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Thousands flock to Kenyan beatification of Italian nun

22 May 2015, 22:34

Nairobi - Tens of thousands of Kenyans are flocking to the town of Nyeri on Friday ahead of the beatification ceremony of an Italian nun, a key step towards sainthood.

Irene Stefani was an Italian member of the Consolata Missionary Sisters who helped the wounded in Kenya and Tanzania during World War I before dying of the plague in 1930.

A trained nurse, she was much loved by the people of the Nyeri district, with people calling her "Nyaatha", or "mother of all mercy" in the Kikuyu language.

Huge crowds have already arrived a day ahead of the Roman Catholic beatification ceremony in the town, some 150 kilometres (90 miles) north of the Kenyan capital Nairobi, according to Kenyan media reports.

Stefani, who was born in 1891 near Brescia in Italy, will be the first person to be beatified in the east African country. She was 39 years old when she died in Kenya.

Roman Catholics say she performed a miracle after her death, when people fleeing Mozambique's 1977-1992 civil war prayed in her name.

Running from rebel battles, the faithful sheltered in a church at Nipepe, in Mozambique's northern Niassa region, saying that their prayer resulted in the water in the church font keeping flowing, keeping the thirsty alive.

Over a thousand police officers have been deployed to provide security at the ceremony, which will be held at a university compound in the highland town, the Daily Nation newspaper reported.

"We have deployed officers in all places of interest to ensure that security is not compromised in any way," local police chief Charles Rotich told the Nation.

The ceremony begins on Saturday morning at 10:00 am (0700 GMT). On Sunday, her remains will be transferred into the cathedral in Nyeri.

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