BOLTON HOLLOWAY, AUREO ANELLO
1997-2010: FLORENCE'S 'ENGLISH' CEMETERY
|| BIBLIOTECA E BOTTEGA FIORETTA MAZZEI
|| ELIZABETH BARRETT BROWNING || FLORENCE
IN SEPIA || BRUNETTO
LATINO, DANTE ALIGHIERI AND GEOFFREY
|| ANGLO-ITALIAN STUDIES
|| CITY AND BOOK
COMMERCE IN FLORENCE || AUREO ANELLO,
GIORGIO LA PIRA, SERVANT OF
A BIOGRAPHICAL TIME-LINE
January 1904-5 November 1977
is no doubt that the Lord had placed in my soul the desire for priestly
however, that He wished that I remain in my lay garb to labour with
more fecundity in
the secular world far from Him. But the goal of my life is clearly
out: to be the Lord’s missionary in the world; and this apostolate will
participates in a
competition for completing study in Roman Law in Italy and abroad:
scholarships he chooses the foreign one. At the same time the
Florence appoints him to teach History of Roman Law, an assignment he
decline in order to go to Austria and Germany for the scholarship he
conditions and in the surroundings in which God
has placed me.
1931 Giorgio La Pira (from the
letter to his
aunt, Settimia Occhipinti)
thing: I am not a
priest, as you have supposed: Jesus did not want that of me! I am just
man to whom Jesus has given a great grace: the desire to love him
limits and to have him be loved without limits.
La Pira (from the letter to the Mother Prioress of Santa Maria
1904 – He is born 9 January at Pozzallo (Ragusa) to Gaetano La
Angela Occhipinti, the first of six children.
1909-1913 – He goes to the Elementary School “Giacinto Pandolfi”
Pozzallo until the fourth year.
He moves to Messina to be with his uncle Luigi Occhipinti where he
finishes elementary school and continues his studies.
1914-1917 – He attends the Technical Commercial School
1917 – He attends the Technical Commercial Institute “A.M. Jaci”
obtains the Diploma as accountant and commercialist.
- In this period he comes to know and frequent a group of adolescents
among them Salvatore Quasimodo, future Nobel Prize winner in
Literature, and Salvatore Pugliatti, future Rector of the University of
1921 – He works for his uncle Luigi Occhipinti’s business in
order to contribute to the continuation of his studies.
1922 – In only one scholastic year he studies for the
in Classics and obtains the Diploma in Palermo. In this year he
frequents the house of Professor Federico Rampolla (his Italian teacher
at the Institute Jaci) who helps him study Greek and Latin for
graduation and he meets Don Mariano, Frederico’s priest brother. Thus
begins a deep friendship which helps La Pira greatly on the spiritual
and also cultural levels, a friendship that will continue also during
the Roman stay of the two. At Rome, through the same Monsignor Rampolla
del Tindaro, he meets Monsignor Giovanni Battista Montini.
- After obtaining the classical diploma he enrols in the School of Law
at the University of Messina where Professor Emilio Betti is teaching,
a professor who takes the young La Pira under his wing. He attends this
Law School for three academic years until 1925. When Professor Betti
moves to Florence, he invites La Pira to join him. At Florence La Pira
attends the fourth academic year.
1924 - Easter of this year is for La Pira a time of special
he himself writes: ‘I will never
forget that Easter of 1924 when I
received Jesus as the Eucharist: I felt running in my veins an
innocence so overflowing that I could not stop myself from singing and
the immense happiness’.
1925 - He becomes a Dominican Tertiary taking the name Brother
Raymond in the first group of tertiaries founded by Father Enrico Di
Vita at Messina.
1926 - 30 June he passes his last two exams (legal medicine and
administrative law) and 10 July he receives his degree summa cum laude,
with a score of 110 out of 110 and the right to publish his thesis. The
thesis, ‘Intestate Hereditary Succession Against the Testament and Will
in Roman Law’, is published by the Royal University of Florence at the
Casa Editrice Vallecchi, 1930, and La Pira dedicates it ‘To Contardo
Ferrini who in every way leads me back to the Father’s House’.
The same year the University of Florence, on the recommendation of
Professor Betti, names him Assistant Professor of Roman Law and as such
he gives in the academic year 1926-1927 a course of 15 lectures on
Roman Hereditary Law.
At the Universities of Vienna and Munich he attends the lectures of
Professors Wlassak, Woess, Wenger, drawing from their teaching new
elements for his own formation in his chosen studies.
- Returning from abroad, in November, the University of Florence,
through the Institute of Social Science “Cesare Alfieri”, appoints him
to teach Institutions of Roman Law for the academic year 1928-1929.
