Father Luigi Sturzo: A Study in Political Charity

Process of Beatification Opens for Founder of Popular Party

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ROME, MAY 5, 2002 (Zenit.org).- The diocesan phase of the process of beatification of Father Luigi Sturzo (1871-1959), founder of the Italian Popular Party, has opened officially in Rome.

«To take seriously» the teachings of Father Sturzo would avoid the rebirth of fundamentalism and political binges, as well as spiritualism that tends to demonize politics, said Bishop Michele Pennisi of Piazza Armerina. The bishop is president of the historical commission for the process.

The opening ceremony of the process of beatification took place Friday in the Lateran Apostolic Palace, headquarters of the administrative offices of the Diocese of Rome.

Bishop Pennisi highlighted Father Sturzo´s «political charity,» which continues to be relevant «at a time when we witness the rejection of political participation, especially among youth, as well as a crisis of the spirit of solidarity among individuals, classes and nations.»

Father Sturzo regarded the introduction of «charity in political life» as a mission. He had the conviction that «Christian charity cannot be reduced to welfare or aid, but must be the soul of the reform of modern democratic society, in which people are called to participate responsibly to realize the common good,» Bishop Pennisi said.

In his early years of priesthood, Luigi Sturzo was actively committed to the promotion of Pope Leo XIII´s teachings on labor in the 1891 encyclical «Rerum Novarum.»

In 1919, in circumstances that were exceptional for a priest and in face of the exclusion of Catholics from democracy (imposed by the creation of the Italian Republic) and the Fascist threat, Father Sturzo founded the Italian Popular Party, «lay and non-confessional,» which was rooted in the Christian view of man.

The Popular Party for years was one of the few forces capable of opposing Benito Mussolini´s Fascism. In 1924, at the request of the Holy See, Father Sturzo resigned as party secretary. He was asked to concentrate his energy on ethical and spiritual advice to politicians.

In face of serious Fascist threats to his life, he was sent by the Holy See to London in 1924.

When World War II broke out, Father Sturzo had to leave London. He sought refuge in New York, where he arrived Oct. 3, 1940. He was in the United States for six years and founded the American People and Freedom association for Catholics.

Upon returning to Italy at the end of the war, he learned that the party he founded had evolved and was renamed Christian Democracy. Father Sturzo refused to re-enter politics, despite being named senator-for-life by President Luigi Einaudi in December 1952. Father Sturzo died in Rome on Aug. 8, 1959.

For more information on Luigi Sturzo see Monsignor George P. Graham´s «Luigi Sturzo: a Prophet for Today».

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