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Church hails Vatican nod for sainthood of Filipino teenager

Niña Ruiz-Abad was known for her fervent faith until her death due to an incurable heart disease at the age of 13
Niña Ruiz-Abad

Niña Ruiz-Abad (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

Published: March 21, 2024 12:13 PM GMT
Updated: March 22, 2024 05:57 AM GMT

Clergy, religious and laypeople in the Philippines have hailed the Vatican’s approval for the official beginning of the process for sainthood of a Filipino teenager, three decades after she died of an incurable heart disease.

The Holy See has granted the "nihil obstat" (no objection) to begin the process of beatification of Niña Ruiz-Abad (1979-1993) and from now on she will be called “Servant of God,” said Bishop Renato Mayugba of Laoag, the home diocese of Abad in northern Philippines, Fides news agency reported.

The news has brought cheer to people in his diocese, Mayugba said, announcing the news on March 10.

The Vatican’s permission allows starting a diocesan-level inquiry into the life, reputation and heroic virtues of Abad, which will begin officially on April 7, the prelate said.

Filipino Catholics took to social media to express their joy over the announcement.

Last August, Laoag diocese said it has begun collecting testimonies about the virtuous life of Abad who died at the age of 13 to appeal to the Vatican for permission to start the sainthood process for her.

Mayugba said he received overwhelming support from other Catholic bishops for the move during their assembly in July last year.

That time Mayugba said it was the time for the Catholic-majority country to have “a modern-day saint who is not a clergyman nor a member of a religious congregation.”

The Catholic Church follows a three-tier sainthood process. A candidate is first declared “Servant of God” marking the official beginning of the canonization procedures.

Then the candidate is declared “Venerable,” “Blessed” and then a “Saint” by the pope.

If not a martyr, two miracles through the intercession of the candidate are required for sainthood.

The Philippines has produced two saints — St. Lorenzo Ruiz and St. Pedro Calungsod, who were canonized in 1987 and 2012 respectively.

Recently, a Catholic diocese started the sainthood process for a lay catechist who quit her job to serve the Church.

Niña Ruiz-Abad was born on Oct. 31, 1979, in Quezon City of Manila. Her parents were both lawyers. She lost her father at the age of three.

Abad grew up in Quezon City along with her sister Mary Anne. She studied at the Child Study Center of the University of the Philippines and later at the Holy Angels Montessori School in Quezon City.

Her mother, a devotee of Divine Mercy, moved with her daughters to Sarrat in April 1988 due to her work at the Department of Justice.

Niña attended Mariano Marcos State University High School in Laoag. She was described as having a strong devotion to the Eucharist and devoted her life to distributing rosaries, bibles, prayer books, holy images and other religious items, Fides reported.

She had an unwavering faith even though she was beginning to feel the effects of heart disease.

Catholic priest Danny Pajarillaga testified that he was impressed by this “unique, spiritually special girl” when he met her for the first time in 1993.

Her classmates recalled she stood out among them for her fervent faith in the Eucharist and for the time she dedicated to praying.

As a true missionary disciple, she "was a walking testimony of piety and religion, she was always dressed in white and with a rosary around her neck," recalled an acquaintance.

Abad was diagnosed with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, a rare and incurable cardiac disease at the age of 10. However, she lived three years with illness with joy and deep faith.

"Niña's life was a life of prayer, adoration and an intimate relationship with God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit and the Blessed Virgin Mary," said Bishop Mayugba.

She was buried in a public cemetery in Sarrat and her grave has become a pilgrimage site.

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