Monday, November 3, 2008

Elia Cardinal Dalla Costa (1872 -1961)

Elia dalla Costa was born in Villaverla as the youngest of the five children. He was batpized on June 23, 1872 and ordained to the priesthood by Bishop Antonio Feruglio on July 25, 1895. On May 25, 1923, Costa was appointed Bishop of Padua by Pope Pius XI. He received his episcopal consecration on the following August 12 from Bishop Ferdinando Rodolfi in the Cathedral of Viacenza. Costa was named Archbishop of Florence on December 19, 1931. From January to May 1932, he was Apostolic Administrator of Padua. Pope Pius created Costa Cardinal Priest of S. Marco in the consistory of March 13, 1933. During World War II, he became known as "the Cardinal of Charity" for helping save thousands of Italians from execution under the Fascist regime. Costa died in Florence, at age 89, and is buried in the Duomo di Firenze. In 1981 his process for beatification was opened.

On this last photo you see Giorgio La Pira to the cardinal's left. La Pira (1904-1977) was an Italian politician who served as mayor of Florence twice (1950-1956, 1960-1964). He also served as deputy of the Christian Democratic Party and participated in the assembly that wrote the Constitution of Italy after World War II. In his public and private life, La Pira was a tireless champion of peace and human rights who worked for the betterment of the poor and disenfranchised. La Pira's Catholic upbringing, especially the teachings of St. Francis of Assisi, played a big role in shaping his political and philosophical beliefs. He saw everything he did and every position he took as an expression of his spiritual beliefs. On the eve of World War II, La Pira founded the review Principles, which promoted human rights and openly criticized fascism. During the war he continued his outspoken campaign against the fascists. After his offices were raided by the Italian police, La Pira escaped to Siena, then Rome. After the war, La Pira set about rebuilding Florence, which like most Italian cities at the time, was struggling to recover from the destruction and misery of war. As mayor he steered Florence away from the haphazard reconstruction typical of other Italian recovery efforts. He believed the focus of rebuilding should be self-sufficient neighborhoods. These neighborhoods centered around local shops, public gardens, markets, churches, schools, and tree-lined streets. The most well-known of these is Isolotto, or "little island." These revitalized neighborhoods became the heart and soul of post-war Florence and continue to thrive to this day. La Pira was a Dominican tertiary, i.e. a lay member of the Dominican order, who took his Christian faith quite literally. In the years following the war, it was not uncommon to see him in public barefoot, having given away his shoes, clothing, and most of his salary.

In 1986, the Catholic Church began the process of Giorgio La Pira's beatification. On the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the birth of Giorgio La Pira, John Paul II praised "the holy mayor": "Before the powerful of the earth, La Pira expressed with firmness his ideas as believer and as a man who loved peace, inviting his interlocutors to a common effort to promote the fundamental good in different ambits: in society, politics, the economy, cultures, and among religions."

How many politicians do we have in Europe today that openly profess their Catholic faith and act accordingly? And how many more do we need!

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