Image: Catholic nuns look up at a poster of Maria Alfonsina Danil Ghattas
Tara Todras-whitehill  /  AP
Catholic nuns look up at a poster of Maria Alfonsina Danil Ghattas, not seen, after it was unveiled during her beatification mass at the Church of the Annunciation in the northern Israeli town of Nazareth, Sunday, Nov. 22.
updated 11/22/2009 3:00:50 PM ET 2009-11-22T20:00:50

A Palestinian nun who co-founded a charity dedicated to educating Arab girls on Sunday took an important step toward sainthood.

Thousands of worshippers gathered in the biblical town of Nazareth to attend the beatification of the late Sister Maria Alfonsina Danil Ghattas.

Ghattas helped found the Sisters of the Most Holy Rosary of Jerusalem in the 1880s. The order, highly regarded in Palestinian communities, continues to run schools for Palestinian girls in Israel, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

Ghattas died in Jerusalem in 1927 at the age of 83.

During Sunday's ceremony, the church unveiled a portrait of Ghattas.

Pope Benedict XVI approved the beatification in July — the final step before sainthood.

On Sunday. the pope praised Ghattas for her work helping girls overcome illiteracy.

"The beatification of such an important figure of a woman is a particular comfort for the Catholic community in the Holy Land," Benedict said during his traditional Sunday noon blessing in St. Peter's Square.

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