Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart to Kick Off National Tour of the Relics of St. Maria Goretti

On Monday, September 21, the Catholic Basilica of the Sacred Heart – Mother Church of the Archdiocese of Newark – will be the first stop on a national tour of the Major Relics of St. Maria Goretti – the Little Saint of Great Mercy. 

This tour, designed as an introduction to the observance of a world-wide Extraordinary Holy Year of Mercy, will run from September 21 through November 13 and visit locations in 16 states and 25 dioceses across the country. It is the first time that the Relics of St. Maria Goretti, an immensely popular saint, have traveled to the United States, and only the second time that they have been taken on pilgrimage outside of St. Maria’s native land of Italy.

On the 21st, the faithful will have ample opportunity to visit and venerate the Relics. Doors of the Cathedral Basilica will open at 9 a.m. and will remain open until 11 p.m. The full schedule for the day will be:

9 a.m. – 7 p.m. – Veneration

7 p.m. – Celebration of Mass

8 p.m. – 11 p.m. – Veneration

Presentations on the life and virtues of St. Maria Goretti, the youngest person (she died at the age of 11) ever to be canonized by the Church, are also planned for the day.  

Commenting on the visit of the Relics of St. Maria Goretti to the Archdiocese, The Most Reverend John J. Myers, Archbishop of Newark, said: “We are profoundly honored and blessed that the people of this Archdiocese, and indeed, all people in the State of New Jersey, have an opportunity to honor and draw near to this remarkable saint whose greatest virtue was her unyielding forgiveness. Forgiveness and mercy are at the core of Christian belief — what we believe and teach every day.

“It is also important to note,” the Archbishop continued, “that the Archdiocese of Newark is doubly blessed to be the first stop on the pilgrimage of St. Maria’s Relics. Like so many millions of immigrants to the United States in the early part of the 20th Century, members of St. Maria’s family left Italy to start new lives in the United States. They settled in New Jersey, and some of members of the family still live within the environs of the Archdiocese.”

The Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart is located 89 Ridge Street, Newark. Further information about St. Maria Goretti and the pilgrimage tour may be found at

About St. Maria Goretti:  St. Maria Goretti is the youngest canonized saint in the Catholic Church.  She died tragically on July 6, 1902, at the age of eleven.

Born into poverty, her father moved the family when Maria was just six years old from the east side of Italy (near Ancona) to the west side (near Nettuno, about 40 miles south of Rome) in hopes of escaping the grinding poverty that was gripping the area. Just three years later, when Maria was nine, her father died tragically. It fell to her at that time to raise her five siblings while her mother worked the fields to produce the crops with which they would both pay the rent and feed themselves.

This was a terrible time of trial and suffering for the whole family. For Maria it was especially difficult. Aside from having the responsibility of caring for her family, she had to also cook and clean for her two next door neighbors–Giovanni Serenelli and his son, Alessandro–who assisted Maria’s mother with the farm tasks.

During this time Alessandro began to develop an impure liking for Maria. The big 20-year-old would say rude and crude things to her, things that were inappropriate and embarrassing, and that would cause her to run away. However, at a certain point he began to make direct sexual advances towards her, demanding her virginity and threatening her with violence for non-compliance.

Finally, after many months of this, Alessandro forced himself upon Maria in an attempt to rape her. Though she prevented him from violating her, Alessandro brutally stabbed her numerous times. Maria died the next day in the midst of horrendous infection brought on by her lacerations. Her last words were, “I forgive Alessandro Serenelli … and I want him with me in heaven forever.”

During his prison sentence Maria appeared to Alessandro and forgave him. That act of mercy and forgiveness—that act of love—filled Alessandro with contrition for his crime. It was also a turning point for him where grace entered his heart. From that point on, he lived a beautiful and converted life of holiness, eventually becoming a Franciscan lay brother.

On June 24, 1950, Pope Pius XII declared Maria Goretti a Saint of the Catholic Church. More than 50,000 people attended her Canonization, which was the first Canonization to take place in St. Peter’s Square because the crowd was too large for St. Peter’s Basilica.