Buenos Aires

'Gaucho priest' to be beatified in pope's homeland

200,000 faithful set to attend ceremony near Cordoba

'Gaucho priest' to be beatified in pope's homeland

(By Francesca Ambrogetti) Buenos Aires, September 13 - Josè Brochero, the gaucho-priest known for his mule-back travels across Argentina in the 19th century wearing a poncho and a local hat, is set to be beatified on Saturday in an emotional ceremony expected to be attract some 200,000 faithful in the village where his Catholic mission was located, near the city of Cordoba. Brochero was the fourth of 10 brothers. He dedicated most of his life to the Catholic Church and to spreading the word of Christ in the north and centre of Argentina. The village where he spent much of his working life was originally called Villa del Transito, and has been since renamed Villa Cura Brochero to reflect the religious roots of the future saint. Brochero was known as a man that was very close to the poor and the needy, like the current pontiff, his compatriot Pope Francis. He died from leprosy in 1914, after having shared a traditional drink, mate, with a group of people suffering from the illness. The disease had made him become blind and deaf. Mate is a traditional Argentine herbal drink, prepared in a hollowed-out cup. Drinking mate and sharing the straw through which it is drunk with friends is an important social ritual in Argentina. Aside from assisting the poor and the needy in everyday situations, he become a very well-known figure in the Catholic Church and society was a whole after spending much time and energy assisting the dying in a mass cholera epidemic in Cordoba in 1867. The ceremony on Saturday will be presided over by Cardinal Angelo Amato, the prefect of the Congregation for Saints' Causes, who is travelling from the Vatican specifically for the event. "The gaucho-priest was indefatigable when travelling in the remote mountainous areas around Cordoba to bring the word of the Catholic church to the people, as well as when he used to help build houses, churches, schools, post offices, dams, roads and telegraph networks" said Monsignor Guillermo Karcher, an official of the Secretariat of State. "He was a man well ahead of his time, that understood the need to put himself at the service of the people and to help them in their moments of need". The postulator of the cause for Brochero's sainthood is Argentine lay-woman Silvia Monica Correale, a member of the Congregation for Saints' Causes. "This beatification was decided upon by Pope Benedict XVI and it will be a gift for the Argentine pontiff," Correale said. Brochero had in fact set up a spiritual home in his mission village near Cordoba inspired by Saint Ignazio Di Loyola, the founder of the Jesuit order to whom the current pontiff belongs.

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