Indian Sister Rani Maria Vattalil, who was murdered 22 years ago, was officially proclaimed a Blessed by Vatican at a beautification ceremony at Indore on Saturday. Cardinal Angelo Amato read the announcement from Pope Francis while Cardinal Mar George Alencherry read out the declaration in English. 

"This is a proud moment for each one of us here, and a special mass was held to mark the event. More programmes are slated. On November 15 a special prayer session will be held, followed by a public meeting and special mass on November 19," said the parish priest of St Thomas Catholic Church, at Pulluvazhy. 

An overjoyed parishioner of St Thomas Catholic Church, the home parish of Sister Rani Maria, said 300 people from the church took part in the prayers and beatification programme in Indore.

"Many from here have gone to Indore for the programme. We have decided to spread out the celebrations here after they return," said the parishioner.

Sister Rani Maria was born here in 1954 and after becoming a nun joined the Franciscan Clarist Congregation for missionary work. She mostly worked in north India for her congregation.

On February 25, 1995, she was dragged out of a bus near Indore and stabbed to death by one Samundar Singh, who is alleged to have been hired by moneylenders, as their business got affected following the work by Sister Rani Maria among the women by creating self help groups.

In 2006 her family pardoned Singh and he was left free. Later he came to the village of Sister Rani Maria and met her family members who forgave him for the murder.

The Catholic Church decided to go forward with her canonisation. The process for it began when the Vatican gave the nod in 2003.

In 2005 she was declared as 'Servant of God' and in March this year the orders came for her beatification.

From today onwards she will be known as Blessed Sister Maria, which is one step below Sainthood.

Currently Indian Catholics have three native saints, Kuriakose Elias Chavara, popularly known as Chavara Achen, Sister Euphrasia, popularly known as Evuprasiamma (both canonised in 2014), and in 2008, when Sister Alphonsa became the first native Indian to be canonized.

Catholics in Kerala constitute 50 per cent of the 61.41 lakh Christians in the 33.4 million Kerala population.