Thursday, July 31, 2008

The Rest of the Story

Someone recently asked a question about events that stopped the canonization process for Pier Giorgio back in 1941. The answer can be found in the "Frequently Asked Frassati Questions" section of the FrassatiUSA website. In short, anonymous accusations were leveled against Pier Giorgio which questioned his moral integrity. Many years later, his sister got involved and the cause was reopened -- eventually leading to his beatification. But, this is definitely a story that would have interested Paul Harvey (for those of you old enough to know who he is!) It is another great example of the mysterious hand of God at work and the action of the Holy Spirit.

I am sure I will not be able to tell it as well as Pier Giorgio's niece Wanda told it to me. We had this discussion in March in Rome as we were putting the finishing touches on Pier Giorgio's book of letters which will be published in English for the first time this winter. In the Italian version of the book, there are two pages in the front containing a copy of the official letter issued on Vatican letterhead to Luciana Frassati from Cardinal Montini. Among other things, the letter expresses gratitude and appreciation for Luciana's efforts in compiling the letters of Pier Giorgio and having them published. It was dated July 28, 1950. What does this have to do with the canonization process, you may be wondering!

Well, Pier Giorgio's mother passed away in June of 1949. Her daughter Luciana then became the main advocate for Pier Giorgio. She was upset about the historical inaccuracy surrounding her brother and began the process of editing and publishing his letters. Not everyone was happy about this and some of Pier Giorgio's former friends (who had been recipients of some of his letters which were to appear in the book) even threatened to sue! One went so far as to write to the prospective publisher and threaten the lawsuit. The basis for their position was that the cause for Pier Giorgio's canonization had been stopped (back in 1941) and it would not be right to promote him in any way.

God bless Luciana Frassati! She was undaunted and even more determined. She wrote a letter to Pope Pius XII and requested that someone be appointed to review the record and correct the errors brought about by the anonymous allegations so that her brother's name would be cleared. Her intention was not to reopen the cause for canonization, only to set the record straight. The Secretary of State for the Vatican was Cardinal Montini.

This is the beautiful part of the story. When Cardinal Montini was a young priest, he was appointed to serve as the chaplain for the FUCI in Italy after Pier Giorgio's death in 1925. (The FUCI was the organization of Italian Catholic University Students.) It was a difficult political time in Italy. The Fascist government was in power and the FUCI was the only non-fascist group in the Italian universities. Father Montini was deeply impressed by the religious fervor he witnessed in the students and the tremendous impact that Pier Giorgio's example was still having on them. As Pier Giorgio had done, the FUCI courageously stood against fascism. Who would have known at the time that he would rise through the church ranks and become Cardinal Montini, the Secretary of State, and then the recipient of Luciana's letter to have Pier Giorgio's name cleared?

Cardinal Montini's letter to Luciana giving his blessing to the publication of Pier Giorgio's letters put an end to the threats of a lawsuit and was somewhat of a triumph for Luciana who had endured such opposition from so many. But Cardinal Montini authored a much more important letter in his official capacity -- instructions in the name of Pope Pius XII to have the status of the beatification process reexamined.

In 1963, Cardinal Montini would be chosen to replace Pope John XXIII. He assumed the name of Pope Paul VI. You may have known of Pope Paul VI for his tremendous courage in issuing the pro-life encyclical Humanae Vitae. What you may not have known was that, in 1978, he was very pleased to issue the introduction to the cause for beatification of Pier Giorgio. But now you know the rest of the story!

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