Pope recognizes martyrdom of sister killed in Somalia in 2006

IMAGE: CNS photo/Carlo Di Renzo, EPA

By Cindy Wooden

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Pope Francis formally recognized the
martyrdom of an Italian Consolata sister murdered in Somalia in 2006 and the martyrdom
of a 25-year-old priest in Hungary in 1957.

The Vatican announced the pope’s decisions Nov. 9, along
with news that he had declared Pope John Paul I “venerable” and had
advanced five other sainthood causes.

In the case of the two martyrs, the pope’s recognition
clears the way for their beatification, the step before canonization.

Consolata Sister Leonella Sgorbati and her bodyguard were gunned down as they left the children’s hospital where she worked in Mogadishu.
Their deaths in September 2006 came amid rising tensions in the Muslim world
over a speech then-Pope Benedict XVI had given in Regensburg, Germany, quoting
a Christian emperor’s criticism of Islam.

Most Islamic leaders in Somalia condemned the killing,
emphasizing that Sister Sgorbati was dedicating her efforts to the Somali
people. She was 65 at the time, had worked in Africa for 35 years and
had been in Somalia since 2001.

The Hungarian priest whose martyrdom was recognized by Pope
Francis was Father Janos Brenner, who was born in Szombathely in 1931. He had
been a Cistercian novice, but when the communist government banned religious
orders in 1950, he entered a diocesan seminary. He was ordained to the
priesthood in 1955.

Although the diocesan priesthood was not banned, the
communist authorities did not like his ministry, especially with young people.
In December 1957, just two weeks before his 26th birthday, he received a
late-night call to visit a sick person. On the path outside the village, he
was stabbed 32 times and died before a doctor could arrive. Although it was
never proven, it was believed that communist officials were ultimately
responsible for his death.

Another decree signed by the pope recognized the heroic
virtues of Bernard of Baden, a 15th-century German nobleman. Although he often
is referred to as “Blessed Bernard,” his cause for sainthood had not
previously followed all the formal procedures.

The other decrees signed by the pope recognized the heroic
virtues of:

— Franciscan Father Gregorio Fioravanti, the Italian
founder of the Franciscan Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart. He died in

— Venezuela-born Jesuit Father Tomas Morales Perez, who
founded the Cruzadas de Santa Maria secular institute and the Militantes de
Santa Maria movement for young people. He died in Spain in 1994.

— Italian Capuchin Brother Marcellino da Capradosso, a
friar who died in 1909.

— U.S.-born Teresa Fardella De Blasi, an Italian mother and
widow, who founded the Poor Daughters of the Crowned Virgin and who was able to
realize her dream of becoming a nun only shortly before her death in 1957.

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