Aussie PM faces flak

SYDNEY: Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd on Tuesday was accused of "sheer arrogance" over moves to press the Pope to create the country's first saint.

Opposition front-bencher Christopher Pyne hit out at Rudd's plan to raise the canonisation of nun Mary MacKillop during this week's Vatican meeting with Pope Benedict XVI.

"The sheer arrogance of the prime minister, believing he can lobby the Pope on behalf of Mary MacKillop, is quite frankly offensive," Pyne told Sky News.

"The path to sainthood is a very serious process and it doesn't include lobbying by the leaders of countries," he added.

Opposition heavyweight Tony Abbott had earlier accused Rudd of pushing the sainthood in the same way that Australia is bidding to hold the 2018 and 2022 football World Cups.

But Labour MP David Bradbury said there was no suggestion that Rudd, a Catholic, would produce evidence of the miracle needed to turn MacKillop into a saint.

"There's no suggestion here that the prime minister is somehow going to pull out the key piece of evidence when it comes to deciding whether to make Mary MacKillop a saint," he said.

"The issue is that Mary MacKillop was a great Australian, a great Catholic, and someone who presents this nation's best opportunity to have a saint," he added.

MacKillop was born in the southern state of Victoria in 1842 and founded the Sisters of St. Joseph, which opened schools and charitable institutions.

She was beatified in 1995 after the Vatican agreed that prayers to her in 1961, some 52 years after her death, had saved a woman from cancer. MacKillop needs one more approved miracle to become a full saint.