ROME, MARCH 7, 2011 ( In commemoration of the 150th anniversary of the birth of Clelia Merloni, Benedict XVI is praising the founder's dedication to doing good.

Mother Clelia (1861-1930) founded the Apostles of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. The anniversary of the founder's birth is Thursday.

A papal message signed by the Pope's secretary of state, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, recalls the nun as a "significant religious figure and apostle of the Sacred Heart of Jesus."

The Holy Father described her as "solicitous in doing good, attentive especially to the poor in body and spirit."

The Pope sent his good wishes to Mother Clelia's spiritual daughters and affirmed his hope that the anniversary will "awaken [in them] a renewed commitment for the salvation of souls, in generous adherence to Christ and in ever more fervent Christian witness."


Clelia Merloni was born in Forli, Italy, on March 10, 1861. She lost her mother just four years later, and her grandmother became her guardian.

On May 30, 1894, with only three sisters she founded the institute in Viareggio to offer assistance to orphans, the elderly and those most in need.

After financial issues left the institute in crisis, Providence brought her into contact with Bishop Giovanni Batista Scalabrini of Piacenza, who had been searching for nuns to assist Italian emigrants in the Americas. The sisters began to work in Brazil and the United States and by 1903 there were already 30 houses and nearly 200 sisters.

Mother Clelia would later face more difficulties in the form of calumny, which led to her removal as superior and eventually years of exile from her community. She was able to return only in 1928, two years before her death.

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