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Christians rejoice as Arab nuns canonised

by Hannah Tooley

It is thought that Mariam Bawardy and Marie Alphonsine Ghattas founded religious orders and helped educated women in the 19th Century.

According to The Washington Post they lived in what was then Ottoman-ruled Palestine. It's thought the women were born in Jerusalem but come from an Arabic-speaking Christian community that has mainly identified itself as Palestinian for many decades.

They will be the first from the region to receive sainthood since the early days of Christianity, and the first Arabic-speaking Catholic saints in history.

President Mahmoud Abbas, a Muslim, will be attending the canonization festivities at the Vatican on Sunday, according to an adviser on Christian affairs to the Palestinian leader, Ziad al-Bandak.

He said: This canonization has a meaning for the whole Palestinian nation.

"It's a very important thing for Palestinians, whether they're Muslim or Christian."

Christians make up less than two percent of the population in Israel and Palestinian territories.

At an event in Jerusalem on Saturday for the two nuns, worshippers filled the church of the Rosary Sisters Mamilla Monastery in the city.

It began a time of special prayers and masses that will continue throughout the summer in the West Bank, Jordan, Lebanon and Israel.

Books, films, songs and hymns have been prepared for the canonisation.

The Very Rev. Mother Iness al-Yacoubi, the superior general of the Rosary Sisters of Jerusalem, said she hopes the canonisation will mean more women will become nuns and help Christians in the Middle East "to strengthen, to maintain our presence here."

Mariam Bawardy was thought to have died at the age of 33 in the West Bank, and suffered the same bleeding wounds like those of Jesus on the cross. She founded a monastery there, that is still functioning today.

Marie Alphonsine Ghattas was born in Jerusalem and opened a school for girls to spearhead female literacy, she also co-founded the Congregation of the Sisters of the Rosary.

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