January 25, 2019

⛪ Blessed Francesco Zirano - Franciscan Priest, Martyr

⛪ Saint of the Day : January 25

⛪ Other Names : Francesco Cirano • Francesco Cyrano

 Born : c.1564 in Sassari, Italy

⛪ Died : Flayed alive on 25 January 1603 in Algiers, Algeria

Francesco Zirano was born in Sassari around the year 1564, in a family of modest farmers with genuine faith. They were probably four brothers who unfortunately remained early as fatherless. Deep was the devotion to the protomartyrs Gavino, Proto and Gianuario and from Sassari departed annually two solemn pilgrimages to the sanctuary of Porto Torres, also at risk of sudden attacks of corsairs to which the area was subject. Francis always kept this devotion strong. Childhood spent normal and in an era in which illiteracy was the norm, received a certain instruction from the friars of St. Mary of Bethlehem. He had a great devotion to the Madonna, he matured his vocation and at the age of fifteen he followed the rules of the convent. At twenty-two he was ordained a priest by Archbishop Alfonso de Lorca. His cousin Francesco Serra, the son of a sister of his mother, was present and shared his joy. Father Zirano carried out various tasks, in church in contact with the faithful or in community, at the service of the confreres, until, in 1590, an event devastated his life. The cousin was enslaved by the Turkish corsairs landed in Sardinia and brought to Algiers. For eight years Father Zirano, while carrying out his duties carefully, as treasurer, as a beggar and as procurator of the convent, suffered and prayed for his unhappy cousin. At a certain point he came to the daring decision that he was going to free him. It was necessary to find the necessary money for the ransom and in Sardinia it was the Mercedari that begged for the liberation of the slaves. 

On March 19, 1599, the request of Francis was accepted by Clement VIII who authorized it for three years. In it we read the invitation to give generously to the humble friar "of about thirty-three, of short stature, black eyes and brown beard". Father Zirano traveled throughout the island to collect offers, giving comfort to the family of other slaves and pledging for the release of some of them. In the spring of 1602, full of trepidation and hope, strong in faith, he departed making a stop in Spain where he had from King Philip III for a companion between Matteo de Aguirre. Without his knowledge, however, the brother of Majorca had a political mission to carry out, in the context of the ongoing war between Algiers and the king of Cuco who was supported by the Spaniards. Realizing the difficulty of father Zirano, disguised as a merchant, with an interpreter, on August 18th he left Cuco and after three days of walking he was under the walls of Algiers. The situation was tense, the Spanish ships could be seen on the island of Ibiza and a ban restricted the freedom of Christians. The latest complication was the arrest of a renegade from Cuco who brought some letters from Fra Matteo to Father Zirano and to other Christians. The letters were in fact the renunciation of dealing with the redemption of the slaves, but Father Zirano remained prudently away from the city. He returned to Cuco bringing with him four freed Christians around Algiers and, unable to act, became a helper of Fra Matteo. Meanwhile, in prison, the cousin encouraged his companions in misfortune and had learned Arabic, between labors and humiliations. The conflict became therefore more acute. The King of Cuco achieved a victory and considered it opportune to communicate it to the King of Spain. Father Zirano was instructed to carry the letter, but perhaps with a premeditated maneuver, he was betrayed and handed over to the enemy. The events were later reported by a Spanish slave. Francis was stripped, beaten, chained and led to Algiers on January 6, 1603. He found other Christians in prison. Father Zirano had been mistaken for Friar Matteo de Aguirre, a huge ransom was isolated and established. He received a visit from his cousin Francesco Serra, who unfortunately had the task of informing him of his death sentence. 

The servant of God asked only a confessor, but this was not possible. Trusting in God he testified to his fellow prisoners to remain strong in faith. Between the first and the second visit of the cousin it was tried to send him to Constantinople, capital of the Turkish Empire from which Algiers also depended. An English ship was leaving and the soldiers who guarded Algiers would send Father Zirano to reassure the Turks that the war against the king of Cuco had not affected their lordship. The attempt failed due to the substantial ransom requested. On January 24, the city council was convened to decide the sentence without questioning. The Grand Council understood that he was condemning not the hated Spanish ambassador, Fra Matteo, but the Sardinian father Zirano. There was no lack of the infamous proposal of abjuration, but Francis would never deny the Lord. Spent the night before the execution in prayer. An auctioneer proclaimed through the streets of the city that the convict had "stolen" four slaves and was "a spy". The execution was excruciatingly performed on January 25, 1603. Dressed in a tunic and with a chain around his neck, he crossed the crowded central street of Algiers between shouts and insults. Francis prayed aloud, reciting the biblical song of the three children, as a witness told. He was skinned alive and his skin, stuffed with straw, was exposed at a city gate. The Christians took possession of some flaps, guarding them. Some arrived in Italy, in Sicily was brought a hand and the skin of an arm, as a text of 1605 informs us. Today we have lost news. The cousin, who then found freedom and was able to redeem some Christian slaves in turn, succeeded in later giving the wounded body a burial. Father Zirano's faith aroused a moving admiration and the fame of his martyrdom has come to the present day.

He was beatified on 12 October 2014 in Sassari, with a celebration presided over by Cardinal Angelo Amato. 

⛪ Prayer :

Holy Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, I thank you because you have granted the religious priest Francesco Zirano to bear good witness to evangelical life before men and to work with zeal until the blood is poured out for the redemption and the comfort of Christians traits in slavery. Deign yourselves to glorify his heroic fidelity to your kingdom of grace and charity, because, honored by virtue of the ministry of the Church, it benefits the increase of the Christian faith for the salvation of the world. And allow me, through her intercession, to always live in full conformity with the adorable design of your love. Glory.

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