A formal call for testimony has been issued, the first step of an investigation into the possible sainthood of Chiara Corbella Petrillo, a young Italian mother who died in 2012.
The call was issued by Cardinal Angelo De Donatis, Vicar General of Rome, earlier this month.
The formal edict, signed July 2, calls Corbella a “Servant of God,” a title used for those under formal consideration for beatification and canonization. It recognizes her “increasing reputation for holiness” and invites “all the faithful, together and individually” to submit any information which could argue “for or against” her cause.
The call for testimony comes just over a year after her cause for canonization was announced on June 17 last year, the fifth anniversary of her death on June 13, 2012.
Cardinal De Donatis, who handles the day-to-day governance of the Diocese of Rome on behalf of the pope, asked anyone with information which could help church authorities consider her case to send it to the diocesan tribunal of Rome. When diocesan authorities believe they have sufficient testimony, the file will be sent to the Vatican’s Congregation for the Cause of Saints.
The edict contains a special request for anything written by the prospective saint to be sent to the Diocese of Rome for inclusion in the case.
Chiara Corbella met her husband Enrico Petrillo at Medjugorje in 2002, when she was 18. They married in Italy on September 21, 2008. During the early years of their marriage, the young couple faced many hardships, including the death of two children, who both died only 30 minutes after birth.
Corbella became pregnant a third time with their son, Francesco in 2010. However, the news of her pregnancy also came with a fatal diagnosis of cancer for Chiara. Her cancer was an unusual lesion of the tongue, which was later discovered to be a carcinoma.
Corbella rejected any treatment that could have saved her life during pregnancy because it would have risked the life of her unborn son. Her treatment only began after her son was born, in May 2011, after the cancer had progressed. It eventually became difficult for Chiara to speak and see clearly, eventually making her final days particularly excruciating.
A year after Francesco was born, Corbella died.
A biography of her, entitled “Chiara Corbella Petrillo: A Witness to Joy,” has been published by Sophia Institute Press.
“In the story of the Petrillo couple, many people recognize a providential consolation from heaven,” said Simone Troisi and Christiana Paccini, close friends of the Petrillos who wrote the biography.
“Her suffering became a holy place because it was the place where she encountered God,” Troisi and Paccini recalled.
Although many couples face hardships, Troisi and Paccini remembered something different about the Petrillos - they leaned on God’s grace which made their family particularly serene. They made peace with the reality that Corbella would never grow old with Enrico or watch Francesco grow up.
During her last days, her husband Enrico embraced God’s grace just as she did, saying, “If she is going to be with Someone who loves her more than I, why should I be upset?”
Corbella died on June 13, 2012 at home in her wedding gown, surrounded by her family and friends. Corbella continued to be a witness to joy, even after her death.
Troisi and Paccini believe that Corbella’s legacy is still living on through her witness to the truth that “love exists.” Neither she nor Enrico were afraid of love, marriage, or of committing themselves to their family. However, they were quick to note that Chiara was not “an extraordinary young woman, in a way that makes her different from us.” Rather, she struggled with many human fears and anxieties, especially with thoughts of pain, vomiting, and even of purgatory.
“She had the same questions that we have, the same objections and struggles, the same fears,” Troisi and Paccini noted, saying what made her different was her “capacity to cast everything on the Father, to welcome the grace needed for whatever step she had to make.”
Corbella has been called “a saint for our times.” Her case remains open in the Diocese of Rome.