“Each one of Christ’s followers is called to become a witness to His Resurrection, above all in those human settings where forgetfulness of God and human disorientation are most evident”, said the Pope in the homily he pronounced during the Mass for the canonization of four new saints: Jeanne-Emilie de Villeneuve (1811-1854), French nun and founder of the Congregation of the Sisters of the Immaculate Conception of Castres; Maria Cristina of the Immaculate Conception (nee Maria Cristina Brando, 1856-1906), Italian nun and founder of the Oblation Sisters of the Holy Sacrament; Marie-Alphonsine Danil Ghattas (nee Maryam Sultanah, 1843-1927), Palestinian co-founder of the Congregation of the Sisters of the Holy Rosary of Jerusalem; and Mary of Jesus Crucified (nee Maryam Baouardy 1846-1878) Palestinian nun of the Order of Discalced Carmelites. The solemn ceremony, which took place in a packed St. Peter’s Square, was attended by more than two thousand Christians from the Middle East, the Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas, the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem Fouad Twal, and an Israeli delegation whom the Pope greeted at the end of the celebration.
In his homily, the Holy Father, citing the Acts of the Apostles, recalls that their mission of announcing Jesus, of whose resurrection they were eyewitnesses, was a community rather than an individual undertaking. Thanks to the witness of the Twelve, many people came to believe; from faith in the risen Lord, Christian communities were born and are born continually. “We too, today, base our faith in the risen Lord on the witness of the Apostles, which has come down to us through the mission of the Church”, he said. “Our faith is firmly linked to their testimony, as to an unbroken chain which spans the centuries, made up not only by the successors of the Apostles, but also by succeeding generations of Christians. Like the Apostles, each one of Christ’s followers is called to become a witness to His resurrection, above all in those human settings where forgetfulness of God and human disorientation are most evident”.
For this to happen, “we need to abide in the risen Christ and in His love, … like Sister Jeanne Emilie de Villeneuve, who consecrated her life to God and to the poor, the sick, the imprisoned and the exploited, becoming for them and for all a concrete sign of the Lord’s merciful love”. This same love conquered another of the new saints, Sister Maria Cristina Brando, who “from prayer and her intimate encounter with the risen Jesus present in the Eucharist received strength to endure suffering and to give herself, as bread which is broken, to many people who had wandered far from God and yet hungered for authentic love”.
Another essential aspect of witness to the risen Lord is unity among His disciples, in the image of His own unity with the Father. “From this eternal love between the Father and the Son, poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, our mission and our fraternal communion draw strength; this love is the ever-flowing source of our joy in following the Lord along the path of His poverty, His virginity and His obedience; and this same love calls us to cultivate contemplative prayer”. This was the love that Sister Mariam Baouardy experienced: “poor and uneducated, she was able to counsel others and provide theological explanations with extreme clarity, the fruit of her constant dialogue with the Holy Spirit. Her docility to the Holy 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 in the apostolate, 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”.
The “luminous example” of the four new saints, who abide in God and in His love, inspires us, in our lives as Christians, “to proclaim by our words and our lives the resurrection of Jesus, to live in unity with one another and with charity towards all”, concluded Pope Francis.