Vatican confirms sainthood for Australia's Mary MacKillop

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Melbourne/Rome, Feb.20 (ANI): Pope Benedict XVI has declared that Mary MacKillop will become Australia's first saint.

The announcement was made in a ceremony at the Vatican, reports the Daily Telegraph.

The canonization of the Melbourne-born nun will take place on October 17, in a service in St Peter's Square that could draw thousands of Australian pilgrims.

Australia's Sister Maria Casey was among those who attended the historic meeting to confirm Mary MacKillop's sainthood.

"Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would be the one who would see it through to the end," said Sister Maria, who led the sainthood campaign.

"It's a rare privilege indeed," she added.

Holy See ambassador Tim Fischer said: "This is a terrific salute to an outstanding Australian, a giant leader in education and many other fields."

About 100 people were invited to the gathering at the Apostolic Palace, the Pope's official residence overlooking St Peter's Square in Vatican City.

The group included dozens of Rome cardinals instructed to dress in full regalia for the ceremony, broadcast live on television for the first time in the church's history.

Bishops and key figures in the sainthood process such as Sister Maria were also present, with the ceremony held in Latin and including prayers and hymns.

Five other candidates from Canada, Poland, Spain and Italy will also be made saints at the same service on October 17.

The decision comes after the Pope's December decree of Mary MacKillop's second miracle, for the cure of NSW grandmother Kathleen Evans of lung and brain cancer in 1993.

Mary MacKillop, who was devoted to educating the young and helping the poor and disadvantaged, died in August 1909.

Her sainthood will cap a remarkable turnaround for a woman who was once excommunicated after a dispute with the church hierarchy.

The process to make her a saint began in the 1920s, and her first miracle was decreed in 1961 after the recovery of a woman with leukaemia.

Interest in the latest round of sainthoods, particularly from Australia and Canada, has been so high that the Vatican decided to broadcast the entire meeting for the first time. (ANI)

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