- 11 December, he is clothed in the habit of a Dominican Tertiary in
the Basilica of San Marco, Florence, as before with the name of Brother
1928 – In June for the
year 1929-1930 he is appointed to teach the
History of Roman and Greek Law: he will teach this with a course
focussed on some of the legal institutions in papyri.
- 20 August at the Apostolic Institute of Castelnuovo Fogliani
(Piacenza), Father Agostino Gemelli preaches the Spiritual Exercises to
eleven young graduates, among them La Pira, who were pursuing promising
university careers. Father Agostino proposes, in this occasion, the
ideal of a consecrated Laity in the World fitting to each historical
moment. Thus begins the Pio Sodalizio dei Missionarii della
Regalità di Cristo (Devotional Fellowship of Missionaries of
Christ the King), which then became a Secular Institute. Of the first
eleven members La Pira is the only one who remains after 49 years, that
is from its founding until his death. The Secular Institute of the
Missionaries of Christ the King is, according to its statute, ‘a
community of lay people formed and ruled by the Constitution “Provvida
Mater Ecclesia” and the Motu proprio “Primo Feliciter” for a special
consecration to God in the service of humankind. This is followed by
the vows of Poverty, Obedience and Celibacy in Chastity. The Institute
is inserted in the great spiritual movement of the Franciscan Third
Order, sharing with it its goals and ideals.
St Francis of Assisi - and his message of Peace and Good – becomes the
strong guiding light in the life of La Pira.
1930 - He is licensed to teach Roman Law, 31 March.
1933 - At 29, he obtains the Chair of the ‘Institutions of Roman
- He participates in Florence’s Catholic Action and takes up for his
apostolate the most difficult areas around Empoli.
- La Pira nurtures a special esteem and devotion for Cardinal Elia
Dalla Costa, Archbishop of Florence. An esteem which is fully
reciprocated. For long periods of time he visits the Cardinal each
evening and shares with him his plans and his evaluations on what is
happening in Florence and in the world. From Cardinal Dalla Costa he
learns the profound ‘taste’ for the Bible as the one book for
interpreting today’s history.
- At the same time he comes to know the charismatic figure among
Florentine clergy, Don Giulio Facibeni, parish priest at Rifredi and
founder of the Opera Madonnina del Grappa. A profound friendship
springs up between the two which will be beneficial also for the city
itself. Together they share joy, suffering and hope.
- Florentines used to say there are three saints in Florence, Cardinal
Dalla Costa (Faith), La Pira (Hope), Don Facibeni (Charity). And it is
not by mere chance that all three are in the process of being beatified.
1934 – At this time he deepens his acquaintance and friendship
Monsignor Giovan Battista Montini, a friendship that will last until
his death. The same Monsignor Montini introduces La Pira to Monsignor
Raffaele Bensi who will become his spiritual director, confessor and
- Listening to a contemplation by Don Bensi on the extreme poverty in
the city, La Pira founds the ‘Mass of San Procolo’ for the spiritual
and material assistance of the poor. He draws
task many young people, well off and otherwise, of the city. Among the
the initiative is the Magistrate Renzo Poggi.
1935 - 3 June he forms the Vincentian Conference “San Bernardino
Siena” to support writers, artists, craftsmen. The Conference is
composed almost exclusively of writers and artists, among them Carlo
Bo, Piero Bargellini, Nicola Lisi, Giovanni Papini, Pietro Parigi.
1936 - He is accepted into the Dominican Community of San Marco
assigned Cell 6, ‘filled with
light and silence but cold and poorly
furnished’, as Father Cipriano Ricotti writes.
- During his residence in the convent he deepens his study of the works
of Thomas Aquinas shaping his
Christian thought and mentality.
1937 – He founds a second Vincentian Conference titled ‘Beato
Angelico’, mainly composed of magistrates and lawyers who meet at the
Libreria Editrice Fiorentina of the brothers Vittorio and Valerio Zani.
1939 – He becomes officially a Dominican oblate in the Convent
- He founds and directs ‘Principi’, an antifascist review that upholds
the value of the human person and of freedom; the following year
Fascism suppresses the
review, seeking its founder, and he is forced into hiding.
