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GIORGIO LA PIRA, SERVANT OF GOD

A BIOGRAPHICAL TIME-LINE


giorgiolapira

 

9 January 1904-5 November 1977

 

Giorgio La Pira Foundation, Florence

 

There is no doubt that the Lord had placed in my soul the desire for priestly grace; only, 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 marked out: to be the Lord’s missionary in the world; and this apostolate will be carried out1927 - He participates in a competition for completing study in Roman Law in Italy and abroad: winning both scholarships he chooses the foreign one. At the same time the University of Florence appoints him to teach History of Roman Law, an assignment he has to decline in order to go to Austria and Germany for the scholarship he has won.in the conditions and in the surroundings in which God has placed me.

April 1931  Giorgio La Pira (from the letter to his aunt, Settimia Occhipinti)
 

One last thing: I am not a priest, as you have supposed: Jesus did not want that of me! I am just a young man to whom Jesus has given a great grace: the desire to love him without limits and to have him be loved without limits.

Easter 1933 (16 April)  Giorgio La Pira (from the letter to the Mother Prioress of Santa Maria Maddalena de’ Pazzi)


Timeline:


1904
– He is born 9 January at Pozzallo (Ragusa) to Gaetano La Pira and Angela Occhipinti, the first of six children.

1909-1913
– He goes to the Elementary School “Giacinto Pandolfi” in 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 “Antonello” (I,II,III years).

1917
– He attends the Technical Commercial Institute “A.M. Jaci” and 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 Messina.

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 examination 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 grace, as 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 Raymond.

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 Law’
- 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 with 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 friend.
- 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 into this task many young people, well off and otherwise, of the city. Among the leaders of the initiative is the Magistrate Renzo Poggi.

1935
- 3 June he forms the Vincentian Conference “San Bernardino da 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 and is 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 of San Marco.
- 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 searched the 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 eternity.]
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 Monsignor Montini.

1944
– In the month of September, he returns to the just liberated 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 death.

1946
– Elected Deputy to the Constitutional Assembly, he shapes with 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 of 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 leaving for Moscow, that he urge Stalin for a political solution to the war in Korea.
- 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 four years.
- 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 bankruptcy by 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 letters 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 Dalla Costa.
- 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 Florence.
- 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 evening I was with Professor La Pira whom I esteem and venerate. His is a soul worthy of all respect’.
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 Christian Democrats in the political elections and is elected to the Chamber of Deputies.
- Defends, with the whole city, the Officine Galileo. Drafts legislation for recognising, ergo omnes, the right of all to a work contract.
- 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 by the 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 where he 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 on Disarmament.
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 definitively.
- 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 the 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 Union of 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 true 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 notable 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 Pira 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 Christian Churches’.
- 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 conclusion 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 English 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 profoundly loved.
- 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 Lazzati.
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 La Pira.
- Sunday, 6 November, Paul VI remembers him during the Angelus in St Peter’s Square.
- 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 Bishops 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.

 
 

La Pira’s small coffin was raised on the shoulders of the Florentine people, as had happened to Don Giulio Facibeni and to Cardinal Elia Dalla Costa. The powerless and the unlearned, without being able to explain why, linked together three persons: a priest, a cardinal, a mayor, all three completely dispossessing themselves of themselves, of the things of the world, all three authorized to follow the all and the nothing of Saint John of the Cross. ‘To possess all, do not possess anything at all. To be all, be nothing of nothing . . .

 

Monsignor Loris F. Capovilla

 

 
 

Autobiographical Notes 1924-1974 written in the first pages of the Justianian Digest:

In the year 1924

With the mind become clearer/ and the soul more open/ in waiting for a coming which Hope never ceased to/ seek and Faith never ceased to raise up./ And always with humility./ At 20 years old, a time of light and the beginning of Union with the Master.

[Latin]

1927 17 October. On the 25th anniversary of the death of Ferrini (1902/17/10), the Lord calls me, through the decision of the Law Faculty in Florence, to teach Roman Law.

[Latin]

23.8.1928 O Jesus, Here I am, Ready!

20.8.1929 Lord, Here I am, ready for you! (St Bernard 1929 Castelnuovo)

25.1.1930 University teaching qualification. Thank you, Lord, as much as in the joy as in humility!

29.4.1930 To Contardo Ferrini*, who in every way leads me to the Father’s house!

[Latin]

30.8.30 Castelnuovo

23.10.30 The first great victory: failure in the competition

8.2.31 Venerable Contardo Ferrini!

[Latin]

7 Dec.33 Vigil of the Immaculate Conception, I am called to Florence, Chair of Roman Law

2 Feb.34 Prolusion. Feast of the Purification of Mary, first Friday of the month!

8.XIII.54 Immaculate Conception. Thirty years later [Florence, city of Christ the King and Mary]

6.4.56 Easter. Light of the World. What divine dimensions!

2.2.66 32 years later! Lumen gentium. What a span!

2.2.74 40 years later, 2.2.34, at Siena, Peace on earth!

 

The material given here is drawn from the existing official documents at the La Pira Foundation and from the following publications listed in the Bibliography, all in Italian:

 

*Blessed Contardo Ferrini (1859-1902) was the son of a teacher who went on to become a learned man himself, one acquainted with some dozen languages. Today he is known as the patron of universities.

Born in Milan, he received a doctorate in law in Italy and then earned a scholarship that enabled him to study Roman-Byzantine law in Berlin. As a renowned legal expert, he taught in various schools of higher education until he joined the faculty of the University of Pavia, where he was considered an outstanding authority on Roman law.

Contardo was learned about the faith he lived and loved. "Our 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 Scriptures in them. His speeches and papers show his understanding of the relationship of faith and science. He attended daily Mass and became a lay Franciscan, faithfully observing the Third Order rule of life. He also served through membership in the Society of St. Vincent de Paul.

His death 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 lived insisted that he be declared a saint. Pope Pius XII beatified Contardo in 1947.

 

 

Message for Today:

- 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?’


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