Vatican City, Jul 6, 2016 / 05:01 am
Pope Francis has marked the feast of the young martyr St. Maria Goretti by calling the faithful to follow her example and be forgiving to those who wrong them.
The memory of Maria Goretti's example should “encourage you to commit yourselves, like the Saint you venerate, to being witnesses of forgiveness,” the Pope wrote in a letter for the July 6 feast of the Italian who is known for having forgiven her attacker.
The June 20 letter was addressed to Bishops Mariano Crociata of Latina-Terracina-Sezze-Priverno and Marcello Semeraro of Albano, the dioceses of the regions where Maria Goretti – who is even now affectionately known as “Marietta” – lived and died.
The young saint, who was killed at age 11 while resisting a rape, is renowned both as a martyr for chastity and as a witness of forgiveness: as Maria lay dying from wounds inflicted by her would-be rapist, Alessandro Serenelli, she prayed for his conversion.
Lauding Maria Goretti's ability to forgive her attacker as she lay dying, Francis quoted the 2015 Bull of Indiction for the Year of Mercy, saying: “At times how hard it seems to forgive! And yet pardon is the instrument placed into our fragile hands to attain serenity of heart.”
This “generous offer of forgiveness,” he said, accompanied “the peaceful death of the young Marietta,” establishing for her killer the “sincere journey of conversion which, in the end, led him to taste the faithful abandonment in the arms of his merciful Father.”
Francis cited Maria Goretti's “intensity of love for the Eucharistic Jesus,” which led to her having the strength to make the “fundamental choice of her brief existence,” the Pope said, in reference to her martyrdom.
Born in the city of Corinaldo, Italy in 1890, St. Maria Goretti was the third of seven children. Poverty forced the family to relocate, and they ultimately settled in a town just outside of Nettuno.