Few saints in modern times have captured the hearts of the faithful as much as Saint Maria Goretti, made a saint in 1950 by Pope Pius XII in the Church’s first outdoor canonization in St. Peter’s Square.

The event drew an adoring crowd of more than 500,000 — including Maria’s mother and the man who had murdered the young girl. Pope Francis has pointed to her as a great example of forgiveness.

Eleven-year-old Maria Goretti died July 6, 1902, after being stabbed 14 times in an attempted rape. Her last words on her deathbed were of mercy towards her 20-year-old attacker: “I forgive Alessandro Serenelli … and I want him with me in Heaven forever.”

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