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Mama Antula and Pope Francis

" I too would like the speedy beatification of Maria Antonia," wrote Pope Francis, adding that he had "already made several approaches to the Congregation for the Causes of Saints” in this sense. The handwritten letter - Alver Metalli recounts on the site "Terre d'America" - was received a few days ago by Luisa Sánchez Sorondo, a descendant of the candidate for canonization for whom the decree of beatification was signed by Pope Benedict XVI in May two years ago. Born in 1730, Mama Antula - the name by which Maria Antonia de Paz y Figueroa is known to all - spent her life in a poor region of the north-east of Argentina spreading the spiritual exercises after which, at only fifteen years of age, she had approached the missionaries of the Society of Jesus. The young woman soon gathered around herself a group of girls undertaking a project of common life, prayer and charitable works in close collaboration with the Jesuits. And when, in 1767, the Society was expelled from Argentina, Mama Antula travelled all over the north of the country taking care of their works, accompanied by only a wooden cross, a symbol of austerity and love for Jesus. In a letter of 1788, Ambrosio Funes (Viceroy of Navarre and Captain General of Cuba and Catalonia) noted that in only eight years Antula Mama had held spiritual exercises for over seventy thousand people. There was urgent need therefore to find a home specifically dedicated to preaching which was realized when the woman received a gift of land. In 1779 Mama Antula left for Buenos Aires, where she lived for the next twenty years, founding there the House for Spiritual Exercises, which still exists and is still functioning today. Here she died on March 7, 1799. There is a particularly interesting aspect in the life of Mama Antula, and that concerns the important role that, in fact, she came to have in the Church of his time. The bishop of Buenos Aires, Bishop Sebastián Malvar y Pinto, in fact enacted a provision for the clergy according to which no seminarian could be ordained before Mama Antula had certified his 'behavior' in the exercises.

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