Vatican City: Kerala nun Sister Alphonsa was declared a saint at ceremony in Vatican on Sunday.
Pope Benedict XVI canonised her at a ceremony in St Peter's Square, making Alphonsa the first Indian woman saint. The canonisation took place after 1440 hrs IST and the ceremony was attended by around 25,000 people of Indian origin as well as a large delegation from India.
The final ceremony for the canonisation began with the holy relics of Alphonsa being presented to the Pope by Sister Celia, mother general of the Franciscan Clarist congregation, of which Alphonsa was a member.
Celia was accompanied by Vice Postulator Father Francis Vadakkel and former Kerala minister K M Mani, all holding lighted candles.
Speaking in English, the Pope declared Sister Alphonsa a saint, after reading excerpts from the Holy Bible. The Pope himself read out the biography of Alphonsa after the ceremony.
At least 25,000 Indian origin people, a majority from Kerala, where Saint Alphonsa belongs, gathered at St. Peter's Square in the Vatican to attend the historic moment. Many were waving the Tricolour during the ceremony.
Pope Benedict had cleared Sister Alphonsa's name for canonisation on June 1, 2007, a process that was started 55 years ago. She was beatified by Pope John Paul II in 1986 in Kottayam, 40 years after her death.
Sister Alphonsa is credited with curing illness and disease after her death in 1946, with the Vatican approving the reported miracle cure of Genil Joseph, a congenitally deformed child, in 1999.
Alphonsa was born in Kudamaloor, a village near Kottayam, to Joseph and Mary Aug 19, 1910, and after facing several health problems she died July 28, 1946, in Bharnanganam. She was the second saint from India to be canonised.
Alphonsa, who deliberately disfigured herself at a young age to ward off suitors and enter the convent, died at the age of 36. Her tomb became a pilgrimage site and she was credited with several miracles, particularly curing illness and disease.
In the 19th century, Saint Gonsalo Garcia, born in Vasai near Mumbai to an Indian mother and Portuguese father in 1556, was declared a saint.
Sister Alphonsa was third in the number of four saints canonized on Sunday. Gaetano Errico, born October 19, 1791, in Italy was canonized first. The second was Mary Bernard, born in Switzerland May 28, 1848. The third was Sister Alphonsa.
Narcisa De Jesús Martillo Morán, born in 1832 in Ecuador, was the fourth to be canonised.
Union minister Oscar Fernandes led the Indian delegation at the ceremony. Kerala was represented by state PWD minister,
Mons Joseph, former minister K M Mani and MP P C Thomas, among others.
Church bells peeled across Kerala and special prayers were held as the proclamation was made in Vatican.
(With inputs from IANS and Reuters)