Assassin, others thrilled at martyr nun’s beatification
By Saramma Emmanuel
Indore: People associated with Sister Rani Maria are thrilled at the news that Pope Francis has approved her beatification.
“I am very happy that she is on the way to martyrdom. She got her due for what she had suffered,” says Samunder Singh, the reformed assassin of the Franciscan Clarist Congregation nun.
The nun died of 54 stab wounds inflicted by Singh on February 25, 1995, at deserted forest area near Indore, commercial capital of the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh. The nun, who was then 41, was traveling by a bus to Indore en route to her native place in Kerala, southern India.
Singh was awarded life term for the crime, but was released after 11 years in recognition of his exemplary life in the jail. The slain nun’s family also pleaded for his early release.
“I know I committed a crime that has no justification. I still feel sorry for her. I did the crime influenced by others. I am happy that the Church has recognized her great contribution,” Singh told Matters India on March 24, a day after the pope signed papers for her beatification.
The main reason for Singh’s reformation was the forgiving gesture of the martyred nun’s younger sister, who also belongs to the same congregation. Sister Selmy Paul visited Singh in Jail in 2002 to accept him as her brother. Later, the entire family accepted him as its member.
Singh acknowledged that Sister Paul’s gesture gave him a rebirth.
“Let the will of God be fulfilled,” Sister Paul told Matters India, reacting to the beatification news. “I am very happy about her beatification. I know our family is not worthy of such a recognition, but God has chosen and let His will be done. Whatever happened is happened for the glory of God,” she added.
Archbishop Leo Cornelio of Bhopal, head of the Catholic Church in Madhya Pradesh, says the beatification will “definitely boost the morale of missionaries working” in central India where they face violent attacks on them and their institutions.
Sister Rani Maria’s beatification has once again proved that a Church person’s hard work would not go in vain despite the criticism and confrontations they may face.
The prelate noted that the church always stands with the oppressed people in the caste-ridden Indian society where the poor, Dalit and other weaker sections face exploitation. Sister Rani Maria fought against the modern slavery of bonded labor and ensured that the poor got justice. However, she had to face a brutal death, Archbishop Cornelio told Matters India.
According to him, the slain nun is “a great example” for everyone who works for the poor and the downtrodden. “The work of such persons will not go unnoticed in the eyes of the Lord and also of the Church,” he added.
The prelate also asserted the Church will continue to work for the advancement of the poor and that Sister Rani Maria will become a constant inspiration for those working in difficult places.
Sister Bincy Therese, one of the main collaborators in the cause for the canonization process, says Sister Rani Maria lived the faith despite hatreds and oppositions.
“The very fact that she lived a saintly life, she can be called a saint. However, there were differences of opinion whether she should be made a saint or a martyr,” the 58-year-old Franciscan Clarist nun, who did the writing work as the positio.
Sister Therese, who holds a doctorate in martyrdom, told Matters India on March 25 that the slain nun lived for charity and reconciliation. Since Sister Rani worked as a social worker there were concerns whether she was eligible for martyrdom as there were others like her too were killed on account of their work, explained the nun.
But “she lived the real faith” and hence God helped us to clear all contradictions, she said and added that even the transformation of Samandar Singh and his repentance were a special grace from God “we got through the saintly nun.”
Sister Therese recalled the slain nun telling her companions that religious life “is meant to help the poor and stand for them against opposition and threat. If we don’t stand for them who will do it for them she used to ask.”
The slain nun’s family members forgiving Singh and accepting him as a family member were “a clear sign of God’s intervention,” she added.