updated 11/6/2005 9:16:56 PM ET 2005-11-07T02:16:56

An Italian mother who raised 11 children moved ahead on the road to possible sainthood Sunday amid a Vatican campaign in favor of large families.

Eurosia Fabris, known as “Mamma Rosa,” raised two children whose mother died while they were little, then married their father and had nine children with him.

The virtues of Fabris, who died in 1932, were honored Sunday in a beatification ceremony in Vicenza, near her native farming village in northern Italy. Beatification is the last formal step before possible sainthood.

On Wednesday, Pope Benedict XVI praised large families and called for countries to approve legislation and other incentives to help them. The pontiff has said there is no future without children.

Presiding over the ceremony in Vicenza’s cathedral was Cardinal Jose Maria Saraiva Martins, who heads the Vatican office overseeing the process for sainthood.

Benedict’s predecessor, John Paul II, stressed the importance of providing role models from daily life for Roman Catholic faithful.

“Mamma Rosa ... was comforting proof” that sainthood can come in the dailiness of life, said Saraiva Martins, who praised the woman for “the sweetness of her motherhood.”

Symbol of everday holiness
Fabris was singled out by Vatican Radio as being a “dazzling model of holiness lived out in daily family life.”

“She knew how to transform her very large family into a school of holiness,” Vatican Radio said on the eve of the ceremony.

The average number of children per woman in the European Union is 1.5, according to EU statistics, but in some countries, including heavily Roman Catholic Italy and Spain, the average is 1.3.

Benedict has described large families as useful witnesses to “faith, courage and optimism” in society.

Fabris, who was born in 1866, was described as being deeply religious from her childhood. Besides the 11 children she raised, Fabris welcomed other children in need into her home. Three of her children became priests and another child became a nun.

While John Paul used to lead the beatification ceremonies himself in St. Peter’s Square or abroad while on pilgrimages, Benedict delegates top cardinals for the duty. However, he recently presided over a canonization, the ceremony to raise faithful to sainthood.

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