Guatemala to Get Its First Canonized Saint

Spanish Missionary and Pioneer in Health and Education

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VATICAN CITY, JULY 8, 2001 ( Guatemala will get its first canonized saint, Blessed Brother Pedro de San José de Betancurt, a pioneer in health care and education for the poor.

Born in Vilaflor, in Spain´s Canary Islands, on Sept. 18, 1626, Brother Pedro went to Guatemala as a lay missionary at age 24.

On arrival there he said: «I want to live and die here,» according to Cardinal José Saraiva Martins, prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints. The cardinal was at a ceremony Friday to promulgate the decree recognizing the miracle which clears the way for the canonization.

A serious sickness that struck Guatemala put Brother Pedro, a member of the Third Order of St. Francis, in direct contact with the poor of the area.

He himself regained his health unexpectedly and became an apostle of captives and protector of Indians, immigrants, and orphaned and abandoned children. He gave special attention to the latter, building schools and educating them with pioneer methods.

Seeing how poor patients were dismissed from hospitals, Brother Pedro also founded the world´s first hospital for convalescents.

He also established an oratory, «the House of Our Lady of Bethlehem,» which grew into the Bethlemite religious order.

Brother Pedro died April 25, 1667, at age 41, and was beatified by John Paul II in 1980.

«He was a tireless missionary, and intense and genial educator, who invented his own teaching method, using songs, games and dance,» Cardinal Saraiva Martins said during the promulgation ceremony, held in the Pope´s presence.

In an address to members of the Latin American bishops´ council on Oct. 12, 1984, John Paul II proposed Brother Pedro as a model for the new evangelization.

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