1943 – After 29 September, the day when the Nazi-Fascists
Convent of San Marco for him and Father Coiro, he retires to
Fonterutoli (Siena) staying with the Mazzei family. The Fascist police
discover this refuge and La Pira has to go into hiding in a nearby
village, Tregole, where the cold and damp cause him to have severe
bronchitis. In the three months at Fonterutoli he strengthens his
acquaintance and friendship with Fioretta Mazzei. A precious
friendship, based on a sharing of ideas, intents and spirituality. The
arrest warrant for Giorgio La Pira comes to the Convent of San Marco on
17 November. Informed by Father Cipriano Ricotti he declares, ‘I have
not hated or killed anyone. In Te, Domine, speravi non confundar in
aeternum’ [In you, O Lord, I trust that I be not confounded in
8 December he leaves the area of Fonterutoli entirely and, accompanied
by his friend the engineer Pollicina, Director of the Florentine Gas
Agency, in a journey that was adventurous enough, he seeks refuge in
Rome. The engineer Pollicina dies in a bombing raid. La Pira survives,
though only a short distance from him.
- 30 September the Vatican City government gives La Pira an identity
card, number 4858, as he works for the Osservatore Romano. During
this Roman period he changes houses frequently. He lives with the
Pollicina, the Rampolla, with Signora Panicci (where he will write the
life of Don Moresco), then in the Holy Office and finally with
1944 – In the month of September, he returns to the just
Florence and lives again at the Convent of San Marco. Later, because of
the chronic bronchitis, he is forced to leave the cold cell at San
Marco and go and live in a room of the Clinic of Professor Palumbo, his
friend, in Via Venezia. Here he is lovingly assisted by the Sisters of
Mercy for more than twenty-five years.
- He is nominated President of the Ente Comunale di Assistenza where he
works actively in favour of those citizens reduced to poverty by the
war. He asks Don Raffaele Bensi to work with him. He chooses as
secretary Antinesca Rabissi who continues faithfully with him until his
1946 – Elected Deputy to the Constitutional Assembly, he shapes
Moro, Dossetti, Basso, Calamandrei, Togliatti, the fundamental
principles of the Constitution of the Republic affirming civil and
religious freedom, the right to work, the value of the human person. Of
utmost importance is his contribution for the drawing up and approving
of Article 7, regarding the relation between Church and State.
1948 – In the political elections he is elected to the Chamber
Deputies and appointed Undersecretary of State for Labour in De
Gasperi’s ministry. He distinguishes himself in supporting the workers
in the serious labour union disputes in post-war Italy.
In this period his political task is developed together with his close
friends Giuseppe Dossetti, Amintore Fanfani, Giuseppe Lazzati with whom
he founds the review “Cronache Sociali” (Social Chronicles), in which
he publishes some of his important articles, amongst which, the most
famous, ‘L’attesa della povera gente’ (The waiting of poor people).
He will resign from the Government two years later, together with other
participants in the Dossetti group, in disagreement with the economic
program and reforms. During his time in the Ministry of Labour he asks
to work with him, as secretary, a close friend from San Procolo, Dr
Enzo Sarti, who unfortunately will die very young.
1951 – He meets with Member of Parliament Togliatti, who is
Moscow, that he urge Stalin for a political solution to the war in
- La Pira, notwithstanding his perplexity, accepts, following strong
pressure on him also from religious leaders, being leading candidate
for the Christian Democrat party in the administrative elections, 10,
11 June, for the City of Florence. The project about which he felt
strongly, to give a concrete and global response to the new political
exigencies, above all after the experience of the government following
that at the Constitutional Assembly, was decisive to his acceptance.
In consequence of the quadripartite coalition’s victory, La Pira, 5
July, is elected for the first time Mayor of Florence, taking up the
post of Mario Fabiani, who led a left wing coalition in the preceding
- In his role as President of the Higher Tuscan Council at the
Vincentian Conference he begins a correspondence with all the women’s
cloistered convents asking for the support of their prayers and
obtaining for them economic help to overcome the great suffering
brought on by the war.
1952 – In the midst of the ‘Cold War’ he sets up the Christian
Conferences for Peace and Civilization, which on five occasions will
see the official participation of many nations, including the Holy See,
and of intellectuals, Christian or not, at the highest level.
1953 – ‘Not houses but
cities’; in the face of the grave housing
shortage, brought on by evictions, wartime destruction, and also by the
arrival of numerous flood victims from the Polesine area, La Pira
pushes for the construction of hundreds of ‘minimal houses’ to meet the
more immediate crises and he begins and carries out the construction of
the large new area at Isolotto which will give beautiful and permanent
housing to thousands of citizens.
- He fights for the 2000 workers of Pignone and thanks to his friend
Enrico Mattei President of ENI, he saves the firm. The intelligent
politics of La Pira and Mattei opens “Pignone” to international markets.
- Every Saturday is spent in visits to prisoners and, through his
friendship with the magistrate Giampaolo Meucci, he helped them even in
their judicial trials.
