20 Feb 2010

Date set for Australia's first saint to be canonised

7:54 pm on 20 February 2010

Pope Benedict XVI has set the date for Mother Mary MacKillop to become Australia's first Catholic saint.

The Vatican says the 19th century nun will be canonised on 17 October in Rome.

Mother Mary died in 1909 at the age of 67.

For anyone to become a saint, the Church has to officially recognise them as having carried out two miracles.

Pope John Paul II recognised the first and last year Pope Benedict credited her with curing a person of cancer.

The BBC reports Mother Mary was a passionate believer in education and along with her order, the Sisters of St Joseph, founded dozens of schools.

She is reputed to have started her first school in a disused stable and established an order of nuns at the age of 24.

Accolades

During a visit to Australia in 2008, Pope Benedict described her as "one of the most outstanding figures in Australia's history".

The head of the order founded by Mary Mackillop says she is overjoyed by the Pope's announcement.

Sister Anne Derwin, the congregational head of the Sisters of Saint Joseph, told the ABC she hopes the sainthood will become an inspiration for young people "to live with the same deep faith in God, the same hope, and the same selfless charity".

The Catholic Archbishop of Sydney, Cardinal George Pell, says he is encouraging young Catholics to travel to Rome for the service.

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd hailed the decision, saying it was a great tribute and a great honour for Australia.