By Junno Arocho Esteves, Catholic News Service
VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis advanced the sainthood causes of two women and three men, including an Italian laywoman who was once believed to be demonically possessed because of her violent convulsions after drinking unsafe water.
In a meeting July 10 with Cardinal Giovanni Angelo Becciu, prefect of the Congregation for Saints’ Causes, the pope recognized a miracle attributed to Maria Antonia Sama, which clears the way for her beatification.
Sama was born into a poor family in the Italian region of Calabria in 1875. At the age of 11, while returning home from washing clothes near a river, Sama drank from a nearby water puddle.
At home, she became immobile and subsequently experienced convulsions, which led many during that time to believe she was possessed by evil spirits, according to the official website of Sama’s sainthood cause.
After an unsuccessful exorcism at a Carthusian monastery, she only began to stand and showed signs of healing after a reliquary containing the remains of St. Bruno, founder of the Carthusian order, was placed before her.
However, her healing was short-lived after being afflicted with arthritis, causing her to be bedridden for the next 60 years. During those years, the people of her town rallied to take care of her after the death of her mother. The Congregation of the Sisters of the Sacred Heart then took care of Sama until her death in 1953 at the age of 78.
The other decrees approved by Pope Francis July 10 recognized:
— The heroic virtues of Italian Jesuit Father Eusebio Francesco Chini, who served as a missionary in 18th-century Mexico. He was born in 1645 and died in Magdalena, Mexico, in 1711.
— The heroic virtues of Father Mariano Jose de Ibarguengoitia y Zuloaga, a Spanish priest from Bilbao, Spain, who help found the Institute of the Servants of Jesus. He was born in 1815 and died in 1888.
— The heroic virtues of Mother Maria Felix Torres, founder of the Company of the Savior as well as the Mater Salvatoris Schools. She was born Albelda, Spain, in 1907 and died in Madrid in 2001.
— The heroic virtues of Angiolino Bonetta, a layman and member of the Silent Workers of the Cross Association, an apostolate dedicated to the sick and the disabled. He was born in 1948 and died in 1963.