1954 – He requisitions the Fonderia delle Cure, put into
its owners, transforming it into a Cooperative.
- In the face of the devastating consequences of the Nuclear Arms Race
he speaks at Geneva, at the international headquarters for the Red
Cross, on the value of the city, and asks the following question, ‘Do
nations have the right to destroy cities?’
1955 – During these years, at Christmas and at Easter, he sends
to the children in elementary and middle schools, to the sick and to
grandparents, speaking of the ‘vocation’ of their city and explaining
the achievements of the Administration and its political choices.
- In accord with the interest aroused by the Geneva talks he calls
together in Florence the ‘Conference of the Mayors of the World’s
Capitals’. For the first time, 4 October, Feastday of St Francis,
Western and Eastern Block mayors meet, discourse and sign a peace
treaty. Especially notable is the presence of the Mayors of Moscow and
Peking at the Solemn Mass celebrated at Santa Croce by Cardinal Elia
- During this Administration, La Pira promotes the twinning of Florence
with other significant cities, such as Reims and Fez, intending to
create a system of ‘bridges’ for constructing the unity of peoples.
In the Administrative area the Grazie and Santa Trinita bridges,
destroyed by the Nazis, are rebuilt and the new Vespucci bridge is also
built. He also has the Milk Centre, the new Communal Theatre, the Fruit
and Vegetable Market at Novoli built, and public transportation, the
city’s refuse system and its water supply modernized.
1956 – 27-28 May, the Administrative elections take place. The
Christian Democrat slate, led by La Pira, goes from 36.24% to 39.29% of
the vote. The Italian Communist Party loses 12,600 votes in respect to
1951. La Pira gains an exceptional personal victory, going from the
19,192 votes of 1951 to 33,907 in this election.
Paradoxically, considering that the electoral law is changed in the
meantime to being strictly proportional, the electoral results create a
situation in which it is difficult to predict the formation of a
majority, likewise because of the national political situation.
Nevertheless, 3 August, at the third voting, he is re-elected Mayor of
- 15 May, La Pira goes to Venice to give a lecture and is invited to
dinner by the Patriarch Monsignor Angelo Roncalli. He converses with
him at such great length, and it being so late, Cardinal Roncalli keeps
La Pira in the Patriarchate and, in great secrecy, has him sleep in the
bed that is a ‘relic’ of Pius X.
Monsignor Loris Capovilla, John XXIII’s Secretary will reveal, the
evening of 6 November 1983, in Florence, that the Patriarch noted in
his dairy which he kept daily, ‘Yesterday
was with Professor
La Pira whom I esteem and venerate. His is a soul worthy of all
1957 – 17 June, realizing
it is impossible to carry on governing the
city for lack of a sufficient majority to approve the budget, La Pira
resigns as mayor and with him the entire City Council. The same day a
provisional prefect is nominated.
- Despite this he carries out his engagement with the King of Morocco,
Mahomet V, at Florence; calling on all the peoples of the Mediterranean
in the Palazzo Vecchio, to support, spes contra spem, ‘hoping
against hope’, their union and their peace-making.
To this end, he undertakes a pilgrimage to Israel, Jordan and Egypt,
and journeys to Paris, Rabat, Tunis and Beirut.
- 17 September, Feast Day of the Stigmata, he goes with the second-born
son of Mahomet V, Prince Moulay Abdallah to the Sanctuary at La Verna
‘to reciprocate the visit St
Francis made to the Sultan of Egypt and to
commemorate the two attempts by Francis to meet the Sultan of Morocco'.
1958 – La Pira presents himself as lead candidate for the
Democrats in the political elections and is elected to the Chamber of
- Defends, with the whole city, the Officine Galileo. Drafts
legislation for recognising, ergo omnes, the right of all to a work
- In October of this year the first of the “Mediterranean Colloquies”
is held. For the first time Arabs and Israelis, French and Algerians,
represented by men of culture and, though in their own right, persons
who are entrusted to office, are seated at the same table and
confronting the serious problems which divide their peoples. We can
affirm that the Evian accords (1962), which would bring independence to
Algeria, have their beginning in Florence. The basic intent of this
initiative is to create an area of peace amongst all the nations
bordering the Mediterranean, ‘Tiberius’ Great Lake’, and to unite the
peoples of the three families of Abraham: Jew, Christian, Moslem.
1959 – Invited to Soviet Russia, he goes to Moscow, accompanied
journalist and friend Vittorio Citterich, and speaks to representatives
of the Supreme Soviet about easing tensions and disarmament.
He meets with the most representative intellectuals and confronts also
the problem of the State’s atheism.
