Kerala Catholics rejoice for two new saints

Vatican recognition puts India on global Christianity map

Sunday was a day to rejoice for the Catholic community in India, and more specifically Kerala, as Pope Francis canonised a priest and nun from the state—Fr Kuriakose Elias Chavara and Sr Euphrasia Eluvathingal—at St Peter’s Square in the Vatican.

The mood was jubilant at Mannanam in Kottayam district and Ollur in Thrissur district, two significant locations in the lives of St Chavara (1805-1871) and St Euphrasia (1877-1952).

St Chavara co-founded the Carmelites of Mary Immaculate (CMI)—in 1831 at Mannanam, which is also home to the first Catholic Sanskrit school of the state and a printing press attached to the Church, both established by St Chavara in 1846.

Mannanam and the St Philomena’s Church in Koonammavu near Kochi, where St Chavara spent his final years, hosted thousands of believers from the early hours of the day. A life-size statue of St Chavara was unveiled at Koonammavu.

Meanwhile, at St Euphrasia’s tomb in Ollur's St Mary’s Convent, believers marked the canonisation of “Euprasiamma”. Processions and celebratory events were held in different parts of the state, with some venues screening the canonisation live. Fr Stephen Alathara, deputy secretary-general of the Conference of Catholic Bishops of India, said the canonisation was also recognition for India on a global stage. “It’s a day of joy and pride for the Church in Kerala, which has a history of about 2,000 years. But beyond the recognition to the Church, it’s also a day of jubilation for the entire nation,” he told Deccan Herald.

St Kuriakose Elias Chavara led several initiatives on social reform and the relevance of secularism and education. As CMI co-founder, he took the lead in social activities and was a key force in reforming the Syro-Malabar liturgy. It was he who initiated formation of primary schools—pallikoodams—in parishes.

He passed away at Koonammavu near Kochi in 1871.
The process of his beatification had commenced in 1958. Pope John Paul II elevated him to the status of Venerable in 1984 and declared him Blessed in 1986. Pope Francis had announced the date of his canonisation in June this year.

Born Rosa Eluvathinkal in Kattoor in Thrissur, St Euphrasia received her religious name in 1897. The Syro-Malabar Church describes her as a nun who grew up in “humility, poverty and holiness”. She passed away at her Ollur convent in 1952.

Kerala’s Culture Minister K C Joseph and Kottayam MP Jose K Mani were part of India’s official delegation to the event, led by Rajya Sabha deputy chairman P J Kurien.

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