Pope Francis to canonize first Sri Lankan saint

(Photo: REUTERS / Alberto Pizzoli / Pool)Pope Francis officiates a mass at the wedding of 20 couples in St.Peter's Basilica at the Vatican, September 14, 2014. The Vatican said on September 17 the Pope will canonize Sri Lanka's first saint.

Sri-Lanka will soon have a saint after the Vatican said that Pope Francis approved a decision to canonize Blessed Joseph Vaz.

The Pope is expected to canonize Vaz, a 17th century missionary, on his visit to Sri Lanka next year, the Vatican News site reported on September 17.

Francis plans to visit the south Asian island nation from January 13 to 15 and then travel onto the Philippines to meet with survivors of Typhoon Haiyan.

An Indian-born priest of the Oratory of St. Philip Neri, Vaz chose to work in Sri Lanka as a missionary at a time Catholics were under Dutch colonial rulers.

Known as the Apostle of Ceylon, Vaz is credited for reviving the Catholic faith in Sri Lanka. He was beatified by Pope John Paul II in 1995.

The Vatican must approve one miracle for beatification, and a second one for canonization.

But Pope Francis bent the rule in the case of Blessed Vaz. This is the same action he applied to canonize St. John XXIII where no second miracle is needed, the Catholic News Agency reported.

Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith of India said that the miracle under study concerned a Sri Lankan doctor couple who, against medical advice, refused to abort one of their twins and prayed for Vaz's intercession.

The Pope has been waiving rules on canonization because he believes that the Church need more models of holiness. He believes that sticking to technicalities would be time-consuming and costly.

Donald Prudlo, an associate professor of ancient and medieval history for Jacksonville State University, told CNA that the Pope has the authority to dispense with this second miracle.

Prudlo stressed that at least one miracle is essential for canonization.

Without the first miracle, "it would be difficult to call it a canonization in the strict sense...since at the very heart of public sanctity in the Church is holiness of life, confirmed by the testimony of God in miracles."

In the Pope's visit to South Korea last month, he beatified 124 Korean martyrs and promised to give Asia more saints, after a young Cambodian complained her country had none.

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