Lonely Crusade to Make Roberto Clemente a Saint

Sunday, 22 Jun 2014 09:51 AM

By Elliot Jager

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Roberto Clemente was more than a hall of fame baseball player. He deserves to be recognized by the Catholic Church as a saint. So says Catholic filmmaker and baseball fan Richard Rossi, the Religious News Service reported.

Rossi is gathering documentation to present to Church authorities making the case that Clemente qualifies for sainthood.

Clemente died in a small plane crash off Puerto Rico on Dec. 31, 1972 while trying to deliver supplies to earthquake victims in Nicaragua. Clemente had insisted on accompanying the supplies to make sure that they didn't fall into the hands of profiteers," The New York Times  reported.

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He had been a right fielder for the Pittsburgh Pirates from 1955-1972. Clemente chalked up 3,000 hits and was the 1966 Most Valuable Player in the National League.

Rossi was a boy of 9 when Clemente died. Now, 51, he has made a documentary called "Baseball's Last Hero: 21 Clemente Stories." He believes he can prove that Clemente had a miraculous healing touch. Proof of two such miracles are needed to qualify Clemente for consideration of canonization.

The director of the Clemente Museum in Pittsburgh, Duane Rieder, said that through dreams, Clemente foretold his own death over the ocean.

To Rossi, Clemente is "the only true baseball hero" because he "gave up his life helping other people. Everybody else, you know, Babe Ruth wasn't a hero. He was a hell of a baseball player. Roberto Clemente was the only true baseball hero."

Carmen Nanko-Fernandez, a theologian at the Chicago Theological Union, who is working on a book about Clemente, said that he undoubtedly was a good man. She was not sure, however, he would make it as an official saint, RNS reported. For many Hispanic Catholics, she said, Clemente is already "an unofficial saint."

Rossi knows that the chances of the Church canonizing a layperson are not great. He thinks the fact that Clemente was out there in the real world should count in his favor.
For the application to gain traction, Rossi will need the support of Archbishop Roberto Gonzalez Nieves of San Juan who has not commented on the campaign, RNS reported.

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