The Church in India added one more feather in her cap as Sr. Rani Maria Vattalil was declared “Blessed” in the presence of august gathering. It was also a day of joy and happiness for the people of Indore, where the official declaration of the beatification was made on Saturday, 4th November, 2017.
Blessed Rani Maria joins three other ‘Blessed’ from India, namely; Bl. Devasahayam Pillai, Bl. Augustine Thevarparampil and Bl. Mariam Thresia to become Blessed. There are already seven Saints from India – St. Gonsalo Garcia, St. Joseph Vaz, St. Kuriakose Elias Chavara, St. John de Britto, St. Euphrasia, St. Alphonsa and St. Teresa of Calcutta. The process of canonization has four phases: Initiation of cause of Sainthood by the local parish, Servant of God, Venerable, Blessed and Saint.
The Vatican representative Cardinal Angelo Amato (Prefect of the Congregation for the Cause of the Saints) announced Sr. Rani Maria ‘Martyr’ and ‘Blessed’ in the presence of tens and thousands of people on this auspicious day. Even her murderer, Samunder Singh attended her beatification ceremony sitting with her family member, kept crying every now and then. Feeling sorry for what he did Singh said, “She was a saint and now she will be declared one soon too.”
In the beginning of the celebrations a short film based on Sr. Rani Maria’s life was shown to the people and the obituary of her life and mission work was read out for the public. The Beatification Ceremony began at 10 am with a solemn Eucharistic celebration at St. Paul School grounds in Indore, Madhya Pradesh. A long procession and dance by children till the altar filled the atmosphere with spiritual vibes.
Among the dignitaries who presided over the mass are, the Apostolic Nuncio Most Rev. Giambattista Diquattro from Delhi, Nunciature Msgr. Henry Jagodzinsk from Delhi, Cardinal Mar Baselios Cleemis from Trivandrum, Cardinal Telesphore Toppo from Ranchi, Cardinal Oswald Gracias from Mumbai, Cardinal Mar George Alencherry from Ernakulum besides 10 Archbishops, 60 Bishops, Priests, Nuns and around fifteen thousand faithful participated in the ceremony.
The Apostolic Letter (Litterae apostolicae in latin) of Pope Francis was read out by the Cardinal Amato. It vividly pronounced Sr. Rani Maria a “Blessed” in the Holy Catholic Church. Hereafter she will be known as ‘Blessed Rani Maria’. It read as: Chacko Thottumarikal SVD, bishop of Indore, as well as many brothers of the apostolic and many Christian faithful, after having consulted the pontification for the process of saint by our apostolic authority grant the faculty that the Venerable Servant of God Regina Maria Vattalil professed sister of the congregation of Franciscan Clarist martyred, who recognized the face of the poor in suffering, shall be called blessed in future and that her feast be celebrated each year on February 25, the day she was martyred.
Cardinal Amato also delivered his special message. He said, “Sr. Rani Maria’s martyrdom is a blessing for the Indian Catholic Church. She died to defend gospel values. Her social apostolate was for the service of the poor and needy. Her prayer to Jesus kept her firm in holiness and spirituality. She also used to pray through the intercession of St. Alphonsa which led her to the path of saintly life.” She was known for her smiling face and thus known as an Apostle of smile. The English translation of the apostolic letter was read by Cardinal Mar George Alencherry and Hindi translation was read by Cardinal Telesphore Toppo.
The highlight of the entire ceremony was unique procession with the songs of praise, people holding umbrellas, children dancing, faithful singing, nuns standing in rows with palm leaves and priests, bishops, and Cardinals walking to the altar. The epic scene was the solemn declaration to Blessedhood of Sr. Rani Maria, when all faithful rejoiced in the Lord Jesus Christ, for his marvelous deed of choosing her to be beatified.
The centre of attraction was releasing of the relic of Sr. Rani Maria, unveiling of the statue, and blessing of her life-size portrait. After placing it on the altar, the statue was blessed by Cardinal Angelo Amato, who thereafter offered incense to it and proclaimed – Blessed Sr. Rani Maria, pray for us – for the first time, which was repeated by the whole congregation. This was made available for the general public for prayer and blessings. A large number of people prayed through the intercession of Blessed Sr. Rani Maria and sought her blessings.
“Rani Maria nayari tu maria, jiwan tu nae balivadi par arpit kiya” (Rani Maria holy you are, your life you have offered on the altar of God), a Hindi hymn was sung by the 100 members of choir in the praise of her service and social work. Melodious singing and cultural programmes took place in the presence of dignitaries and large audience. A skit on the life of Bl. Rani Maria was presented for the people, who couldn’t control their emotions. Tears rolled down the eyes of multitude as the skit and dances were performed. Special felicitation ceremony for the Cardinal Amato and all the guests took place after the solemn declaration at 2 pm. “Rani Maria Family Welfare Mission” with the motto ‘Good News to the Poor’ was also inaugurated on this momentous occasion.
Prayers and Masses were also offered at Udainagar, where her grave is built in a church. Her body was first buried outside the Church in 1995. Later mortal remains were moved inside the Sacred Heart Church as part of the beatification process, and today a number of pilgrims visit the tomb to seek favours. Cardinal Angelo Amato offered the Holy Mass on 3rd November and a Vigil Prayer Service was conducted in the evening at St. Francis Assisi Cathedral, Indore . Finally, the Apostolic Nuncio Most Rev. Giambattista Diquattro from Delhi concluded the beatification celebrations with the thanksgiving mass on 5th November. The spiritual and colourful Rani Mariya Dhanya Ghoshna Uttsav (Beatification of Sr. Rani Maria) ended with spiritual fervour and gusto.
(Published on 13th November 2017, Volume XXIX, Issue 46)