Australia has welcomed the nation’s first saint, Saint Mary of the Cross MacKillop, with cheers, tears of joy and enthusiastic applause.
St Mary was declared at about 1945 AEDT on Sunday during a canonisation ceremony at the Vatican in Rome led by Pope Benedict XVI.
Up to 8000 Australians, wearing yellow or teal coloured scarves, watched from the square of St Peter’s, the centre of Roman Catholicism. Across Australia, many thousands more watched the live broadcast.
The Pope named each candidate in turn, ending with the declaration that their names be inscribed “in the canon (list) of the saints and establish that throughout the church they be honoured devoutly among all the saints.”
“It was lovely I’m so glad I was here,” Dianna Georges told AAP at Mary MacKillop Place where 2000 people had roared their approval and erupted with cheers and applause following the formal canonisation.
The mother of three from Croydon, in Sydney’s inner west, was cradling her three-week-old baby Elyssa Anne Mary, named after Mother Mary.
“Hopefully, Mary MacKillop will keep her safe and protect her throughout her life.”
Following the canonisation, dozens poured into the chapel to pray at St Mary’s tomb.
Father Graeme Malone, priest to Mary MacKillop Place, said he was deeply stirred by the moment.
“It was a great privilege to witness it,” he told AAP.
The ceremony was broadcast live on television and the internet and at various sites around Australia where thousands had gathered, including her birthplace of Melbourne and the rural town of Penola in South Australia where her religious journey began.
In Penola, there were cheers and tears among town residents.
“I have come because it is history in the making; this will never happen again you know: Australia’s first saint,” Coral Butcher said.
More than 15,000 people travelled to Mary MacKillop Place on Sunday, the mother house of the Sisters.
In Sydney, Acting Secretary General of the Sisters of St Joseph, Sister Monica Cavanagh thanked St Mary’s many admirers for the enthusiasm they have showed for the order’s founder.
“We are overwhelmed with the response,” she said.
St Mary, a founder of the order of the Sisters of Saint Joseph of the Sacred Heart who died in 1909, was canonised along with five others blesseds from Spain, Poland, Canada and Italy.
About 50,000 people were gathered at St Peter’s to hear the Pope conduct the rite during a two hour mass.
The Pope began with a formal greeting to the church universal before calling on the congregation to reflect on their lives.
The crowd was silent as the Prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, Archbishop Angelo Amato, formally asked the Pope to proceed with the canonisations.
Archbishop Amaoto told of St Mary’s early years during a short a biography, which he made for each candidate.
St Mary was born in Melbourne on January 15, 1842, the first child of Scottish immigrants Flora and Alexander.
Her childhood was humble and she grew up knowing what it was like to be poor.
She went on to found the order with Father Julian Woods to help educate and care for poor children in rural areas.
However, her journey was not easy.
St Mary’s path to sainthood has taken 85 years, the church recognition of two healing miracles, the personal attentions of Popes, years of research, countless prayers and patience.
The title means she will be recognised around the world as a person close to God.
Australian clergy in Rome for the canonisation included Archbishop of Sydney Cardinal George Pell, Adelaide Archbishop Philip Wilson, Melbourne Archbishop Denis Hart, Brisbane Archbishop John Bathersby, and Perth Archbishop Barry Hickey.