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Last Updated: Sunday, 11 November 2007, 23:40 GMT
Indigenous Argentine is beatified
Ceferino Namuncura
Namuncura has a wide following among the poor of Argentina
An indigenous Argentine has been beatified for the first time at a ceremony in southern Argentina.

Tens of thousands of faithful attended the service in honour of Ceferino Namuncura, many of them dressed in ponchos and plumed headdresses.

The Vatican Secretary of State, Tarcisio Bertone, led the service in the Patagonian town of Chimpay.

Namuncura was training to become a priest when he died in Rome in 1905 at the age of 18.

The long process of beatification can be the first step towards sainthood.

Namuncura had a following among the country's poor that has grown since his death.

'Role model'

He was credited with a miracle seven years ago when a woman who prayed to him was apparently cured of uterus cancer.

A second miracle is needed for the Vatican to bestow sainthood.

She was one of up to 100,000 who gathered for the ceremony, parts of which were conducted in indigenous languages.

Cardinal Bertone, who ranks second to the Pope in the Vatican hierarchy, said Namuncura "was a role model for many, many young people".

"Ceferino never forgot he was a Mapuche [Indian]. Really, his ideal was to serve his people," he said.

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