Pope Francis cleared the way for the canonization of Blessed Charles de Foucauld and six others at an Ordinary Public Consistory held at the Vatican on Monday.
De Foucauld is noted for his life as a hermit among the Tuareg people of the Sahara Desert in French North Africa. Although he became an agnostic as a young man, he eventually returned to the faith at the age of 28. “As I believed there was a God,” he said, I understood that I could do nothing but live for him alone.”
He joined the Trappist order in 1890, but later travelled to Nazareth to pursue an undefined vocation. He was ordained a priest in Viviers, and shortly after returned to Algeria, where he continued to live as a hermit. He resolved to live among the Tuareg people, studying their language and culture while living a life of prayer and adoration.
In 1916, his hermitage was attacked by Bedouin marauders intent on kidnapping him. When their attempt was disrupted, one of the bandits shot Charles de Foucauld through the head, killing him instantly. Although honoured by many people as a martyr, at the Consistory on Monday, he was listed simply as a diocesan priest.
The causes of six other blessed were also approved on Monday.
The most notable among them is Blessed Lazarus (Devasahayam) Pillai, the first Indian layman to be beatified.
A Brahmin of the Nair caste in southern India, Devasahayam was educated as a young man, and became a member of royal court and an assistant in a prominent Hindu temple.
After being introduced to a Jesuit missionary, who became his spiritual director, Devasahayam converted to Christianity and took the baptismal name Lazarus. He preached Christianity among his own people, emphasising the equality of all people, contrary to the caste system.
This led to resentment among the higher classes, who accused him of treason. Blessed Lazarus was arrested and tortured for three years, and condemned to death. He was shot and killed on 14 January 1752, and is recognised as a martyr.
The remaining Blesseds – one French and two Italian priests, and two Italian nuns – were all founders of religious orders. César de Bus, born in Provence in 1544 in what was then the Pontifical Province of France, founded the Congregation of the Fathers of Christian Doctrine at the height of the Catholic Counter-Reformation.
Luigi Maria Palazzolo, a priest of Bergamo, Italy, founded the Institute of the Sisters of the Poor, dedicated to providing for poor girls in the 19th century.
Giustino Maria Russolillo, born in the last decade of the 19th century, founded the Society of Divine Vocations and the Congregation of the Sisters of Divine Vocations, committed to the culture, research and foundation of vocations to the priesthood and consecrated life.
The first Blessed of Uruguay, Maria Francesca di Gesù, was born in the Italian province of Turin. After working with St John Bosco, she became the co-foundress of the Capuchin Sisters of Mother Rubatto of Loano, an order which soon spread to the new world. Blessed Maria Francesca crossed the Atlantic Ocean seven times to provide for her new order. She died in 1904 in Montevideo, Uruguay.
Finally, Maria Domenica Mantovani, the first Superior of the Institute of the Little Sisters of the Holy Family, dedicated her life to the service of the poor, of orphans, and of the sick.
With the formal vote of the Cardinals in Monday’s Consistory, Pope Francis ordered the canonizations of all seven Blesseds. The Holy See is expected to announce the date of the respective canonizations in the coming weeks.