Benedict the African


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Franciscan lay brother. He was born near Messina (Sicily) of black parents from Africa of servile status. At the age of eighteen he was freed, and earned his living as an agricultural labourer in the plains of Sicily. He graciously shared everything he had; as a consequence he was generally loved and respected. Some, however, mocked him for his servile origin.

He joined a small group of hermits who lived in the hills near San Fratello under the direction of Jerome Lanza. When Lanza died the community chose Benedict as his successor. The community grew, but in 1562 Pius IV ordered it to be incorporated into an already existing community.

Benedict now chose to enter the Franciscan community of Palermo as a lay brother. He became master of novices; his advice and direction were much in demand; cures, believed miraculous, followed his intercession. He died at the hour he had foretold, on 4 April. His cult spread from Italy to Spain and South America. He was beatified in 1743 and canonized in 1807. He is patron saint of Palermo.

H.S.S.C., viii. 286;Bibl. SS., ii. 103–4.

Subjects: Christianity — African Studies.

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