Blessed Rani Maria Vattalil was an Indian Syro Malabar, professed religious, and a social worker in the Franciscan Clarist Congregation, who worked among the poor within the Diocese of Indore. Vattalil dedicated herself to the catechetical formation and educational instruction during her time as a religious, as she moved place to place teaching in different areas; she was vocal in matters of social justice, and in social activism, which led to her death at the hands of those who were opposed to her efforts in aiding the poor and downtrodden.
Rania Maria was born January 29, 1954 in Kerala, the second of seven children. She joined the Franciscan Clarist Congregation following the completion of her secondary schooling, and assumed the religious name of "Rani Maria" upon joining and entering their novitiate. She entered the order on July 3, 1971. Her first profession of vows was made on May 1, 1974, before she was sent to Saint Mary's convent in Bijnor. She was a teacher there from September 1976 to August 1978. She made her final profession of vows on May 22, 1980. She served as a local superior at Aluva, and received a degree in sociology from the Rewa University. She was transferred to Udayanagar in May of 1992.
Sr. Rani was murdered at Nachanbore Hill in a knife attack by hitman Samandar Singh on February 25, 1995 while she made her way to Indore in a bus. She had 40 major injuries and 14 bruises. She repeated "Jesus, Jesus" until her last breath. The murder was arranged because some landlords were offended, due to her work among the landless poor. When Sr. Rani entered the bus, a man dressed in white kept her bag near the driver and asked her to sit in the back, which was something unusual in the town since the nuns were given front seats while using public transportation. Vattalil agreed, and unknowingly was seated with three men who had the intention of killing her. The leader, Jeevan Singh, sat with his guard, Dharmendra, and Samundar Singh. Jeevan began insulting her before Samundar rose from his seat and asked the driver to stop the bus. Singh broke a coconut against a rock on the road's side and entered the bus distributing the pieces to the passengers. He offered one to her, but withdrew it to make a fool out of her before drawing a knife and stabbing her in the stomach. He continued to stab her, and dragged her out of the bus, which had stopped, and continued stabbing her. The passengers were too wrought with fear to intervene, with some fleeing the scene in panic.
The police contacted the nuns to inform them of what had happened, and to tell them that their slain sister's remains were still on the side of the road. The distraught nuns contacted the Bishop of Indore to inform him of what had happened. He and some priests reached the spot to find her bloodied corpse, which was taken to the episcopal residence to be cleaned and laid in state.
Cardinal Oswald Gracias described her work as an "heroic example ... siding with the poor and disadvantaged". A museum in her honor exists in Ernakulam. Her remains were exhumed for inspection and reburial in 2016 in Indore, with the diocesan bishop overseeing the exhumation.
Her cause of canonization commenced in 2003 and she was titled as a Servant of God. After her murder, both the sisters of her congregation and her birth family visited Singh in prison and forgave him. Because of their kindness, he turned to God. Her beatification received approval from Pope Francis on March 23, 2017 and she was beatified in Indore on November 4, 2017; Singh was present at the beatification ceremony.
The Process for Canonization in the Catholic Church:
1. Canon norms regarding the procedure to be followed for causes of saints are contained in the Apostolic Constitution 'Divinus Perfectionis Magister,' promulgated by John Paul II on January 25, 1983.
2. To begin a cause it is necessary for at least 5 years to have passed since the death of the candidate. This is to allow greater balance and objectivity in evaluating the case and to let the emotions of the moment dissipate. (This requirement was waived in the Causes of both John Paul II and Mother Teresa of Calcutta.)
3. The bishop of the diocese in which the person whose beatification is being requested died is responsible for beginning the investigation. The promoter group ('Actor Causae'): diocese, parish, religious congregation, association, asks the bishop, through the postulator, for the opening of the investigation. The bishop, once the 'nulla osta' of the Holy See is obtained, forms a diocesan tribunal for this purpose. Witnesses are called before the tribunal to recount concrete facts on the exercise of Christian virtues considered heroic, that is, the theological virtues: faith, hope, and charity, and the cardinal virtues: prudence, justice, temperance, and fortitude, and others specific to his or her state in life. In addition, all documents regarding the candidate must be gathered. At this point s/he is entitled to the title of 'Servant of God'.
4. Once the diocesan investigation is finished, the acts and documentation are passed on to the Congregation for the Causes of Saints. The public copy used for further work is put together here. The postulator, resident in Rome, follows the preparation of the 'Positio', or summary of the documentation that proves the heroic exercise of virtue, under the direction of a relator of the Congregation. The 'Positio' undergoes an examination (theological) by nine theologians who give their vote. If the majority of the theologians are in favor, the cause is passed on for examination by cardinals and bishops who are members of the congregation. They hold meetings twice a month. If their judgment is favorable, the prefect of the congregation presents the results of the entire course of the cause to the Holy Father, who gives his approval and authorizes the congregation to draft the relative decree. The public reading and promulgation of the decree follows.
5. For the beatification of a confessor, a miracle attributed to the Servant of God, verified after his or her death, is necessary. The required miracle must be proven through the appropriate canonical investigation, following a procedure analogous to that for heroic virtues. This one, too, is concluded with the relative decree. Once the two decrees are promulgated (regarding the heroic virtues and the miracle) the Holy Father decides on beatification, which is the concession of public worship, limited to a particular sphere. With beatification the candidate receives the title of 'Blessed'.
6. For canonization another miracle is needed, attributed to the intercession of the Blessed, and having occurred after his beatification. The methods for ascertainment of the affirmed miracle are the same as those followed for beatification. Canonization is understood as the concession of public worship in the Universal Church. Pontifical infallibility is involved. With canonization, the Blessed acquires the title of 'Saint'.