Palestinian President Abbas to meet Pope Francis before Palestinian nuns canonised

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas attends Friday prayers in the West Bank city of Jericho on May 1. -- PHOTO: REUTERS
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas attends Friday prayers in the West Bank city of Jericho on May 1. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

RAMALLAH, Palestinian Territories (AFP) - Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas is to meet Pope Francis in Rome on Saturday, the day before two Palestinian nuns are canonised, his office said.

Marie Alphonsine Ghattas of Jerusalem and Mariam Bawardy of Galilee, both of whom lived in Ottoman Palestine during the 19th century, will be made saints in a ceremony at the Vatican on Sunday.

Abbas will be heading to Rome from Tunisia, where he will head Tuesday to meet President Beji Caid Essebsi, his spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeina said.

Pope Francis announced in February that the two nuns would be canonised - the first Palestinian Arabs to gain sainthood.

Ghattas was born in Jerusalem in 1847, and died there in 1927. She was beatified - the final step before canonisation - in 2009.

Bawardy was born in Galilee, now in northern Israel, in 1843. She became a nun in France and died in Bethlehem in 1878. She was beatified by Pope John Paul II in 1983.

Although there are several saints who lived in the region during Christianity's early days, Bawardy and Ghattas are the first to be canonised from Ottoman-era Palestine.

The canonisation of a third Palestinian - a Salesian monk - is still under review by the Church.