It’s too late. You missed your chance to gawp at what remains of an 11-year-old girl who was murdered over a century ago. Her wax-encased skeleton was flown in from Europe, taken on a religious-rockstar tour of 54 Catholic churches in the U.S. (by tractor-trailer, no less), and then returned to her crypt in Italy.
Pope Francis signed off on the whole thing personally.
“For the entire body of a saint to go on the road is something that only the Roman pontiff can authorize,” says the Rev. Carlos Martins, a noted curator of relics for the Catholic Church. “It’s very rare.”
So who was Maria Goretti?
The little Italian girl was raped and stabbed by an assailant who, according to the story, received her forgiveness before she died some 24 hours after the attack. 65 years ago, she was canonized, and Catholics have venerated her as a patron saint of purity and mercy ever since. Like this:
Her bones, encased in a wax statue dressed in white, lay in a glass casket throughout the trip. People came to visit at each stop, standing in line, kneeling before the reliquary and holding prayer cards and rosaries against the glass.
Martins personally organized the U.S. tour of St. Maria Goretti.
“I like giving people an experience of God and certainly this is something that’s out of the ordinary,” Martins says.
Like P.T. Barnum, then.