Before beginning his journey to Moscow he goes to Fatima to ask
protection from the Madonna and writes to the women’s monastic
cloisters that they accompany him with their prayers.
1960 – 24 January, returning from Cairo, he stops in Istanbul
meets the Patriarch of Constantinople Athenagora. The conversation
turns on the unity of the Churches as an indispensable step towards the
unity of peoples and nations. The Patriarch Athenagora entrusts to La
Pira a present of sweets to give to Pope John XXIII.
1960-1964 – He again leads
the electoral slate for the Christian
Democrats in the administrative elections for Florence held on 6-7
November. He is personally very successful. 1 March 1960, after many
negotiations amongst the parties, La Pira is elected Mayor for the
third time leading one of the first centre-left coalitions.
- For the second time he resigns from Parliament to serve the city of
Florence. During this time many important public works are carried out
and the New Urban Development Plan saves Florence from speculative
building. In only three years 17 new schools, the Africo bridge and the
river’s covering, the large underground passages at the Station, are
built, 90 more private roads are planned and the building of housing
for the homeless is continued.
Besides, during this Administration, La Pira promotes initiatives of
great political, social and cultural value. He proposes the
constitution of the European University in Florence. He supports the
emergency of the new African states, invites to Florence Léopold
Sédar Senghor, poet and writer, President of the Republic of
Senegal, one of the Liberation Movement’s leaders.
He goes to the United States to support approving Civil Rights law for
racial minorities. He promotes the twinning with the cities of
Philadelphia and Kiev. He follows through on his actions for peace and
the unity of peoples, convoking in these years the II, III and IV
Medieterranean Colloquies. He invites to Florence the plenary assembly
of the International Committee for Space Research.
He confers on U Thant, U.N. Secretary General, the urban architect Le
Corbusier, and Pablo Casals, one of the symbols against the Franco
regime in Spain, the honorary citizenship of Florence.
He convokes in Florence the ninth session of the East-West Roundtable
He receives Ajubei and Kruschev’s daughter accompanied by the Soviet
Ambassador Kozyrev in the Palazzo Vecchio. Following this Ajubei and
his wife are received by the Holy Father in Rome.
- He organizes lectures in preparation for the great event of the
Second Ecumenical Vatican Council, calling on to speak theologians of
the greatest caliber, such as J. Danielou, H. Feret, Y. Congar, E.
Balducci. Conferences which see huge crowds in attendance.
- 22-23 November 1964 the elections take place in Florence for renewing
the City Council. La Pira for the fourth time is at the top of the
slate for the Christian Democrats. He is greatly affirmed personally,
but the now deteriorated political climate is characterised by
in-fighting even in the same majority party, forcing him to withdraw
his candidacy as Mayor.
1965 – In the month of
March he leaves the Office of Mayor of Florence
- But this does not stop La Pira from working towards a political
solution to the war in Vietnam. In close collaboration with Amintore
Fanfani, Foreign Minister, and the Polish Ambassador Wilmann, he goes
to London where he meets many Labour Party MPs of the House of Commons
with whom he agrees to hold an ‘International Symposium for Peace in
Vietnam’ in Florence. The Symposium takes place in April at the
Belvedere Fortress with English, French, Soviet, Italian
parliamentarians and political figures and other representatives of
international organisms as participants. The Symposium concludes with
an Appeal signed by La Pira and Lord Fenner Brockway and sent to the
governments signing the Geneva Accords on Vietnam in 1954 and to the
parties involved in the conflict.
Ho Chi Minh, President of the Government of North Vietnam, responds to
the Appeal, indicating the essential points for re-establishing peace.
- After meticulous preparation La Pira receives substantial approval
from all the parties in opposition and thus, in October, he leaves for
Hanoi – together with Professor Mario Primicerio – by way of Warsaw,
Moscow, Peking. 11 November he meets President Ho Chi Minh and Prime
Minister Pham Van Dong.
He returns to Italy with a peace proposal that is transmitted to the
American Government by way of the then President of the United Nations
General Assembly, Amintore Fanfani. The peace initiative is doomed to
failure through being leaked in the American Press. Peace will be
attained eight years later, according to the same conditions offered in
La Pira’s mission, but at the price of immense devastation and hundreds
of thousands of victims.
1966 – He is deeply involved in the problems of the Florence of
1966 Flood. He helps the city through his international contacts. He is
invited to solidarity meetings in Paris, New York, Montreal and Ottawa.
