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Mary MacKillop canonisation nears -

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Mary MacKillop canonisation nears

Broadcast: 15/10/2010

Reporter: Emma Alberici

Mary MacKillop will be canonised this weekend, over 100 years after her death


LEIGH SALES, PRESENTER: This weekend will mark an important moment in the history of the Catholic
Church in Australia when Mary MacKillop is declared Australia's first Catholic saint.

Saint Mary of the Cross, as she will be known, earned her reputation for a lifetime of service to
childhood education, the poor and the vulnerable, and will be canonised after the church verified
two miracles.

But the co-founder of the Sisters of St Joseph wasn't always revered by her church and even now,
100 years after her death, she is still causing controversy as victims of child sexual abuse claim
her as their patron saint.

Emma Alberici reports from the Vatican where preparations for her canonisation are underway.

EMMA ALBERICI, REPORTER: This Mary was hailed not only for her grace but also for her candour.

From her first school in a small town in South Australia to the gates of the Vatican city, her
outspoken views on women, free education for children and Aboriginal health have leapt centuries
and oceans.

On Sunday here at the Vatican in Rome, Mary MacKillop will be canonised along with five others from
Spain, Poland, Italy and Canada.

FEDERICO LOMBARDI, VATICAN SPOKESMAN: In particular, Mary MacKillop is the saint that has already a
lot of fans in the entire world.

EMMA ALBERICI: Father Federico Lombardi is the official spokesman for the Holy See where saints are
declared only after a rigorous process that must involve not one but two verifiable miracles.

FEDERICO LOMBARDI: The miracles that are requested for the canonisation - beatification and
canonisation - are for us like a proof that this saint intercedes for us with power to God.

EMMA ALBERICI: Doctors diagnosed Kathleen Evans with inoperable brain and lung cancer. But after
praying to Mary MacKillop her disease disappeared. The Vatican recognises her as the second of the
official miracles.

Mary Mackillop was a rebel. She was determined to keep her order of nuns outside the control of the
senior clergy in Australia. She wanted them to live by her rules. But constant arguments with the
bishops culminated in 1871 when she was excommunicated from the church.

As senior members of Australia's Catholic clergy flood into the Holy See, there's widespread
agreement that Mary MacKillop was wronged.

CARDINAL GEORGE PELL, CATHOLIC ARCHBISHOP OF SYDNEY: The bishop was an old man, he wasn't well and
he foolishly excommunicated her. She knew that was quite invalid. She had been told by good
advisers it would never stand up in a church court, but she went along - put up with it quietly for
I think about five months.

SISTER MARIA CASEY, SISTERS OF ST JOSEPH: And there were problems with one particular priest whose
friend had been removed for various reasons.

EMMA ALBERICI: This is the priest who was removed for allegations of child sexual abuse?

SISTER MARIA CASEY: Yes. Now, he had vowed, and that's on public record, that he would have
vengeance, both on Father Woods, and through him - through the sisters, on him.

EMMA ALBERICI: 100 years after Mary MacKillop's order of nuns complained about a paedophile priest,
11-year-old Mark Fabbro was sexually abused by his Jesuit teacher. He's made the pilgrimage to Rome
to claim Mary MacKillop as the saint of sexual abuse victims.

MARK FABBRO, ABUSE VICTIM: The canonisation of Mary MacKillop does hold a certain importance for
survivors in the sense that she did confront the church and expose, indirectly through her
organisation, through the sisters, the existence of a paedophile priest called Father Keating.

EMMA ALBERICI: And that was 140 years ago or thereabouts?

MARK FABBRO: It was a hell of a long time. So we see that things haven't changed much at all.

EMMA ALBERICI: This is one episode in the history of Australia's first Catholic saint that Father
Federico Lombardi is not keen to discuss.

But you can understand why some of the people who have suffered abuse in Australia would look to
her as an inspiration if this happened 140 years ago?

FEDERICO LOMBARDI: I hope the whole Australian will look to Mary MacKillop as an inspiration for
very different and important reasons; maybe also person that has suffered from sexual abuse.

EMMA ALBERICI: If we look at that issue for a moment, given that this was 140 years ago that this
situation came to light...

FEDERICO LOMBARDI: (Speaks Italian) Excuse me, that's enough on this topic. I want to talk about
other things, not only sexual abuse.

EMMA ALBERICI: (Speaks Italian) But I have just two questions.

FEDERICO LOMBARDI: (Speaks Italian) Yes, good, thank you, but that's enough. For eight months
you've all asked nothing but questions about this. Let's pass over that now and talk about other

EMMA ALBERICI: Sister Maria Casey has devoted her life to the recognition of Mary MacKillop's work.
She has her own views on what her idol would have made of the issue of child sex abuse in the
Catholic Church.

SISTER MARIA CASEY: She would be concerned with anything that took away from the dignity of the
person, no matter who they were. And certainly she would have abhorred sexual abuse, whether with
children or adults.

EMMA ALBERICI: 8,000 Australians are preparing to assemble here to worship the woman soon to be
known as St Mary of the Cross.

Emma Alberici, Lateline.