In a ceremony which will be watched closely by thousands in Kerala, a Catholic priest and a nun from the state – Father Kuriakose Chavara and Sister Euphrasia – will be conferred sainthood by Pope Francis at Vatican on Sunday.
Prayers and masses are being offered at several churches in Kerala since early morning today, and thousands of devotees are thronging these churches. The event will be streamed live in screens set up in select church centres.
The ceremony will include a Latin hymn and a recommendation by a representative or a mediator of the Congregation for the Saints, after which Pope Francis will pronounce them as saints at a special mass at St Peter’s Square at Vatican.
With today’s canonisation, the centuries-old Syro Malabar Church will have three Saints, the first being Sister Alphonsa, who was declared a saint in 2008.
Father Kuriakose Chavara was ordained as a priest in 1829. Revered as a reformist priest and credited for initiating several measures, he was beatified in 1986 along with Sister Alphonsa.
Father Kuriakose Chavara is associated with reforms within the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church; his pioneering contribution was setting up schools along with churches.
He also set up the first printing press among the Syro-Malabar churches in Kottayam, which went on to publish the first Malayalam daily, and popularised the concept of Sunday sermons. He founded the first Indian congregation for men and the congregation Carmalites of Mary Immaculate for the pursuit of spiritual activities.
He received the beatification after claims of several miracles by his followers. He died in 1871 and is buried at Saint Philomina’s Church at Koonammavu in Ernakulam district.
Sister Euphrasia, who led a more secluded life devoted to prayers, was beatified in 2006. She was known as a ‘praying mother’ and a ‘saint among nuns’, who, according to followers, had several miracles to her credit.
She died in 1952, at the age of 75 and is buried at Ollur, Thrissur.
To witness the canonisation ceremony, a 5,000-strong delegation of Kerala Catholic church has reached the Vatican. The delegation includes respected personalities from other religions.
The Kerala government deputed two ministers for the occasion. Rajya Sabha Deputy Chairman PJ Kurien is leading the Indian delegation.
Christians constitute 23% of Kerala’s 33 million population and 50% of them are Catholics.