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Pioneer of Faith-Based Feminism and World War II Priest to Be Beatified

A pioneer of faith-based feminism and a Catholic priest who ministered tirelessly during the Second World War will be beatified in April.

Cardinal Marcello Semeraro, prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, will preside at the beatifications of Armida Barelli and Father Mario Ciceri at Milan Cathedral, in northern Italy, on April 30, 2022.

The date was announced on the Milan Archdiocese’s website on Oct. 29, reported ACI Stampa, CNA’s Italian-language news partner.

Born to an upper-class family in Milan in 1882, Barelli came of age at a time when Italy’s first secular feminists emerged from the women’s suffrage movement, adding calls for divorce rights and more non-religious schools to their campaigns.

She served as president of the Gioventù femminile cattolica italiana, a young women’s organization, for more than three decades, helping women to be formed in “a Eucharistic spirituality” and recognize their equal “baptismal dignity” with men, according to the vice postulator for her sainthood cause, Ernesto Preziosi.

Under the spiritual guidance of Franciscan Father Agostino Gemelli, Barelli discerned a lay vocation as a Third Order Franciscan in 1910.

Cardinal Andrea Ferrari of Milan (who was himself later declared “Blessed”) asked her to help found the city’s Catholic women’s chapter of Catholic Action.

Barelli met with Pope Benedict XV in 1918 for a private audience in which he appointed her as president of the nationwide Gioventù femminile cattolica italiana.

Barelli went on to help found the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart in Milan, collected a fund to open an orphanage in northern China, and founded the Secular Institute of the Missionaries of the Kingship of Christ together with Father Gemelli.

She died in 1952 after suffering for three years from a progressive chronic illness. Barelli’s cause for canonization was opened by the Archdiocese of Milan in 1960. 

Read more at National Catholic Register

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