|Mariam Baouardy is to the left while Alphonsine Ghattas is to the right|
Today, May 17th, in a canonization laden with significance both religious and political, Pope Francis declared Marie Alphonsine Ghattas and Mariam Baouardy the first two Palestinian saints of modern times.
About 2,000 Palestinians gathered in the Vatican's St. Peter's Square to sing and pray and celebrate their saints. There, they heard the Pope pay tribute to the way in which the two new saints experienced the love of God.
He said: Sister Mariam Baouardy experienced this in an outstanding way. Poor and uneducated, she was able to counsel others and provide theological explanations with extreme clarity, the fruit of her constant converse with the Holy Spirit. Her docility to the Spirit also made her a means of encounter and fellowship with the Muslim world,"
"So, too, Sister Marie Alphonsine Danil Ghattas came to understand clearly what it means to radiate the love of God ... and to be a witness to meekness and unity. She shows us the importance of becoming responsible for one another, of living lives of service one to another," he said.
Ghattas was born in Jerusalem in the 1840s to a devout Christian family. She became a nun, dedicating herself to a life of quiet servitude.
In Bethlehem, she said she began to receive visions of the Virgin Mary telling her to start a new congregation for Arab girls, called Sisters of the Rosary.
Ghattas' hard work and her profound devotion led to the founding of the Rosary Sisters Convent. It was Ghattas' home, which she donated to the convent to spread education and culture to those in need.
While Baouardy was born in Ibillin, a small village in Galilee, also in the 1840s. She was the 13th child in her family, and the only one to survive past infancy.
Her parents died when she was 3 years old, and her uncle raised her.
In Alexandria, Egypt, one of her uncle's servants told her to convert to Islam. When she refused, the servant slit her throat.
It was then that Baouardy's miracle began.
"Mariam became a martyr, and she went to heaven," said Sister Fireal of the Carmelite Monastery in Bethlehem. "She saw the crown of grace, saw her mother and father. But she heard a voice saying that your life is not yet over and you should return to Earth."
According to Baouardy's account, a young nun dressed in blue healed her, cared for her, and led her to the church. It was, she believed, the Virgin Mary.
Baouardy led a life of service to the poor and to the church.