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Just in time for All Saints Day: a saint of our time, for our time

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Technically, she will be “Blessed,” but the story of this martyr, Sister Rani, speaks to the age in which we live—an age of persecution and martyrdom that cries out for courageous people of faith.

The image above shows the man who killed her—and who later repented for his crime, and was forgiven by her family—praying before her image at her convent in India.

Attention must be paid.

Details:

The upcoming beatification of an Indian nun murdered over 20 years ago, will be an inspiration for India’s persecuted Christians, say local church leaders.

Indian Catholics are preparing for the Nov. 4 beatification ceremony of Sister Rani Maria Vattalilwho was killed in a knife attack on Feb. 25, 1995 as she traveled on a bus near the city of Indore on her way to her home state Kerala for a vacation.

Sister Rani Maria was a member of the indigenous Franciscan Clarist Congregation in Indore Diocese situated in the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh. She was 41 years of age when she was murdered.

Her “beatification, obviously, is going to be a great source of inspiration for the Church in India that faces persecution,” said Paul Abraham, a Catholic writer based in Madhya Pradesh where attacks on Christians are frequently reported.

Her story:

The Franciscan Clarist nun, now widely known as Sister Rani, was stabbed to death aboard a bus on Feb. 25, 1995. A hired assassin stabbed her at least 50 times. Her work among poor landless people had upset some landlords in Indore Diocese in Madhya Pradesh, northern India.

The nun, then 41 years old, worked in Udainagar, a village in Indore Diocese. She was traveling to Indore, the commercial hub of Madhya Pradesh state, on the way to her home in Kerala.

…For beatification as a martyr, the church does not wait to establish a miracle, it only needs the pope to make a declaration of martyrdom, stressing that the person gave their life heroically and voluntarily as a witness of faith or in an act of heroic charity.

“The papal decision to beatify her as a martyr is a moment of joy and pride for the church in Kerala,” said Cardinal Alencherry.

Sister Rani was a member of Syro-Malabar Franciscan Clarist Congregation. St. Alphonsa, India’s first woman to be canonized in 2008, also belongs to the same congregation that has developed several mission centers in northern Indian villages.

Along with evangelization work, the murdered nun “also made social interventions to educate and empower ordinary poor villagers” to free them from the clutches of local money lenders and feudal lords, said the note from Cardinal Alencherry’s office.

Her assassin Samunder Singh, while serving his life term in jail, repented and sought forgiveness from her family. “It was remarkable,” the cardinal said.

CNS recently spoke with Samunder Singh:

Samandar Singh, then 22, murdered her on behalf of money lenders upset with Sister Rani Maria’s work setting up self-help groups in the Diocese of Indore. Singh has since been forgiven by the nun’s family and was released from prison.

“Whatever happened has happened. I am sad and sorry about what I did. But now I am happy that the world is recognizing and honoring Sister Rani,” Singh, a Hindu, told Catholic News Service Oct. 30 in a telephone interview from his village of Semlia.

Singh was convicted of the murder and initially was sentenced to death; the sentence was later commuted to life in prison. He said Sister Rani Maria’s younger sister — Clarist Sister Selmy — formally accepted him as her “brother” while he was in prison and facilitated his early release. Court officials agreed to the release in 2006 after mandatory declarations were signed by Sister Selmy, her parents and church officials.

When Sister Selmy was preparing to return home to southern Kerala state in January 2007 to visit her ailing 82-year-old father, Paul Vattalil, Singh accompanied the nun and apologized to her parents.

“I am now eagerly waiting for the big day,” Singh told CNS.

Sister Rani, pray for us!

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