INDIA Government issues coins to honor Saint Alphonsa


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THIRUVANANTHAPURAM, India (UCAN) -- Saint Alphonsa has become the first Christian in India to have commemorative coins issued in her honor.

Federal Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee released the coins on Aug. 23 as part of centenary celebrations for the birth of India's first Catholic woman saint.

About 1,000 people including Church and political leaders attended the ceremony in Bharananganam, the village near Kerala state's Palai town where the saint's tomb lies and where she spent her final years.

Mukherjee hailed the saint as someone who triumphed over suffering and whose intercession has brought relief for many distressed people in India. Saint Alphonsa made suffering part of her "noble life," he said.

"Saint Alphonsa taught us to transcend the barriers of language, culture and geography to live together," the minister added, alluding to the fact that people from various religions seek the saint's help.

Mukherjee ceremonially handed the new coins to retired Bishop Joseph Pallikaparampil of Palai. By releasing the coins in Saint Alphonsa's name, he said, India has once again shown itself a shining example of secular democracy.

Federal Minister of State for Home Affairs Ramachandran Mullappally, who also attended the ceremony, noted that Saint Alphonsa was the first Christian to be thus honored. He added that she now belongs not to a particular community but to the whole nation.

The coins, with the saint's face engraved on them, come in denominations of 100 rupees (about US$2) and 5 rupees.

Around 1,000 people ordered the coins on the first day of their release.

In November 2008, the Indian government issued a postal stamp to mark Saint Alphonsa's canonization the previous month.

Bishop Pallikaparampil said the issuing of the commemorative coins shows India's greatness as a nation that treats all religions equally.

His successor, Bishop Joseph Kallarangatt of Palai, who presided at the function, urged the federal government to declare Bharananganam as an international pilgrimage center. The diocese launched a yearlong centenary program to honor the saint on Aug. 19, her birth anniversary.

Saint Alphonsa was born in 1910 at Kudamaloor, another village in Palai diocese. She died on July 28, 1946.