Cause Opens for St. Gianna Beretta's Brother

Prelate Calls Them "Spectacularly Important Siblings"

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By Alexandre Ribeiro

SÃO PAULO, Brazil, JULY 1, 2008 (Zenit.org).- The brother of a woman canonized after she opted to risk her life to save her unborn child is also being considered for official recognition as a saint.

The cause for Friar Albert Beretta, brother of St. Gianna Beretta, opened in Italy last month. Friar Albert was an Italian missionary in Brazil for 33 years, and is also an "example of the ideal of holiness," a bishop who worked with him told ZENIT.

Retired Bishop Serafim Spreafico of Grajau, Maranhao, in northern Brazil, reflected on the life of his countryman and fellow Capuchin, and that of his sister.

"They are two spectacularly important siblings for today's world, extraordinary examples of fraternity, of family holiness," he said.

The bishop and Friar Albert worked closely together for 20 years, both in Italy and Brazil.

Albert Beretta was born in Milan in 1916. He was already a doctor and surgeon when he was ordained a priest in the Capuchin Order in 1948. He left for Brazil a year later.

Bishop Spreafico described Friar Albert as "a witness of the beatitudes. […] He was a witness of God's presence in every person, from the beginning to the end."

The bishop recalled an episode involving Friar Albert: "He had been praying for some time before the tabernacle when I arrived. Then he asked me: 'Will we be closer to God in heaven than we are here at this moment, before the tabernacle?'

"I must say I was surprised by the very simple way he asked me that, his simplicity in living in the presence of God.

"I then answered, 'yes,' and in heaven we will be immersed in God, as St. Thomas says. At that moment, in silence, he returned to pray."

Also a missionary

Gianna (1922-1962) also wanted to go to Brazil, to work as a missionary beside her priest brother, Bishop Spreafico said. She trained for seven years to be able to go, but her frail health impeded her.

"In the spiritual dimension, she was and is a missionary in Brazil, so much so that it was in that country that the two miracles took place that raised her to the order of saints," he noted.

Gianna was a physician like her brother. She married and had four children. During her pregnancy with her daughter, Gianna Emanuela, she developed a fibroma in her uterus. Rather than choosing an abortion or a hysterectomy, Gianna chose to have the fibroma removed, though further complications were anticipated. She gave birth to little Gianna Emanuela, but died a week later.

She was beatified in 1994 and canonized in 2004. Her husband and Gianna Emanuela were present at the ceremony.

Bishop Spreafico told ZENIT that he always entrusts himself to the intercession of St. Gianna and Friar Albert.

"As members of my diocese, though St. Gianna [only] in the spiritual dimension, the two siblings must obey me," the bishop quipped. "So I pray to them to grant many graces and holiness to the Church in Brazil."