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Christian Leaders Hope Palestinian Saints Can Be Intercessors for Peace

Carmelite Sister Ferial of the Infant Jesus cleans the hands of a statue of Blessed Mary of Jesus Crucified at the Carmel of the Child Jesus Convent in Bethlehem on 28 April. Blessed Mary is one of two Palestinian nuns who will be canonized by Pope Francis during a 23 May ceremony in Rome. (photo: CNS/Debbie Hill) 

08 May 2015 – By Judith Sudilovsky

BETHLEHEM, West Bank (CNS) — Christian leaders in the Holy Land hope two new Palestinian saints will become intercessors for peace and a bridge among faiths.

“I am sure they follow our situation from heaven and will continue to intercede for peace and reconciliation in the Holy Land,” Auxiliary Bishop William Shomali of Jerusalem said at a news conference on 6 May. “Their intercession is strong and efficacious.”

He said not only Christian Palestinians should be proud of the two saints, but also Muslims and Jews “can be happy because two persons from our country joined the highest degree of human righteousness, spiritual wisdom and mystical experience of God.”

“They are models for all and intercessors for all. Interceding for the Holy Land, they do not segregate among Christians and non-Christians,” he said. “By [coincidence] both [are] called Mary, Mariam. It is extraordinary: This name is common to Jews, Christians, and Muslims. May they become a bridge between us all.”

He added that President Mahmoud Abbas will participate in the canonization celebrations in Rome on 23 May.

“We are having a very big celebration now. Especially now that we are living a very difficult time in the Middle East, to have two Palestinian saints is wonderful,” said Sister Ferial of the Infant Jesus, a member of the Carmelite convent that Mariam Baouardy, Blessed Mary of Jesus Crucified, founded in Bethlehem. Thirteen sisters are members of the cloistered convent, with Sister Ferial the only Palestinian among them. Having joined the order four years ago after renouncing her previous life as a store owner and physiotherapist, she is also the only exterior member who serves as a connection between the sisters and the outside world.

“It is like putting a light in a dark pace. That is what Mariam and Mother Marie-Alphonsine are doing now.”

Blessed Marie-Alphonsine, born Soultaneh Maria Ghattas was born in Jerusalem in 1843 and is the founder of the Dominican Sisters of the Holy Rosary of Jerusalem, the first and still the only Palestinian women’s religious congregation. The Rosary Sisters are well-known in the Holy Land and the Middle East for their numerous educational institutions and were the first to open schools for girls in the villages visited by Mother Marie-Alphonsine, as she is known. They are particularly well-loved by local Catholics for their close connection and understanding of the local people, their traditions and language.

Mariam Baouardy, a Melkite Catholic, was born in 1846 in the Galilee village of Ibillin and died in 1878 in Bethlehem after having traveled to Egypt, France and India. She founded a Carmelite convent in India and one in Nazareth. Also known as the Little Arab, or the flower of Galilee, she was granted a series of gifts such as ecstasy, levitation, the stigmata, transverberation of the heart and the gift of poetry.

At an 18 April ceremony in Ibillin consecrating St. Mary of Jesus Crucified Chapel, commissioned by the Melkite Catholic Church, Latin Patriarch Fouad Twal noted the importance of the two women in the formation of two religious orders in the Holy Land.

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Tags: Palestine Sisters Holy Land Christians Saints