“Apostle of Smile” Indian Church’s beacon of hope: Cardinal
By Saramma Emmanuel
Indore: The sacrifice of Rani Maria has become “a beacon of light for the multitude of missionaries,” who face difficulties in their work for good, a Vatican official says.
“Sister Rani hungered and thirsted for justice. For this reason she was killed,” said Cardinal Angelo Amato, prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, who on November 4 beatified Rani Maria at Indore, a central Indian town.
The Franciscan Clarist Congregation nun died of 54 stab wounds on February 25, 1995, at Nachanbore Hill, a deserted place in Dewas district between Indore and Udainagar, where she was based. She was 41 at the time of her assassination.
More than 15,000 people attended the beatification ceremonies held at the grounds of St Paul Higher Secondary School, Indore, the commercial capital of Madhya Pradesh state.
Four Indian cardinals along with 45 bishops and hundreds of priests belonging to the Latin, Syro-Malabar and Syro-Malankara ritual Churches assisted the Vatican official at the Mass celebrated on a specially erected altar.
The ceremonies began at 10 am with Cardinal Amato reading out the announcement from Pope Francis declaring the Rani Maria as a blessed. Cardinal George Alencherry, head of the Syro-Malabar Church, then read the declaration’s English version.
Among those present were Samandar Singh, who assassinated Blessed Rani Maria, and her family members, who came from Kerala, her native state in southern India.
Rani Maria “died to promote and defend the Gospel values of justice, brotherhood and pardon, which she proclaimed and practiced through the apostolate among the poor,” Cardinal Amato reminded the gathering in his homily.
The Vatican official hailed her “the apostle of the smile” for maintaining “perennial optimism” amid challenges and “tears of suffering” and leading a faith filled with patience, courage, serenity and a spirit of reconciliation.
According to him, Rani Maria’s martyrdom is a blessing not just for the mission of Udainagar but for the entire Catholic Church in India. Her sacrifice, the Salesian prelate added, has become “a beacon of light for the multitude of missionaries, who find in her inspiration and protection for their difficult work for the good.”
The Vatican official also pointed out that martyrs always “have rendered the earth fertile for the generation of new Christians.” Udainagar and surrounding villagers where Rani Maria worked have hardly any Christians.
The Salesian prelate said Rani Maria’s was massacred because she preached the “Gospel of charity and defended the poor from the injustice of those who exploited them.”
The 79-year-old Vatican official also noted that the slain nun had opposed “the abuse of authority” by organizing the villagers and taking “concrete initiatives of cooperation and microcredit.”
For Cardinal Amato, the “evident sign” of the efficacy of Rani Maria’s martyrdom is the public repentance of her assassin, Singh.
Rani Maria is the first female martyr of the Indian Church. The first martyr to be blessed is Devasahayam Pillai, a layman who was executed in 1752 by a local king in the present state of Tamil Nadu. Cardinal Amato had beatified him in 2012 at Nagercoil in Kanniyakumari district.
According to Cardinal Amato, Sister Rani Maria displays “the beauty and the great dignity” of a human in a multicultural and multi-religious soceity. He hailed her as “a courageous protagonist of the proclamation of the social message of Jesus to the poor, to the marginalized and to those who suffer violence and injustice.”
The Vatican official wants Catholic nuns to follow Sister Rani Maria and remain faithful to their vocation and undergo sacrifices to witness the good news of Christ. He reminded them that Rani Maria’s social apostolate was rooted in “a profound attitude of adoration and a continuous listening to the Word of God.” He also wants them to lead a missionary life that blends prayer, social responsibility and community life along with universal brotherhood.