While in Siena, Italy for the 2013 International Association of Genocide Scholars conference, Alex de Waal and I DSC_0591discovered a unique way of honoring a historic peacemaker, Santa Caterina. She was born on 25 March 1347 in Siena, the 24th child of Jacopo of Benincasa and Lapa of Puccio of the Piagenti, a fact that makes us question whether her mother should also be considered a saint. Among Caterina’s extraordinary accomplishments, she helped convince the Pope to return to Rome from Avignon, thereby healing the rift within the Church and Catholic societies. She also mediated between the Pope and rebelling leaders of Florence. Canonized in 1461 for her good deeds and miracles attributed to her, she received the award of having her head and thumb on permanent display in the Basilica of San Domenico in Siena (photo to the right), where we saw them, a little worse for the years, in June of this year.

Perhaps, despite its controversies, the Nobel Peace Prize is a preferable honor?


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