St. Maria Goretti: A Radical Model for Pre-adolescents

Church Marking the Centenary of Her Death

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ROME, JUNE 7, 2002 ( Celebrations for the centenary of the death of St. Maria Goretti (1890-1902) will begin June 30 in Corinaldo, Italy, where she was born.

The celebrations will continue in Nettuno, where she died on July 6, 1902.

During a press conference this week, Cardinal Sergio Sebastiani, president of the Vatican´s Prefecture of Economic Affairs, described the virtues of this saint, who was killed at age 11 by a youth whose advances she rejected.

“Trust in Providence, love toward her neighbor, rejection of violence, and respect for the very dignity of woman, prayer and union with God, the heroism of forgiveness for love of Christ, faith in life hereafter,” were among her virtues, the cardinal said.

The “martyrdom of Marietta, as she was known by her family and friends, is the culmination of a human and spiritual journey that had attained evangelical radicalness in ordinary life as a pre-adolescent, and this is why it maintains its currency and freshness even today,” he explained.

“These choices, such as giving one´s life to Christ and forgiving an aggressor, do not happen by accident,” added Father Ciro Benedettini, the assistant director of the Vatican Press Office.

Father Benedettini recalled a statement made by Pius XII, when he proclaimed Maria Goretti a saint on June 24, 1950: “Holiness is not improvised.”

Vittorio Marzoli, the mayor of Nettuno, where the press conference was held, observed: “The girl´s purity, her capacity to forgive, and the murderer´s conversion are topics for reflection not only for believers, but also for nonbelievers, because they help to cultivate an ´elevated´ dimension of life.”

The saint´s biographer is Father Giovanni Alberti of the Congregation of Passionists, who is the custodian of the Shrine in Nettuno dedicated to Maria Goretti. He said the saint is a model who must be proposed “to today´s pre-adolescents because, being in love with Christ, she knew how to follow him in a radical way.”

However, “her gestures, her choices, her tact toward the aggressor are those of a girl who knew how to behave as a woman, a little woman who was proud to be so.”

At 11, Marietta caught Alessandro Serenelli´s attention, a disturbed youth who tried to seduce her on several occasions. The last time he was rejected, he reacted violently and stabbed Marietta repeatedly.

Sentenced to forced labor, Serenelli was pardoned after 27 years for good conduct. Marietta´s mother and siblings were present at her canonization.

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