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Beatification of Br. Gabriel Maria Allegra, OFM

DSC08669The immediate preparation for the celebration of the beatification of Br. Gabriel Maria Allegra, OFM, began October 28 with a Marian procession with the fresco of the “Madonna of the Ravanusa” to whom he was particularly devout. The procession started from the Ravanusa Shrine in San Giovanni la Punta, the birthplace of Br. Allegra, and made its way to the Franciscan Church of St. Blaise in Acireale, where the remains of the new Blessed are preserved. There, the people recited the Rosary and then headed to the square of the Acireale Dome. At the square, at 21.00, Br. Jose Rodriguez Carballo, OFM, Minister General OFM, led a prayer vigil particularly for the young people and it was packed. The Minister General kept in mind the theme of the vigil, namely, Mary and Br. Allegra: A Yes to God; he, moreover, invited the young people and all those present to give themselves generously to God’s plan for each of them, proposing to them two means of this project: the assiduous reading of and meditation on the Word of God, as Br. Allegra did, and the support of an expert in spiritual and vocational accompaniment, as Br. Gabriel Maria Allegra was. The vigil was attended by Cardinal Emeritus of Hong Kong, the Archbishop of Acireale, Msgr. Antonino Raspanti, several delegations from Hong Kong, and many young people in Sicily as well as Religious, particularly from the OFM Franciscans. After the vigil until dawn, at the same square, there was a concert especially for young people facilitated by the brothers of the OFM Province of Sicily.

October 29 was the big and expected day by all. At 10.00 AM began the solemn Eucharistic celebration presided by Cardinal Angelo Amato, Prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints. He was flanked by three cardinals who con-celebrated with him, that is, Giuseppe Zen Ze – Kiun, Emeritus of Hong Kong, Salvatore Giorgio, the Emeritus of Palermo, and Paolo Romeo, the Cardinal of Palermo. Also, con-celebrating were Antonino Raspanti, Bishop of Acireale, Br. Jose Rodriguez Carballo, OFM, Minister General, Br. Pino Noto, OFM, Minister Provincial of Sicily, and Br. Gianni Califano, OFM, Postulator General. In addition, there were 25 other bishops con-celebrating, including Msgr. Savio Hon Tai – Fai, Secretary of the Congregation of Propaganda Fide, and the Secretary of CEI (Italian Episcopal Conference). Most of the OFM General Definitory and many OFM Provincials of Italy were also there. The con-celebrants were over 300, including many Franciscans, from all over Italy and other countries, such as Hong Kong. Particularly striking was the number of OFM young people who came for the occasion from OFM Provinces in southern Italy. From the General Curia and the two communities in Via Merulana (Rome), there was a delegation of about 20 brothers.

Three particularly emotional moments were reading of the Apostolic Letter of Pope Benedict XVI proclaiming Br. Gabriel Maria Allegra, OFM, a missionary in China, Blessed and describing him as a “humble disciple of Divine Wisdom, true apostle of the Holy Scripture, zealous missionary in the Land of the Orient.” When canvas of the new Blessed hanging on the facade of the Church of St. Peter and St. Paul next to the Dome, the man miraculously cured of cancer through the intercession of Br. Allegra in 1986, Francesco Tomasello, brought to the altar the relics of the “new St. Jerome of China” because he translated the entire Bible into Chinese. All this was followed by the sounding of the bells of all the churches of Acireale and by a strong applause from the audience, whose faces and tears reflected the deep emotion of joy they had inside. At the same time, the Magnificat was sung by members of all the chorals of Acireale.

In his homily, Cardinal Amato stressed how the sanctity of the new Blessed sprouted within a poor but deeply Christian family. He described Br. Allegra as an “encyclopedic man and a dynamic apostle of the Gospel. He was not only an expert in Sacred Scripture and a refined literary and applauded orator, he was above all a saint, a heroic witness of the Gospel of Christ.” Among the virtues of Br. Allegra, Cardinal Amato cited particularly two: “his granitic faith and Franciscan humility.” He ended his homily by inviting us to read the Bible and live it in everyday life, for “We are invited to read the Word of God and especially to translate it into our daily lives.”

After Holy Communion, the Bishop of Acireale, the OFM Minister General, and the Minister Provincial of the OFM Province of Sicily had a few words to say. Msgr. Antonio Raspanti also expressed his gratitude that the beatification took place in his Diocese and proposed the new blessed as a role model. “Let us allow ourselves to be lead by Gabriel,” he said at one point in his speech. Friar José Rodríguez Carballo, OFM, after thanking the Holy Father and the Secretariat of State for the gift of the beatification, also thanked the Congregation for the Causes of Saints and Propaganda Fidei for their work to bring the beatification about. Furthermore, he spoke of the importance of the figure of Br. Allegra as a friar who conjugated in his life both study and holiness of life, a great intellectual priority and proximity to the poor, a great love for his land and a missionary in faraway lands, proposing him as a model for all the Friars Minor. He ended up asking that he be declared a saint soon. Meanwhile, Br. Pino Noto, thanked all who have collaborated in the preparation of this event.

After the celebration, everyone was invited to a fraternal meal in the convent of Saint Blaise. A concert took place in the evening at the Square of the Dome attended by many young people. On the Oct. 30, there were two thanksgiving masses: one morning in the Cathedral of Acireale and another in the afternoon, at the birthplace of the Blessed in San Giovanni of the Punta.

In an interview with one of the local newspapers, Friar José Rodríguez Carballo, OFM, Minister General, said, “With the beatification of Br. Allegra is written one of the great pages of the history of the Order of Friars Minor. In him, we have a brother deeply in love with the Word, interpreted in light of the Fathers and Teachings of the Church, a true lover and imitator of Christ, and a great devotee of the Immaculate Virgin, St. Francis, and the Church. Br. Gabriel Maria was also a true apostle of the Gospel for those near and far; a lover of the poor; and a disciple, teacher, and apostle. He felt and lived with God and of God; he was a true Friar Minor. Let’s make a treasure of the legacy left to us by Br. Allegra “.

To the glory of Christ, the Poor Man St. Francis and his devoted son, Br. Gabriel Maria Allegra. Amen.

Vigil with youth
Decree for the canonization of Blessed Gabriel Allegra