Cathlic Priest who triggered Kenyan fete has happiest moment of his life

Father Giuseppe Frizzi left his native Italy in 1975 for missionary assignment in Mozambique.

This was shortly after the dawn of independence in the Southern African nation and Frizzi (pictured) had no idea what lay in store for him. His downside was navigating the murky waters of a 15-year civil war that erupted barely two years later. And his upside was a miracle that would later culminate in Sister Irene Stefani Nyaatha's beatification.

It was the war that stirred the miracle. Frizzi says he was conducting morning mass at his Nipepe Parish Church, Lichingi in Nyasa region one hot January day in 1989 when fighters of Alfonso Dlakama's Mozambique Resistance Movement rebel group struck, drove about 300 frightened men, women and children into the church for refuge.

For three days, the armed rebels who chose not to desecrate the church stood guard at the closed doors as desperate people inside ran out of food and water to the extent that mothers carrying crying children turned to the baptismal font to save their children's lives with the little water available.

"It was at this juncture that I started praying invoking Sister Irene's name, imploring for her intervention as I read her biography," recalls Frizzi who has served in Mozambique for 40 years.

"We could not believe our eyes. Water started flowing at the baptismal Font endlessly, as if pumped from a spring underneath. People drank to their fill and we were able to bathe a baby girl born at the church. She was aptly named Irene," he added.

The bearded, 70-year-old Consolata Missionary, who is today the Father In-charge of Saint Lukes' Parish, Maua, Mozambique was at Nyeri's Dedan Kimathi University of Technology on Saturday to witness the beatification of Sister Stefani, a process triggered by his prayers.

The miracle humbled the rebels, who were out to use the hostages to force some concession from Government of President Samora Machel, among them the teaching of mother tongue in primary schools, prompting them to abandon their onslaught.

Frizzi said the beatification fete, witnessed by President Uhuru Kenyatta, his deputy William Ruto and retired President Mwai Kibaki, was the happiest moment of his life.

"God used me for the world to witness this great occasion which is the first of its kind in Africa," he said through an interpreter.

It was on the premise of that miracle that Pope Francis in June 2014 decreed that Sister Irene be beatified.

She died on October 31, 1930 after serving at Gikondi Church in Mukurweini, Nyeri County for 15 years with such dedication and love that the locals nicknamed her Nyaatha (woman of mercy).

Two Cardinals, 28 Bishops, over 500 priests and nearly a 100,000 faithful witnessed the ceremony. Special Delegate Cardinal Polycarp Pengo read the decree that changed Nyaatha's status.

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