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Wildfires in Italy damage incorrupt body of saint


Eugenio Hansen OFS | CC BY SA 3.0

Philip Kosloski - published on 08/04/23

The incorrupt body of St. Benedict the Moor was severely damaged by wildfires in southern Italy.

Ever since his death in the 16th century, the incorrupt body of St. Benedict the Moor has been on display at the parish church of Santa Maria di Gesù in Palermo, Italy.

However, recent wildfires in southern Italy have reduced his incorrupt body almost completely to ashes.

According to BBC News, “In southern Italy, fires in Sicily and Puglia have also been fuelled by high winds and tinder-dry vegetation, meaning firefighters have been struggling in many areas to douse the flames and create firebreaks. The church of St Benedict the Moor in the Sicilian city of Palermo was among the buildings that have been destroyed in the fires.”

Meg Hunter-Kilmer explains who St. Benedict the Moor is in an article on Aleteia.

St. Benedict the Moor (1526-1589) was born to enslaved African parents but freed at birth. He joined some Franciscan-inspired hermits, whom he led for 10 years, then entered the Franciscan order, where he eventually served as superior and as novice master despite being illiterate. Though there were many Black saints before St. Benedict the Moor, the canonization process didn’t begin until the 11th century, making him the first Black person canonized.

His body was eventually found “incorrupt,” which means that it had not suffered the natural process of decomposition.

However, his incorrupt body was not impervious to all harm, as the fire severely damaged it.

His remains will likely be placed in a new tomb and pilgrims will no longer be able to witness the miracle of his incorrupt body.

As to why God preserved the saint’s body from corruption but allowed it to be harmed by the fires, that is a mystery that only He can know.

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