- In the preface to the book ‘Thou Shalt Not Kill’ edited by Fabbrizio
Fabbrini, he recapitulates and closes the flaming polemic that have
broken out in recent years over conscientious objection, which sees
Florence at the centre of national attention for the events which are
taking place, among which are the private showing of the film by Autant
Lara ‘Do Not Kill’ (1961), the sentencing of the objector Giuseppe
Gozzini (1962), the trials of Father Ernesto Balducci (1963) and of Don
Lorenzo Milani (1965).
1967 – He is elected President of the World Federation of the
Cities (FMCU) with its seat in Paris. He coins the phrase ‘Unite the
cities to unite the nations’. The Federation, which is recognised by
the United Nations, is considered by him to be the other institutional
and integrating aspect of the United Nations.
- The ‘Six Day War’ that broke out in June between Israel and the
adjacent Arab States, brings to the fore the problems for peace in the
Middle East and shows the increasing autonomy and international
political relevance of the Palestinian movements united around the PLO.
- Between Christmas 1967 and Epiphany 1968 he undertakes the same
pilgrimage of ten years earlier with the same goals: peace and the
Colloquies. He goes, with Giorgio Giovannoni, first to Israel and then
to Egypt, where he holds lengthy talks with Israel’s Foreign Minister
Abba Eban, Egypt’s President Nasser and with the Mayors of Hebron and
Bethlehem and with the Palestinian representatives of East Jerusalem in
the occupied Trans-Jordan region.
1968 – He participates in Tunis at the World Conference of Youth of the
FMCU and gives a talk about the demonstrations, affirming that ‘The
young are like swallows, flying towards the Spring’.
- It is the year of student rioting. He follows with particular
interest what happens in the Student Movement. At the University of
Florence he is one of the few professors who is not challenged. He goes
many times to Paris to speak to the youth united in assembly at the
Sorbonne together with the film director Roberto Rossellini.
- As President of FMCU he is invited by Prague’s Mayor to follow the
developments of the ‘Czechoslovakian Thaw’; among many meetings of
particular importance is that with Foreign Minister Hayek.
1969-1970 – In these years
La Pira involves the FMCU cities in the
process of easing East-West tensions begun by the Ostpolitik of Willy
Brandt; at Helsinki, Stockholm, East Berlin, Budapest, Vienna, Potsdam
he points out the problem of the legal recognition of the German
Democratic Republic and that of nuclear disarmament in Europe to help
in the easing of tensions, peace and unity of the European Continent,
encouraging - at all levels of the cities and nations – to begin
with a Pan-European Conference.
- He is very often in Paris, again in Stockholm, Helsinki, Moscow,
where he has repeated contacts with the Vietnamese delegation to hasten
the opening of the Paris Conference for Peace in Vietnam. In Jerusalem,
Tel Aviv, Bethlehem, Hebron he explains publicly the ‘triangular
thesis’ (Israel, Palestine, Arab States) on which could be built
negotiations for peace in the Middle East.
- The FCMU Congress is held in Leningrad (St Petersburg), during which
the concept of ‘bridges’
uniting cities is further strengthened. La
Pira proposes a new structure for twinning: cooperative twinning
between the cities of the West, the East, the South.
- 1968 A serious crisis
shakes the Florentine church with the
case involving Isolotto and Don Mazzi. In the most delicate moment of
this crisis, 3 September 1969, La Pira decisively sides with the
Bishop, Cardinal Florit, ‘Ubi
Petrus et episcopus ibi Ecclesia’ (‘Where
Peter and the Bishop are, there is the Church’): with the
judgment given publicly by La Pira the Isolotto controversy takes on a
different dimension. La Pira, as always in his decisions, privileges
the faith and unity of the Church to personal sentiments even if this
brings suffering. The value of La Pira’s behaviour in the case of
Isolotto, which resulted in criticism even from some of his friends,
was emphasised in Cardinal Florit’s declaration on the death of La
Pira: ‘ . . . It is no surprise
that such a man could make even the
unpopular decision of nine years ago, when the Florentine church and
its bishop underwent moments of anguish. He was as close, then, as a
brother and this helped me carry out a hard and painful task.’
1970 – Professor Palumbo’s clinic in Via Venezia closes and La
moves to Via Gino Capponi at the Youth Organization (Opera per la
Gioventù) founded by Pino Arpioni, with whom he had worked in
the Communal Administration and who had dedicated his life to the
Christian education of the young. La Pira’s closeness to youth makes
last years of his life happier and even more dedicated.
- Next to the Youth Organization is “Cultura”, a centre of political
and cultural activity directed by Gianni and Giorgio Giovannoni, and
publishing house of so many of La Pira’s writings. Also here La Pira’s
presence is constant and positive.
