Pope Francis speaks during his weekly general audience in the Paul VI hall at the Vatican on October 28, 2020. (Photo: Tiziana FABI / AFP)
Pope Francis advanced the sainthood causes of five men and four women, including four 20th-century martyrs killed in Brazil, Turkey and Italy.
The pope signed the decrees Oct. 27 during a meeting with Cardinal-designate Marcello Semeraro, prefect of the Congregation for Saints' Causes. The Vatican published the decrees Oct. 28.
The pope recognized the martyrdom of Capuchin Fathers Leonard Melki and Thomas Saleh, Lebanese friars who served as missionaries in Turkey, where they were arrested, tortured and murdered during the harsh repression by the Ottoman Turks.
Father Melki was killed in 1915 together with Blessed Ignace Maloyan, an Armenian bishop, and hundreds of others. Father Saleh was condemned to death for offering hospitality to an Armenian priest during the genocide. He died in 1917 during a military escort as he was being deported in the middle of winter.
The pope also recognized the martyrdom of Father Luigi Lenzini, who was killed in July 1945, just months after World War II ended, by four political extremists in central Italy. While the priest had helped the partisans during the war, he had received death threats for being outspoken against the communist movements gaining momentum in the region.
The pope recognized the martyrdom of a young Brazilian woman, Isabel Cristina Mrad Campos, who was brutally murdered in 1982 by a young man who had been working in the new apartment she moved into with her brother. The man stabbed her 15 times after she refused his aggressive advances.
Except in the case of candidates officially recognized as martyrs, the Catholic Church usually requires a miracle attributed to a candidate's intercession as a condition for beatification. A miracle after the beatification, even for martyrs, is required for canonization.
The other decrees the pope approved were:
-- The miracle needed for the canonization of Blessed Giustino Maria Russolillo, an Italian priest who founded the Society of Divine Vocations for men and the Vocationist Sisters. He was born in 1891 and died in 1955.
-- The miracle needed for the beatification of Spanish Mother Maria Llorenca Llong, who founded the Capuchin Poor Clares and a hospital in Naples, Italy. She was born in 1463 and died in Naples in 1539.
-- The miracle needed for the beatification of Mother Elisabeth Rosa Czacka, who founded the Congregation of Franciscan Sisters Servants of the Cross. Born in Ukraine in 1876, she was blind and dedicated the congregation to serving and working with people who are physically blind and "spiritually" blind to God. She died in Poland in 1961.
The pope also recognized the heroic virtues of Brazilian Stigmatine Brother Roberto Giovanni, 1903-1994; and Spanish Mother Celia Mendez Delgado, co-founder of the Congregation of the Handmaids of the Divine Heart of Jesus, 1844-1908.