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)
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
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
- 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
- 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
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
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
- 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
- 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
- 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
- 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
- During his residence in the convent he deepens his study
of the works of Thomas Aquinas shaping his Christian thought
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
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
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
- 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
- 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
- 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 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
- 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
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
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
- 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
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
- 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
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
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
- 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
- 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
- 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
- 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
- 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
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.
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’
“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.
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.
23.8.1928 O Jesus, Here I am, Ready!
20.8.1929 Lord, Here I am, ready for you! (St Bernard 1929
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!
23.10.30 The first great victory: failure in the competition
8.2.31 Venerable Contardo Ferrini!
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