Josephine Bakhita


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St Pius X (1835—1914)


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Canossian sister. Probably born in Darfur (Eastern Sudan). At the age of eight, she was captured by slave traders and sold to an Arab chief, whose daughters liked her, but whose son beat her. She was then sold to a general in the Turkish army; while under his care she was tattooed with 140 cuts on her body, from which it took her a month to recover. Three years later, in 1882, the general decided to return to Turkey; he sold a few of his slaves, among them Josephine, who was bought by the Italian consul Calisto Legnani. With him, Josephine sailed to Genoa, where she was given to a hotel owner, a friend of the consul. Whilst still a slave, she returned to Eastern Sudan, but then returned to Italy.

It was in Italy that Josephine heard of Christianity through Illuminato Cecchini, a writer and local politician, who was the family business advisor. He gave her a crucifix and instruction in the Christian faith. She obtained her freedom when slavery was declared illegal in Italy. She then received the sacraments of baptism, Eucharist, and Confirmation in 1890, and made profession as a Canossian sister after being examined by Pius X, then the Patriarch of Venice. As a sister, she was moved to Scio (near Padua) and fulfilled various offices. She was a nurse during the First World War, and in the Second, now aged, she was venerated by the nuns who regarded her as the protectress of their convent. She died of pneumonia in 1947, was beatified in May 1992, and canonized in October 2000. Feast: 8 February.

B.L.S. (Concise edn.) 64–6; R.M., p. 133.

Subjects: Christianity.

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