1971-1973 – In these years are completed the ‘Conferences for
Convergence’ for which he has worked so hard during the last six
years: July 1973 at Helsinki the Conference opens for Security and
Cooperation in Europe (CSCE); in Paris the Conference opens on the
ending of the war and the maintaining of the peace in Vietnam; in
Geneva, under UN auspices, the Conference for a ceasefire in the Middle
East after the fourth Arab-Israeli war takes place (1973).
- Tireless also is La Pira’s work bringing these objectives together
and he makes numerous journeys: to Moscow, Warsaw, Bonn, Berlin,
Budapest, Sofia, for Europe; to Cairo, Jerusalem, Beirut for the Middle
East; to New York and Quebec (Canada) for Vietnam.
- He also goes to Chile to try to prevent the coup d’etat against the
exercising of Social Democracy under President Salvador Allende.
- In Houston (USA) he participates in a seminar held by the Menil
Foundation amongst qualified world authorities in culture and science,
including several Nobel Prize winners, called, for three days, to
discuss the theme ‘Projects for the Future’.
- In Zagorsk (URSS), La Pira meets the Patriarch of the Russian
Orthodox Church Pimen and the Head of the Department for Foreign
Affairs Nikodim. The theme of the Colloquium is ‘The Unity of the
- In December 1973 he is at Dakar where he finishes his term as
President of the FMCU. La Pira is elected President for the third time.
1974-1975 – He is invited to Paris for the ceremony at the
of the Peace Accords in Vietnam.
- While following from Paris and Florence the vicissitudes of the
Conferences for Convergence, he dedicates himself particularly to the
Italian political situation, participating actively in the campaigns
for the referendum on divorce and following with growing concern the
destabilizing shocks of subversive groups and the first terrorist
threats of the Red Brigade.
- At the conclusion of the Helsinki Conference (August 1975) he is
invited to a UNESCO conference in October where he defines the chosen
course of the new navigational map for the European peoples (signed by
the heads of states in the final Act at Helsinki).
1976 – He is intensely involved in the battle against abortion,
confronting the problem not only from the religious point of view, but
also from the civil perspective. 19 March L’Osservatore Romano
publishes on its first page his deeply cultural and religious article,
with the title ‘Confronting Abortion’.
- The Italian political situation is serious; demonstrations, scandals,
terrorism, imperil the very democratic institutions themselves. The
National Secretary of the Christian Democrats Benigno Zaccagnini, asks
La Pira again, pressingly, to appear on the slate in Florence in the
political elections. La Pira, despite health problems, agrees in order
to continue the politics of disarmament, unity and peace and to affirm
the primacy of human and Christian values in a society growing ever
more violent and materialistic.
- He is elected overwhelmingly to the Chamber of Deputies and also to
the Senate for Montevarchi. He chooses the Chamber of Deputies.
1977 – Saturday 5 November in Florence at the Clinic of the
Sisters in via Cherubini, La Pira dies ‘ . . . in the Sabbath without
eventide that knows no sunset’.
Shortly before he had received an autograph letter from Pope Paul VI.
It was for him the final great joy. The final seal of the Church he
- The first blessing of the body is bestowed by Cardinal Giovanni
Benelli, Archbishop of Florence, who reaches the room where La Pira
lies a few minutes after his death.
In the night, in the same room, Don Giuseppe Dossetti celebrates Mass
in the presence of his family and closest friends.
- From the 6th to the 7th November, the day of the funeral, the body of
La Pira lies in the Badia Fiorentina for the Mass of San Procolo and in
the Church of San Marco. An interminable procession of citizens,
friends, personalities of all religious creeds and politics coming from
every part of Italy and some from abroad, render moving homage to La
Pira whom, now, all define as the ‘Sainted Mayor’.
- The funeral cortege between two packed wings of the crowds traversed
the most significant places of La Pira’s life: the church of San Marco,
the University of Studies, where the Rector, Professor Ferroni, in the
presence of his colleagues, recalls his merits as a scholar and a
professor. Then the Piazza Santissima Annunziata where, in front of the
Marian Basilica so dear to La Pira, Father David Maria Turoldo said a
prayer and greeted for the last time his great friend; San Michelino
Visdomini, where thousands of times La Pira had climbed the famous
‘stairs of Don Bensi’, his spiritual director and confessor and where
the same Don Bensi, who more than any other knew his soul, gave the
body the last blessing; the Florentine Badia, tangible sign of his
faith to his poorest brothers, where Monsignor Bonanni and the friends
of San Procolo greet him; Piazza della Signoria, in front of the
Palazzo Vecchio, for so many years the centre of his political and
administrative thoughts and deeds, where, before thousands of people,
before the highest rank of State, before the Gonfaloni of many
communes, those close to him and relatives, he is given the official
greeting of the city and of the civil society with speeches by the
Mayor Elio Gabbuggiani, Senator Amintore Fanfani and Professor Giuseppe
The orchestre of the ‘Maggio Musicale Fiorentino’ accompanies the
cortege towards the Cathedral.
