Sister Rani Maria/ Regina Mariam Vattalil
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Servant of God Rani Maria – RV
Rani Maria was born on January 29, 1954, as the second of seven children of Paily and Eliswa Vattalil at Pulluvazhy, a small village near Kochi, Kerala’s commercial capital. She was baptized on February 5, the same year and was given the name Mariam.
She joined Franciscan Clarist Convent at Kidangoor near Palai in 1972 and made her first profession on May 1, 1974, and chose the name Rani (queen) Maria. She began her mission in northern India in Bijnore in 1975 and then came to Udainagar in 1992.
The nun, during her initial years in the mission, showed keen interest in educating children through formal and non-formal methods. “This slowly gave way to a much wider field of development of the poor, the oppressed and the marginalized,” the website says.
Once she was asked why she had chosen the saffron shawl she replied, matter becomes red hot when it absorbs heat. This is true for human soul also.
Antagonising vested interests
The Franciscan Clarist nun worked among landless people in Udainagar, around 54km from Indore, fighting against bonded labour. Her work angered some people, who hired Samandar Singh to eliminate her.
Her developmental programs among poor tribals went against to the vested interests of unscrupulous moneylenders and social exploiters
In Dewas district she had worked among poor landless agricultural laborers and others to fight for just wages and other rights. This upset the landlords.
On February 25, 1995, Sister Maria was coming to Indore by bus when Singh stabbed her from behind. The nun jumped off the bus but Singh followed her, stabbing viciously even when she collapsed on the roadside.
The nun was 41 when Samandar Singh, hired by some landlords, stabbed her inside a bus on February 25, 1995. She was on traveling to Indore, the commercial capital of Madhya Pradesh state, en route her native place in Kerala, southern India. The attacker followed her when she ran out of the crowded bus and continued to stab her. She died on the roadside at Nachanbore Hill, near Indore.
She was buried at Udaingar in Dewas district.
Sister Rani Maria, professed sister of the Franciscan Clarist Congregation, who died of 54 stab wounds from as assassin in central India 22 years ago, has been cleared for beatification. by the Vatican.
Forgiving the sinner
Singh was sentenced to life for the murder. Sister Selmy Paul, the slain nun's younger sister, visited him in jail in 2002.She accepted him as her brother -and her entire family took him in as a member.
The slain nun’s family made international headlines when it accepted Singh as a member after forgiving him. Rani Maria’s young sister Selmy Paul, also a member of the same congregation, accepted Singh as her brother by tying “rakhi,” a sacred thread, on the festival of siblings Rakshabandan. Some people, though not born of the same parents, tie the “rakhi” and accept each other as brothers and sisters. Sister Paul’s gesture helped Singh to regret his action. He now leads an exemplary life in his village in central India after serving his life term.
A documentary, “The Heart of a Murderer,” which depicts the murder and subsequent repentance of Singh, won an award at the World Interfaith Harmony Film Festival in 2013.
Her killer Samandar Singh, who now spends his days praying at her shrine, was moved to tears on hearing of it. “What I did is unpardonable. I repent every day . Now that church is set to beatify her, I feel happy that her good works are noticed,“ Singh told TOI on Friday . Sentenced to life imprisonment, he walked free in 2006 after Sister Maria's family pleaded for his early release.
“I know I committed a crime that has no justification. I feel sorry for her. I have been praying that God gives me strength to stay away from evil and prevent others from indulging in such acts,“ he said.
The cause for Sister Maria's sainthood was initiated in 2001, by the then Bishop George Anathil of Indore diocese. He established two commissions to examine her life and the findings were submitted to a three-member diocesan inquiry tribunal set up in 2005.
During an audience on Thursday with Cardinal Angelo Amato, S.D.B., Prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, the Holy Father authorized the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, among others, to promulgate the decree of the martyrdom of Servant of God Regina Mariam Vattalil (née Rani Maria), killed in hatred of the faith on 25 February 1995.
Beatification is the penultimate stage in the four-phased canonization process in the Catholic Church. Rani Maria’s cause of canonization began in 2003 and she was declared a Servant of God four years later.
As part of her beatification process, on November 18, 2016 Bishop Chacko Thottumarikal of Indore supervised the opening of the slain nun’s tomb and shifted the mortal remains to a church
The Congregation for the Causes of Saints granted the “nihil obstat” (‘nothing against’) to the cause. The subsequent diocesan process took place in Indore from June 29, 2005, to June 28, 2007. It received the congregation’s validation on November 27, 2009.
The C.C.S. received the Positio in 2014 and passed it onto consulting theologians who on February 11, 2016, voiced their approval to the cause. The congregation’s website says the saintly nun’s courageous sacrifice and martyrdom has helped sow “the seed of love and justice and brotherhood in many hearts.”
Cardinal George Alencherry of Ernakulam-Angamaly in Kerala issued a release, saying that Pope Francis has `signed a recommendation' from the Congregation for the Causes of Saints on March 23 2017 to promulgate the `decree of martyrdom' of the Franciscan Clarist nun and beatify her.
22 years after Sister Rani Maria was stabbed to death on a bus to Indore, will be beatified as a martyr after Pope Francis signed the decree.
Archbishop Leo Cornelio of Bhopal, expressing happiness that Sister Maria is going to be beatified, said she worked for abolishing bonded labour in the area, which some powerful people disliked.
“The date of the announcement is not decided. I had a talk with the Indore diocese, we may keep it in October this year,“ said Archbishop Cornelio.
The congregation hails Rani Maria’s martyrdom as “the most glorious event in the history of Udainagar as well as of Amala Province.”