A lecture on “St Benedict the Moor, from Sicily to the New World” is being hosted by the Italian Cultural Institute (IIC) in Mexico City. It will be delivered by Professor Giovanna Fiume of the University of Palermo on Friday, March 17, at 7 p.m.
St Benedict, son of two African slaves who converted to Christianity, was born in Sicily in 1524 and became a member of a Franciscan hermit congregation. In 1562 he joined the Santa Maria di Gesu Monastery, near Palermo. He was venerated by the city’s noble families and ordinary people of the capital of the Viceroyalty as a “living saint”, to whom everyone turned for miracles and especially the healing of the sick. After his death in 1589, his canonization started, well ahead of him being proclaimed the Saint Benedict who was worshipped from Sicily to the Iberian peninsula to the Americas.
It is the Franciscan Friars that promoted his model of sanctity – that is as a docile and obedient slave, although suffering in slavery – among the African victims of the trade that brought an ever-increasing number of slaves to Central and Latin America. The “Black Brotherhoods”, organised under his aegis, were important in establishing his veneration, which showed many traits drawn from the African culture. This occurred long before the Pope proclaimed Benedict as Blessed (in 1743) and subsequently as a Saint (in 1807).