Kerala-born nun Rani Maria Vattali, who was stabbed to death in 1995 in Madhya Pradesh, was today declared ‘Blessed’, a sacred title in the Roman Catholic church order.

The Vatican’s head of the Department for Cause of Saints, Cardinal Angelo Amato, declared Vattali, popularly known as Sister Rani, ‘Blessed’, a stage below sainthood.

Cardinal Amato read out Apostolic (Pope’s) letter declaring her ‘Blessed’ in Latin at a Holy Mass at Saint Paul Higher Secondary School’s ground in Indore in the presence of large numbers of clerics and Christians.

The nun’s killer also attended the ceremony. Cardinal George Alencherry read out the letter of Pope Francis in English, while Cardinal Telesphore Toppo did so in Hindi at the mass presided over by Cardinal Amato.

Selmy, sister of the slain nun, who along with other family members was present at the ceremony, said she was “overwhelmed” at the declaration. An elated Selmy said she will walk on the path shown by her sister.

“The Blessed title is considered a prelude to beatification of sainthood as was the case with Mother Teresa,” Public Relations Officer of Madhya Pradesh Catholic Church, Father Maria Stephen told media.

Sister Rani, then 41, was stabbed about 50 times on-board a bus in Madhya Pradesh’s Dewas district on February 25, 1995, Stephen said, adding she was a member of the Syro-Malabar Franciscan Clarist Congregation.

Her attacker Samunder Singh was hired to kill the nun as some landlords in Madhya Pradesh’s Indore region were upset with her work on uplift of landless people, he said.

Singh was sentenced to life in prison by a court. His sentence was later commuted due to his good conduct in prison, Stephen said.

“At that time, I was in the grip of evil spirits because of which I did that job (killing the nun). Now, I do not want to say anything on the issue,” he said.

Singh, released from jail in 2006, said, “My life has changed. Now everyone in this world is part of my family.

Sister Selmi and her relatives too are my family and their affection and love has totally changed my life.” Then Indore Bishop George Anathil initiated the cause for Sister Rani’s canonisation process of the Blessed in 2001 by setting up two panels – historical and theological – to examine her life, Stephen said.

Sister Rani was found to have led a heroic life of Christian virtue. Thereafter, her name was sent to Vatican Congregation for the Causes of Saints, which reviewed the gathered information and recommended that the Roman pontiff declare the candidate “venerable”, he said.

Two months back, the Vatican cleared the canonisation process to promulgate the ‘Decree of the Blessed’ on Sister Rani. It decided to send a representative of Pope to Indore to officially announce her the ‘Blessed’ on November 4.