In the presence of nearly 60,000 people, the beatification of Brazilian Benigna Cardoso da Silva, known as the “heroine of chastity” for dying defending her purity at age 13, was celebrated on Oct. 24.
Newsroom (30/10/2022 11:30 AM, Gaudium Press) — Cardinal Leonardo Steiner, archbishop of Manaus, represented Pope Francis and celebrated Benigna’s beatification Mass at the Pedro Felício Cavalcanti Exhibition Park in the Brazilian city of Crato.
On Oct. 24, 1941, the 13-year-old girl left her house to fetch water from a fountain and was attacked with a machete by Raimundo Raúl Alves Ribeiro, a minor who tried to sexually abuse her.
According to Vatican News, during the beatification ceremony, two of Benigna’s sisters and some young people carried her relic to the altar, while the nearly 60,000 attendees sang a hymn composed in her honour.
In the photos posted by the Diocese of Crato, many of the women who attended, mostly girls, can be seen wearing dresses similar to the one Benigna wore on the day of her martyrdom.
Many of them wore polo shirts and carried small flags with Benigna’s face to express their joy and celebrate the first blessed born in Ceará and the fourth martyr from Brazil.
Among the crowd, a large number of smiling adult women and girls were seen wearing red dresses with white polka dots, similar to the one worn by Benigna in her official portrait for the beatification ceremony.
The official painting of the new blessed was made from facial reconstruction work and was done by artist Joab Rocha, who was commissioned by the Diocese of Crato.
At the beginning of the Mass, Cardinal Steiner read the apostolic letter where Pope Francis agrees, at the request of the bishops, to declare Benigna blessed and establishes that her feast is celebrated on Oct. 24.
In his homily, the prelate recalled that the young blessed “knew the way to quench thirst, serve those in the house, water the plants” and that “her love, her mercy, led her to martyrdom.”
The cardinal noted that “the place of water, of life, became a place of aggression, violence, death.”
“Place of death, source of resistance, of transparency, of strength, of dignity. At the fountain, Benigna offers her life in fidelity to Jesus,” he said.
Regarding the circumstances of her death, the cardinal said that Blessed Benigna brings light in a social context where women are murdered and where children are abused.
Steiner said that the new blessed is an example of defending the dignity of the women of our time.
“Today we praise God for the life and witness of her who, through martyrdom, was born for the Church as a blessed woman, an example and defender of the dignity of women,” he stressed.
“Benigna [was an] example of the non-subjugation of women, defender of their own strength and value, of dignity and beauty, of sexuality and motherhood, of vitality and tenderness. She preferred death to passion, she preferred death to the breaking of her dignity,” he added.
The cardinal also prayed that her witness would contribute to the conversion of souls and the care of children and families.
“Benigna encourages us to create a family and social environment of care, respect, and dignity among us. Heroine of chastity! May her holy soul convert this parish and be the protection of children and families,” he said.
Finally, Cardinal Steiner remembered Father Cícero Romão Batista, known as Father Cícero, a Brazilian priest who was proclaimed Servant of God by Pope Francis on Aug. 20.
“As the girl was persevering, may Father Cícero help us to be persevering and not to abandon our faith in Jesus,” he said.
Vatican News highlighted that on Oct. 24 the Court of Domestic and Family Violence against Women was created in the city of Crato with the mission to defend the dignity and rights of women.
– Raju Hasmukh with files from CNA