President pays tributes to St. Alphonsa

The first woman President, Pratibha Patil, on Thursday paid tributes to the first canonised woman saint of India, St. Alphonsa, at a solemn function organised as part of the valedictory of the year-long celebrations of the birth centenary of St. Alphonsa of Bharananganam.

The President recalled the extraordinary life of St. Alphonsa who was uncomplaining and spiritually strong in her extreme physical pain.

She accepted the pain in patience, resilience and fortitude, the President said.

She also reminded the faithful of the extraordinary ability of St. Alphonsa to reach out to those in pain and console them through

prayers. “Prayer is a means to search for the divinity in each of us,” she said. “The Saint who accepted pain with a smile was fondly called ‘Smiling Sister' by her students.”

The President pointed out that India produced great philosophies like Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism. Christianity and Islam arrived in India in the early years of their origin and took deep roots in society, contributing to the social development and participating in social life. The presence of these religions have contributed to the social, religious and cultural diversity of the land and to the strong secular values cherished by the nation, she said.

In his presidential address, Governor R.S. Gavai recalled the contributions made by Christian churches in the field of education. Missionaries were responsible for introduction of primary education. The Church has also contributed to the development of higher education, he said. The Governor also praised the contribution of the Church in the field of health.

He hoped that the centenary celebrations would foster social harmony to which the Christian community had contributed immensely.

The President was received at the tomb of St. Alphonsa of Bharanganam by Rector of the pilgrim centre Joseph Thadathil. The President accompanied by the Governor and other members of the entourage paid floral tributes at the tomb before moving to the dais for the public function where she was warmly received by Bishop Joseph Kallarangatt.

The President laid the foundation stone for the St. Alphonsa Hospice and Palliative Care Centre and launched a welfare scheme for the needy and financially backward patients suffering from cancer, renal ailments and heart diseases.

Major Archbishop Baselius Clemis Catholicos, vice-chairman of the Catholic Bishops Conference of India (CBCI); Leader of the Opposition Ommen Chandy; Archbishop Joseph Perumthottam of Changanassery; Archbishop Susaipakiam of Thiruvananthapuram; Jose K. Mani, MP; K.M. Mani and P.C. George, MLAs; the former Governor of Meghalaya M.M. Jacob; Mother Sinclair, Mother Superior of Franciscan Clarist Congregation; and others extended felicitations.

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