Nun becomes first Australian saint

Pope Benedict XVI canonises Mary MacKillop, a 19th-century nun, whose religious order exposed a paedophile priest.

    A cheer broke out in the crowd when MacKillop's name was announced by Pope Benedict XVI [AFP]

    Pope Benedict XVI has given Australia its first saint, canonising Mary MacKillop, a 19th-century nun, in a Mass attended by tens of thousands of people in the Vatican City.

    Speaking in Latin on the steps of St Peter's Basilica on Sunday, Benedict solemnly read out the names of MacKillop and five other new saints, declaring each one worthy of veneration by the Catholic church.

    MacKillop was briefly excommunicated by the church, in part because her religious order exposed a paedophile priest.

    A cheer broke out in the crowd when her name was announced, evidence of the significant turnout of Australians celebrating the humble nun's canonisation.

    Serving the poor

    Born in 1842, MacKillop grew up in poverty as the first of eight children of Scottish immigrants.

    She moved to the sleepy farming town of Penola in southern Australia to become a teacher, inviting the poor and the Aborigines of the area to attend free classes in a six-room stable.

    She co-founded her order, the Congregation of the Sisters of Saint Joseph of the Sacred Heart, with the goal of serving the poor, the sick and the disadvantaged, particularly through education.

    As a young nun in 1871, MacKillop and 47 other nuns from her order were briefly dismissed from the Roman Catholic church in a clash with high clergy.

    In addition to bitter rivalries among priests, one of the catalysts for the move was that her order had exposed a paedophile priest.

    Five months later, the bishop revoked his ruling from his deathbed, restoring MacKillop to her order and paving the way for her decades of work educating the poor across Australia and New Zealand.

    In his homily, Benedict praised MacKillop for her "courageous and saintly example of zeal, perseverance and prayer".

    Miracle worker

    MacKillop became eligible for sainthood after the Vatican approved a second miracle attributed to her intercession, that of Kathleen Evans, who was cured of lung and brain cancer in 1993.

    Veronica Hopson, 72, was MacKillop's first miracle, supposedly cured of leukaemia in 1961. Hopson was 22 when she was diagnosed with leukaemia and given only weeks to live.

    Kevin Rudd, Australia's foreign minister, was in the Vatican City for the canonisation, as was Lawrence Cannon, Canada's foreign minister, who celebrated the canonisation of Brother Andre, a devout Canadian christian who also gained a reputation as a healer.

    Also being canonised on Sunday were Italian nuns Giulia Salzano and Battista Camilla da Varano, and Candida Maria de Jesus Cipitria y Barriola of Spain.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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