Jerusalem church readies for first modern Palestinian saints

Jerusalem's Latin Patriarchate on Wednesday hailed the upcoming canonisation by Pope Francis of two nuns who will become the first modern-day Palestinian saints.

Marie Alphonsine Ghattas of Jerusalem and Mariam Bawardy of Galilee, both of whom lived in Ottoman Palestine during the 19th century, will be canonised at the Vatican in Rome later this month.

"In Rome, Pope Francis will declare on May 17 two Palestinian nuns as saints, and we are in full preparation," Bishop William Shomali told journalists.

A worker hangs lights and Vatican flags at the Latin Patriarchate in Jerusalem's Old City

A worker hangs lights and Vatican flags at the Latin Patriarchate in Jerusalem's Old City ©Gali Tibbon (AFP/File)

The pair's canonisation "means that holiness is still possible, that... spiritual perfection is still possible," he said.

"Our Holy Land continues to be holy, not only because of the holy places it hosts, but also because good people live here."

Pope Francis announced in February that the two nuns would be canonised -- the first Palestinian Arabs to gain sainthood.

Ghattas was born in Jerusalem in 1847, and died there in 1927. She was beatified -- the final step before canonisation -- in 2009.

Bawardy was born in Galilee, now in northern Israel, in 1843. She became a nun in France and died in Bethlehem in 1878.

She was beatified by Pope John Paul II in 1983.

Although there are several saints who lived in the region during Christianity's early days, Bawardy and Ghattas are the first to be canonised from Ottoman-era Palestine.

"The Catholic Church has its own parameters to honour the best and outstanding among its faithful," Shomali said.

"Our Holy Land has given hundreds of saints during its long history. Our greatest saint is Holy Mary, mother of Jesus.

"But we have three only from the modern period, whose language was not Greek, or Latin, nor Aramaic, but Arabic."

The canonisation of a third Palestinian -- a Salesian monk -- is still under review by the Church.

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