus Crucified (Mariam Baouardy) was a Turkish Palestinian and foundress of the Discalced Carmelites of Bethlehem. She lived 1846-1878. Her family were of the Melkite Greek Catholic Church, and in the religious life she spent time in France and India before helping to found a Carmel in Bethlehem in 1875. Patriarch Twal released a pastoral letter, “Along the path to holiness,” on March 23 to celebrate the upcoming canonization of the two religious sisters, which he called “a blessing from heaven on our land, devastated by violence yet persevering in our longing for peace and justice.” “This long-awaited announcement of the double canonization, restores in us our trust and hope in Christ. The Lord wants to comfort our country, torn apart by conflicts and wars, and our people who continue to suffer and endure through injustices.” He reflected that “the tribulations which we endure encourage us to become saints, through the example of our two holy women. This is not something impossible to do.” Patriarch Twal noted Bl. Marie-Alphonsine's humility, and Bl. Mary of Jesus Crucified as “a living symbol of God's love.” He recounted the miracles performed through the blesseds' intercession: Emile Mounir Salim Elias was a surveyor who was eloctrocuted in Bayt Dajan, and became comatose for two days. He awoke healthy, and “learned that many of the faithful prayed for the intercession of Mother Marie-Alphonsine for his deliverance from death.” And Emmanuele Lo Zitto was an Italian child born in 2009 with severe congenital heart failure, who was healed after a couple who new him asked for Sr. Mary of Jesus Crucified's intercession, having visited the Carmel she founded in Bethlehem. Patriarch Twal then noted the importance of veneration, intercession, and imitation in our devotion to the saints, writing that “we worship the Lord alone, but we venerate the Saints because they are the vessels of His gifts and regarded worthy to enter into eternal life. They reign with God in the heavenly homeland as the chosen beloved. Through the Saints we glorify God, the source of every grace and every gift.” “This message on the occasion of this two-fold celebration invites you to perfection and to a renewal of spiritual life,” wrote the Patriarch. “Each and every one of us is called to holiness following the example of Blessed Marie-Alphonsine and Blessed Mary of Jesus Crucified. Both are models of self-giving, dedication, service, patience, silence and generosity. The Lord calls us to holiness — each one according to one’s state in life. Just as he did for our two saints, God also gives us graces. If we follow their example in love and purity, in selflessness and generosity, we will obtain the glory with which they have been crowned.”
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