Isabel Cristina Mrad Campos, the first blessed from the Lebanese diaspora
Killed in 1982, the "Maria Goretti of Brazil” was beatified last week at Our Lady of Mercy church in Barbacena. Her mother was Lebanese. In Minas Gerais, the local Maronite community keeps alive the link with the Church of origin.
Beirut (AsiaNews) – Pope Francis announced on 11 December the beatification of a Lebanese-Brazilian Blessed. Isabel Cristina Mrad Campos (1962-1982), a Brazilian-born laywoman was murdered at the age of 20 following an attempted rape.
The Holy Father acknowledged her martyrdom “in hatred of the faith" in October, at the end of a beatification process that began in 2001 but was delayed by the pandemic.
At the end of the Angelus prayer last Sunday, Pope mentioned the new Blessed, offering her as an "heroic example” to the crowd gathered in St Peter's Square, especially to young people, urging them to be like her, and bear “generous witness of faith” and follow the Gospel.
Helena Mrad, the young blessed was born in Barbacena, in the Brazilian state of Minas Gerais, on 29 July 1962. Her mother was Lebanese Maronite, this according to Maronite Chorbishop Michel Bitar, parish priest of the Church of Our Lady of Lebanon in Belo Horizonte, the capital of Minas Gerais.
Reached by phone, Fr Bitar welcomed “the first blessed from the Lebanese diaspora,” noting that there are many Mrad in Barbacena. In Brazil for the past 30 years, he is currently trying to contact the Blessed’s brother in a huge area that lacks parish structures.
The mother of the Blessed has already passed away, and he does not know what part of Lebanon she came from, but he remains hopeful that he will find out soon.
For young people, he celebrates the Eucharistic liturgy in Portuguese since they no longer have any other contact with the Church in the old country; however, some liturgical responses and chants continue to be sung in Arabic and Syriac.
Isabel Cristina’s short biography notes that she came from a religious family. Like so many other girls, she divided her time between family, studies and outings. But she also led a keen life of faith.
In her teens, she decided to become a paediatrician and aspired to go to Africa, to help children with special needs, the very poor, and seniors, showing a sensitivity that probably came from her family, which belonged to the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul.
In early 1982, she got engaged, and moved to Juiz de Fora to attend a preparatory course for medical studies, and rented a flat with her brother.
According to the police investigation after the murder, a tradesman came to install a wardrobe in the flat on 30 August, a couple of days before the tragedy, and made obscene advances.
When he returned on 1 September, ostensibly to finish the job, he tried to rape Cristina, turning up the volume of television to drown out her screams. She struggled to get free, holding her rosary.
Upon coming home in the evening, the victim's brother discovered her, dead, tied to a chair and gagged, her clothes torn off. The autopsy showed that the attacker failed to achieve his goals, which probably sparked his murderous rage. He stabbed her 15 times.
Sentenced to 19 years in prison for premeditated crime, he was able to escape from prison a few years later. Relatives of the victim say he is now dead.