ROME, May 17, 2004 ( – In 1990, in Vancouver, a pro-life woman bought a house next to the local abortion mill and named it Gianna House. There she protested the killing going on next door and reached out to mothers in need. Cecelia von Dehn named her ministry to mothers after Gianna Beretta Molla, an Italian laywoman, a doctor and mother who sacrificed her own life to save that of her unborn child. This Sunday, Pope John Paul II canonized Gianna along with five other people.

Gianna Molla was already the mother of three children. While she was pregnant with a fourth, a daughter, doctors discovered a large ovarian cyst and recommended abortion in order to save her life, which she categorically refused. A week after the baby girl was born, on April 28, 1962, Gianna died of ovarian cancer.

This past Sunday Gianna’s husband, now 91, and all four of her children, attended the canonization Mass in Rome. The daughter for whom she gave her life, Gianna Emanuela, is a doctor specializing in geriatric medicine.  Gianna Molla has become an icon for the pro-life movement and as such she and the decision to canonize her have come under attack in the media. A story suggests the Roman Catholic Church values the life of unborn children more than the well being of women and quoted well-known abortion and anti-Catholic activist, Joanna Manning, “What this is saying to women that you must carry a child through at any cost. And you will be supremely rewarded if you die by giving birth.” The Globe and Mail ran an editorial on May 12, with the subtitle using one of the common euphemisms for abortion, calling St. Gianna a “mother who died rather than end her pregnancy.”

However, Fr. Thomas Rosica, who met the Molla family, said in a Globe editorial said there was more to the story than “anti-abortion,” and denied that the canonization was merely a political ploy for Catholic opposition to abortion. He said, “The church doesn’t beatify or canonize people and use them as arrows or weapons to attack others for error and sin.” He also emphasized that Dr. Molla would have been a candidate for sainthood even if she didn’t die after refusing to submit to an abortion   St. Gianna he said is a true model for the modern world in her love for her family and in her faith. Fr. Rosica writes, “many in the medical profession have little concern for the dignity and sacredness of every human life; when suffering is seen as a nuisance without any redemptive meaning; when goodness, joy, simplicity and beauty are suspect; Gianna Beretta Molla shows this world, gripped by a culture of death, an alternative gospel way of compelling beauty.”  St. Gianna is the first lay woman canonized who was a wife and mother and whose husband was still alive at the time of her death. Many married women have been canonized but they were all widows. Jose, Cardinal Saraiva Martins, prefect of the Vatican Congregation for the Causes of Saints, said of her, “She lived her marriage and maternity with joy, generosity and absolute fidelity to her mission,”  Father Rosica’s Salt and Light TV has made a biographical documentary of St. Gianna.  Globe and Mail editorials:


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