Mary MacKillop, a 19th-century nun once excommunicated for exposing a paedophile priest, has been canonised as Australia’s first saint by Pope Benedict XVI in Rome.

MacKillop, who spent her life serving the sick and the poor, was a champion of education as a means of self-empowerment right up to her death in 1909.

The Vatican has acknowledged two ‘miracles’  attributed to the Australian nun. The first was the ‘cure’ of another woman of leukaemia in 1961, the second involved an Australian woman who claimed to have been cured of inoperable
lung cancer in 1993.

Australian Prime Minster Julia Gillard paid tribute to MacKillop’s “good-humoured practicality and egalitarian decency that so
distinctively proclaim that she could have only come from one place.

“And that’s our
very own home, Australia, land of the world’s newest saint. A nation
today and yesterday united in pride and joy and celebration,” Gillard said.

The Pope also praised his latest saint.

“She dedicated herself as a young woan to the education of th epoor in the difficult and demading terrain of rural Australia,” he said.


An estimated 8000 Australians were present in Vatican City to witness the ceremony. The Vatican Museum held an exhibition of Aboriginal art to honour the occasion titled Rituals of Life, containing 300 artifacts on display for the first time since 1925.

Back in Australia, thousands made a pilgrimage to MacKillop’s tomb to pray and celebrate her elevation the sainthood.

Matthew Reaiche, 15, of Croydon, attended with about 80 family members.

“It was good because it was our first saint,” he said.

“It’s a once-in-a-lifetime event. Possibly the only time in our life we will witness something like that.”