- In the Piazza della Signoria, seat of civil power, the body is now
handed to the religious procession composed of hundreds of priests who
accompany it to Santa Maria del Fiore, the religious pole of the city,
where Cardinal Giovanni Benelli celebrates the funeral Mass and highly
praises the religious, human and civil aspects, of the life of Giorgio
- Sunday, 6 November, Paul VI remembers him during the Angelus in St
- The body of Giorgio La Pira rests in the Florentine cemetery at
Rifredi, beside that of Don Giulio Facibeni, a place for reflection and
prayer by many persons.
A lamp, given by Florentine, Israeli and Palestinian children on which
is written ‘Peace, Shalom, Salaam’, adorns the tomb.
1981 – The Holy Father John Paul II, during the audience of the
of Tuscany and in later years on other solemn occasions, recalls the
figure and the work of La Pira indicating him as a Christian to follow.
1986 – 9 January, the anniversary of La Pira’s birth, Cardinal Silvano
Piovanelli, Archbishop of Florence, opens the Diocesan Process for the
cause of his beatification in the Dominican Church of San Marco.
2005 – 4 April, in the
Basilica of the Santissima Annunziata, Cardinal
Ennio Antonelli, Archbishop of Florence, declares that the Diocesan
Informative Process for the Beatification and Canonization of the
Servant of God is concluded. The voluminous documentation gathered in
the course of the Process is transferred to the Congregation for the
Cause of Sainthood in the Vatican.
Pira’s small coffin was raised on
the shoulders of the Florentine people, as had happened to Don Giulio
and to Cardinal Elia Dalla Costa. The powerless and the unlearned,
being able to explain why, linked together three persons: a priest, a
a mayor, all three completely dispossessing themselves of themselves,
things of the world, all three authorized to follow the all and the
Saint John of the Cross. ‘To possess all, do not possess anything at
all. To be
all, be nothing of nothing . . .”
Notes 1924-1974 written in the first pages of the Justianian
the year 1924
the mind become clearer/ and the soul more open/ in waiting for a
Hope never ceased to/ seek and Faith never ceased to raise up./ And
humility./ At 20 years old, a time of light and the beginning of Union
17 October. On the 25th anniversary of the death of Ferrini
(1902/17/10), the Lord calls me, through the decision of the Law
Florence, to teach Roman Law.
O Jesus, Here I am, Ready!
Lord, Here I am, ready for you! (St Bernard 1929 Castelnuovo)
University teaching qualification. Thank you, Lord, as much as in the
joy as in
To Contardo Ferrini*, who in every way leads me to the Father’s house!
The first great victory: failure in the competition
Venerable Contardo Ferrini!
Dec.33 Vigil of the Immaculate Conception, I am called to Florence,
Feb.34 Prolusion. Feast of the Purification of Mary, first Friday of
Immaculate Conception. Thirty years later [Florence, city of Christ the
Easter. Light of the World. What divine dimensions!
32 years later! Lumen gentium. What a span!
40 years later, 2.2.34, at Siena, Peace on earth!
material given here is
drawn from the existing official documents at the La Pira Foundation
the following publications listed in the Bibliography, all in Italian:
(1859-1902) was the son of a
teacher who went
on to become a learned man himself, one acquainted with some dozen
Today he is known as the patron of universities.
Born in Milan,
doctorate in law in Italy
and then earned a
scholarship that enabled him to study Roman-Byzantine law in Berlin. As
renowned legal expert, he taught in various schools of higher education
he joined the faculty of the University of Pavia, where he was
outstanding authority on Roman law.
faith he lived and loved.
life," he said, "must reach out toward the Infinite, and from that
source we must draw whatever we can expect of merit and dignity." As a
scholar he studied the ancient biblical languages and read the
them. His speeches and papers show his understanding of the
faith and science. He attended daily Mass and became a lay Franciscan,
faithfully observing the Third Order rule of life. He also served
membership in the Society of St. Vincent de Paul.
in 1902 at the age
of 43 occasioned letters
from his fellow
professors that praised him as a saint; the people of Suna where he
insisted that he be declared a saint. Pope Pius XII beatified Contardo
he speaks at
Geneva, at the international headquarters for the Red Cross, on the
the city, and asks the following question, ‘Do nations have the right
BOLTON HOLLOWAY, AUREO ANELLO
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