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Abbas to meet pope before Palestinian nuns canonized

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

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Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas is to meet Pope Francis in Rome on Saturday, the day before two Palestinian nuns are canonized, 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 told AFP.

Pope Francis announced in February that the two nuns would be canonized -- 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 canonization -- 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 canonized from Ottoman-era Palestine.

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