Benedict XVI Blesses St. Rafaela Statue

VATICAN CITY, JAN. 20, 2010 (Zenit.org).- Today before beginning the general audience, Benedict XVI blessed a statue of a Spanish saint and founder, unveiled at the Vatican outside of St. Peter’s Basilica.

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The 6-meter (20-foot) statue depicts St. Rafaela María Porras y Ayllón (1850-1925), canonized by Pope Paul VI in 1977.

The Spanish religious founded the Handmaids of the Sacred Heart, an institute dedicated to education and the Eucharist. Hence, the statute depicts a young girl at the foot of the saint.

The marble statue was created by Marco Augusto Dueñas.

The Spanish and Japanese ambassadors to the Holy See were present at the unveiling, as was the superior-general of the Handmaids, Mother Mitsuyo Fukusawa. Some 50 family members of the saint were also there, as were the mayor and citizens of Pedro Abad in Cordoba, where Rafaela was born.

At the end of the general audience, the Pope gave a special greeting to the delegation — some 450 people — encouraging them to be “witnesses of the merciful love of God.”

The Handmaids of the Sacred Heart have some 1,300 women religious active in more than 20 countries.

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