Pope Francis advances causes of China missionary, sister killed by Maoist guerrillas

A canonization ceremony in St. Peter’s Square, Oct. 15, 2017. / Daniel Ibanez/CNA.

CNA Staff, May 22, 2021 / 05:55 am (CNA).

Pope Francis on Saturday advanced the causes of seven people, including a missionary to China and a sister killed by Maoist guerrillas.

The pope authorized the Vatican Congregation for the Causes of Saints to issue seven new decrees during a May 22 meeting with the congregation’s prefect, Cardinal Marcello Semeraro.

The pope recognized the heroic virtues of Fr. Mariano Gazpio, a Spanish member of the Order of Augustinian Recollects. The step means that Gazpio can now be referred to as “Venerable.”

Heroic virtue is one of the requirements for beatification in the Catholic Church. A verified miracle attributed to the candidate’s intercession is also usually required.

Born in Puente la Reina, Navarre, on Dec. 18, 1899, Gazpio began his missionary work in China in 1924, in Shangqiu, a city in eastern Henan province. Over the next 28 years, he became known for his apostolic zeal, piety, and love for the poor.

After the Chinese Communist Revolution, he remained at his mission station despite rising religious persecution. In 1952, he was expelled from the country along with other foreign missionaries.

According to Augustinian Recollects’ website, Gazpio was known for this great devotion to the Eucharist, the Sacred Heart, and the Virgin Mary.

“Besides the community hours for prayer, he spent many more in the oratory or in the choir in personal prayer. His contract with God was continuous,” it said.

“He read the Bible frequently, so much so that at any moment he would be caught with an open Bible on his desk. In spiritual direction, he would use biblical references continually.”

He died in Pamplona on Sept. 22, 1989. His cause opened in 2000.

Pope Francis also recognized the martyrdom of Sr. Agustina Rivas Lopez, known as “Aguchita.”

Born in Coracora, central Peru, on June 13, 1920, she entered the Congregation of the Sisters of Our Lady of Charity of the Good Shepherd in 1942. She felt called to serve among the Asháninka, an indigenous people living in the rainforests of Peru.

The congregation’s website described her as “a free, strong, infinitely charitable woman with a deep faith in God.”

On Sept. 27, 1990, she was killed by members of the Shining Path, a Maoist guerrilla movement. She was executed alongside six other people in the village of La Florida.

The decree issued by the Congregation for the Causes of Saints declared that she was killed in “hatred of the faith,” a traditional requirement for recognition as a martyr.

Pope Francis also recognized the heroic virtues of five other candidates for canonization:

• Fr. Felice Canelli, a diocesan priest born in San Severo, Italy, on Oct. 14, 1880. Known for his outstanding service to the poor, he died in the same south-eastern Italian city on Nov. 23, 1977.

• The Passionist priest Fr. Bernard Kryszkiewicz, who was born in Mława, Poland, on May 2, 1915. He nursed the wounded during the Second World War, contracting typhus and dying on July 7, 1945, at the age of 30.

• Mother Colomba di Gesù Ostia, prioress of a Discalced Carmelite monastery in Marcianise, southern Italy. She was born in the town on June 15, 1914, and died there on August 13, 1969.

• Antonia Lesino, a member of the Piccola Famiglia Francescana, an Italian secular institute. She was born in Milan on Oct. 11, 1897, and died in Brescia on Feb. 24, 1962.

• Alexander Bálint, a layman and father of a family, born in Szeged Alsóváros, Hungary, on August 1, 1904. He died in Budapest on May 10, 1980.

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