Pope Benedict XVI has officially
recognised Australia’s first saint, Mary MacKillop, a Melbourne-born nun who
worked with needy children.
She was canonised with five others,
including Brother Andre, a Canadian monk credited with miraculous healings.
MacKillop, who died in 1909, clashed
with senior clergy and was briefly excommunicated, in part for exposing a
“We’ve always believed that Mary
was a saint,” said 65-year-old Moya Campbell, a member of the order.
Father Thomas Casanova, a priest from
New South Wales and a distant relative of MacKillop, said it was a momentous
“I’ve been looking forward to this
since I was a child,” he said.
Others wanted to recognise MacKillop’s
lifetime of commitment to poor people, including Australia’s Aboriginal
“She supported Aboriginal people
because she believed in supporting people who were disadvantaged,” said
pilgrim Melissa Brickell.
For anyone to become a saint, the Church
has to recognise their intermediary role in two miracles.
In MacKillop’s case, both were in
relation to people who were ruled to have been cured of cancer after praying
for the nun’s assistance.
Veronica Hopson was the first person
MacKillop is said to have healed – she recovered from leukaemia in 1961.
On Sunday she told Australian TV:
“I feel very fortunate that I was given the opportunity to live my life,
have a family, have grandchildren, so that’s a miracle.”
Kathleen Evans, the second person
MacKillop the nun is credited with healing, recovered from cancer in 1993. She
attended the canonisation Mass and carried relics of St Mary to the altar.
“I think she would be delighted to
see so many people looking at their own lives and considering how they can live
better and care more,” Ms Evans said in a statement.
Many Canadians were also in St Peter’s
Square to honour Andre Bessette – better known as Brother Andre – who is
thought to have healed thousands in Montreal and founded the city’s St Joseph’s
“He was wonderful. He healed
many,” Anna Diliddo, a teacher from Toronto, told AFP news agency.
Mary MacKillop was excommunicated in
1871, but the Church later exonerated her. She was eventually put on the road
to sainthood by Pope John Paul II, who beatified her in 1995.
Australian Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd,
who attended the Mass, has described MacKillop as “an extraordinary
Because of her role in exposing clerical
abuse, some have called for MacKillop to made a patron saint of abused
In recent years, there has been a wave
of cases around the world in which Church authorities failed to deal properly
with priests accused of child abuse, sometimes just moving them to new parishes
where more children were put at risk.
St MacKillop has become a kind of
religious celebrity in Australia, where there is great anticipation about her
canonisation, says the BBC’s Duncan Kennedy in Rome.
She has been the subject of a musical,
has stamps and pop songs in her honour and her image has been projected onto
Sydney’s Harbour Bridge.
Thousands of people attended a Mass in
Melbourne’s St Patrick’s Cathedral to mark her passage to sainthood.
And all week, pilgrims have been
converging on the chapel and museum at the site in North Sydney where she died.
Her mother Flora MacDonald was born in Fort
William in the Scottish Highlands and later lived in Roy Bridge, while her
father Alexander was born in Perthshire.
There is a shrine to the Blessed Mary
MacKillop at St Margaret’s Church in Roy Bridge. The nun visited the Lochaber
village in the 1870s.