- Title: VATICAN: Australian pilgrims moved by canonisation of first Australian saint
- Date: 18th October 2010
- Summary: PILGRIMS LEAVING (SOUNDBITE) (English) UNIDENTIFIED YOUNG AUSTRALIAN, SAYING: "Happy and excited. And proud of Australia."
- Embargoed: 2nd November 2010 10:08
- Topics: Religion
- Reuters ID: LVA6883WUNLUSIBDAMXPANR28OOR
- Aspect Ratio: 4:3
- Story Text: Australians in Vatican City celebrate the canonisation of the country's first saint, Mary MacKillop.
Thousands of Australians gathered in the Vatican on Sunday (October 17) to honour and celebrate the country's first saint, a 19th century "whistleblower" nun who activists say should be the patron of victims of sexual abuse by priests because she was punished for exposing it.
Mother Mary MacKillop was canonised by Pope Benedict at a solemn ceremony in Saint Peter's Square alongside five other new saints.
Tens of thousands of Australian pilgrims were said to have travelled to Rome to attend the mass where the pope read a sainthood decree for MacKillop, one of the few saints in Church history who were excommunicated and later rehabilitated.
The pilgrims, who had travelled from far, found the ceremony moving.
"It was beautiful, beautiful. She was like a 34th cousin of mine from the Scottish relatives so beautiful, it was a beautiful canonisation," Mary Ann Miller from Massachusetts, United States, said.
"I thought it was fantastic, absolutely beautiful, very moving and it hit the heart," Amelia from Australia said.
Documents recently uncovered in Australia showed that MacKillop was banished from the Church in part because her order uncovered a case of sexual abuse of a boy by an Irish priest.
In his homily at the mass, the pope did not mention any of MacKillop's travails with the male Church hierarchy but spoke of her "saintly example of zeal, perseverance and prayer" and the many challenges she faced.
In the wake of the new documents, some activists in the Church have called on the Vatican to declare her the patron saint of those who suffered sexual abuse by priests.
For Australian Mark Fabbro, who said he had been sexually abused by a priest at the age of 11, Sunday's ceremony was especially significant.
"Well for me as a survivor of sex abuse by a priest this is a very important day for me. Mary MacKillop was a carer of the disadvantaged and those, a particular priest who was brought to light by her for abusing children so she was protecting children of child abuse, from a particular priest called Father Keating. We know that the process occurred where her order was thrown out in the streets, she was excommunicated because of this event. I'm here today to raise some awareness around the issues of some survivors in Australia and the manner in which the Vatican and the Catholic Church has harboured and trafficked child paedophiles, paedophile priests around the planet for many years with impunity," he said.
The Catholic Church has been rocked by scandal involving the sexual abuse of children by priests over a period of decades.
The Pope met with victims of sexual abuse on most of his recent foreign trips, including in Australia in 2008.
The Catholic Church has credited MacKillop for interceding with God in what the Church considers two miracle cures, the latest was that of Kathleen Evans, who was cured of lung and brain cancer in 1993 after praying to MacKillop.
Another Australian woman, Veronica Hopson, 72, was inexplicably cured of leukaemia in 1961 after praying to MacKillop.
The order founded by MacKillop, who died in 1909, now has more than 850 members, who run schools, care homes for the aged and do community work in Australia, New Zealand, East Timor, Ireland, Scotland, Peru and Brazil.
More than a century after her death, she remains one of Australia's most revered figures, honoured even by declared atheists such as the country's Prime Minister, Julia Gillard.
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