St. Maria Goretti's sacred remains come to Chicago

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Thousands of Catholics gathered to witness a first in Chicago. The relic of St. Maria Goretti, the youngest canonized saint, is on display at St. Cantius Church in the city's Goose Island neighborhood.

A Chicago police motorcade escorted the relic to St. Cantius early Monday morning. The church is located at 825 North Carpenter Street in Chicago. The remains will be at the church for 24 hours.

The visit is part of the Pilgrimage of Mercy, a 48-city tour. This is the first time the sacred remains have traveled to the U.S. and only the second time they have left Italy.

Planning for the 55-day U.S. pilgrimage started a year and a half ago at the behest of Pope Francis. St. Maria Goretti has ties to the United States; three of her siblings emigrated to New Jersey and their descendants still live here.

Venerated as a saint of purity and mercy, St. Maria Goretti died at age 11 when her next door neighbor, Alessandro Serenelli, stabbed her 14 times after trying to rape her. She forgave her killer on her death bed, and is also considered the patron saint of youth and young people.

"She is a perfect example of forgiveness and how we can, as a human being, forgive someone else for what they have done," says Maria Guerrero.

The saint's arrival in Chicago is very meaningful to the faithful.

"It's very rare, in our country, that we get to see a saint's body. It's really an incredible moment, that we get to see a saint, let alone the youngest canonized saint. One with a story that reads pretty much like a Chicago headline: Stabbed 14 times in an attempted rape, but that incredible forgiveness that she gave her attacker," Father Joshua Caswell said.

Visitors will see a wax statue encased in a glass coffin containing St. Maria Goretti's decomposed remains. She was brought into the church after a prayer outside.

During a special mass, faithful touched her glass coffin and prayed.

The sacred remains will travel to St. John Vianney Church in Northlake on Tuesday, to St. Francis of Assisi Church in Orland Park on Wednesday and to St. Mary Immaculate Church in Plainfield on Thursday.

For more information on St. Maria Goretti's 48-city tour, visit

Copyright © 2020 WLS-TV. All Rights Reserved.