Maria Goretti

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Maria Goretti: Teenage Martyr

Why would a Teenager defend her personal integrity only to suffer appalling violence, and then forgive her killer?

In 1902 in an Italian village a young girl, Maria Goretti, was murdered during a sexual attack. Her killer, Alessandro Serenelli, himself a teenager, was a close neighbour well known to her and her family. He had been threatening her for some time. What does it mean, how can it help, to say that she is a virgin and martyr? This is an often misunderstood and sentimentalised story. When many parents and teenagers strive for a balanced view of sexuality, of personal integrity, of Christian family life, and forgiveness to those who do irreparable harm, Maria’s story speaks powerfully and authentically. It echoes John Paul’s cry to taday’s youth – ‘Do not be afraid to be saints!’