On Sunday, a reformist priest and a reclusive nun from Kerala, which has a Christian tradition that predates most western nations, will be elevated to the Catholic Church’s holy pantheon. At 10am local time in St Peter’s Square in Vatican, Pope Francis will canonize Blessed Chavara Elias Kuriakose, a Carmelite priest, and Blessed Euphrasia Eluvathingal, a Carmelite nun, as saints.
The canonization will be watched live on TV by hundreds of thousands of faithful across Kerala and will be accompanied by holy mass and special novena in various places, notably in Mannanam and Ollur, which are closely associated with the two to-be saints. The centuries-old Syro Malabar Church, which traces its origins to the Apostle St Thomas, will now have three saints, the first being Sister Alphonsa.
“The official rite of canonization begins with a classical Latin hymn, Veni Creator Spiritus, invoking the blessing of the Spirit of God. Followed by the official request by the Prefect of the Congregation for the Saints, the Pope gives consent after hearing a brief accord of their lives,” Fr William Nellikkal of Vatican Radio told TOI from Rome. A large number of devotees, two Cardinals and a huge contingent of clergy from Kerala have already left for Vatican to witness the event.
Schoolchildren looking at a painting exhibition as part of canonization of Father Kuriakose Elias Chavara at CMI Public School, Kozhikode, on November 22, 2014. (TOI photo)
Fr Chavara (1805-1871), founder of Carmelites of Mary Immaculate, the first congregation for men in the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church, was a social reformer who emphasized secular education, especially for the depressed classes, and the currency of the word ‘pallikudam’ – school in Malayalam – is directly attributed to his missionary zeal.
He established the first Catholic Sanskrit School in Kerala at the Mannanam monastery in 1846 and also set up the first Catholic printing press the same year.
Mar Jose Puthenveetil, Ernakulam-Angamaly Archdiocese auxiliary bishop, leading prayers after the arrival of the relics of Father Chavara and Sister Euphrasia which were brought to Rajagiri valley as part of the celebration prior to canonizations of both them, at Kakkanadu, Kochi, on November 21, 2014. (TOI photo by Jipson Sikhera)
Sister Euphrasia, on the other hand, was more meditatively inclined, who chose to live in the confines of a convent in Thrissur helping people through prayers and wise counsel.
The bid for Fr Chavara’s sainthood began long back, and he was declared a ‘venerable’ in 1984 and beatified in 1986, the same year Pope John Paul II visited Kerala. Sr Euphrasia, who died in 1952, was declared Servant of God in 1987 and beatified in 2006.