02/01/2006, 00.00
ITALY
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Father Gheddo's parents on their way to beatification

For years witnesses have talked about the couple's "hunger for holiness" because of how they led their family life and how they took care of the poor. They were day-to-day heroes.

Rome (AsiaNews) – The process of diocesan beatification for the parents of AsiaNews's founder and PIME member Fr Piero Gheddo is set to begin shortly. Mgr Enrico Masseroni, archbishop of Vercelli (Italy), will open the informative tribunal on Saturday February 18 to hear witnesses and gather evidence concerning the two servants of God Rosetta Franzi and Giovanni Gheddo. The ceremony will take place in Tronzano (Vercelli province) where the Azione Cattolica militants are still remembered for their reputation of holiness. The couple led a brief and uneventful life together according to the principles of the Gospel, experiencing the joys and sufferings of any average family, in charity and the joyful acceptance of the will of God.

Born in Crova (Vercelli province) in 1902, Rosetta Franzi was an elementary school teacher. Her holiness expressed itself especially through her devotion to her husband and three children. She was very religious and generous with the poor. Before her marriage she ran Crova's kindergarten and privately taught men and women who had not been able to attend school. As a young bride and mother in Tronzano she was an active member of the Azione Cattolica and a parish catechist.

She died on October 16, 1934, at the age of 32 during labour already weakened by pneumonia, a disease which also took her five-month twins. In her six-year marriage to Giovanni she gave birth to son Piero (1929), Francesco (1930) and Mario (1931), but also suffered miscarriage twice.

A few days after her death, the priest of her home-town parish celebrated mass in her memory. "I was Rosetta's parish priest and confessor," he told the faithful. "She was an angel and she is already in Heaven. We are not celebrating the mass for the dead, but the mass for the angels."

Born in 1900 in Viancino, a ward in Crova, Giovanni Gheddo married Rosetta in 1928 and the two lived together in Tronzano. He was a kind and generous man, an active member of Azione Cattolica involved in many parish-wide activities. He was known as the "poor man's surveyor" because he provided services to the less fortunate free of charge. He also had a reputation as a mediator for his moral and religious authority—whenever fights broke out in the village he was there to appease those involved by appealing to the love that should prevail in and between families and to Divine Providence.

Shipped off to Russia during World War Two for refusing to join Italy's Fascist Party (he should have been exempt as a single parent of three underage children), he died in an heroic act of generosity.

As an artillery captain in the Cosseria Division, he was ordered to pull back from his position on December 17, 1942, following a Soviet offensive. He could have saved himself with his troops had he not stepped in to take his second lieutenant's place, who was supposed to stay with his unit's wounded who could not be moved.

"You are young and still have a life to make. Save yourself. I'll stay here," he told his young junior officer.

Giovanni's son Piero made public his letters from Russia in a 210-page book titled Il testamento del capitano (The Captain's Testament) published by San Paolo in 2002. Based on the testimony and recollections of many people who knew the two servants of God and experienced their holiness, a second, 184-page, book titled Questi santi genitori (These Holy Parents) was also published by San Paolo in 2005.

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