Biographies of the twentieth century

Giuseppe Dossetti

The rich documentation deposited in the FSCIRE archives by Giuseppe Dossetti (1913-1996), founder of the Istituto per le scienze religiose, has permitted scholars over the decades to start numerous researches on the different phases in the life of this Italian theologian, politician and intellectual. The analysis of the documentation has produced a series of volumes that continues to be enriched in the course of time with reconstructions of Dossetti’s life and activity, shedding light on his role in crucial phases, such as his commitment to Vatican II alongside Bishop Lercaro.

Contributors: Enrico GalavottiAlberto Melloni.

Giacomo Lercaro

The availability of the archives of Card. Giacomo Lercaro (1891-1976) at FSCIRE makes it possible to reconstruct through first-hand sources many aspects of the biography of one of the internationally best-known Italian bishops and one of those most closely connected to Roncalli’s feelings; of particular importance is the contribution he made to Vatican II and to the post-Conciliar reforms, especially in the liturgical field.
After the analysis of the period he spent in Genoa (1891-1947) and his episcopal novitiate in Ravenna (1947-1952), the research focuses on Lercaro’s period in Bologna (1952-1968), reconstructing the plan for his pastoral project in the “red” diocese par excellence, until his removal at the peak of his magisterium for world peace, and in the middle of the diocesan reform process. The volumes Araldo del Vangelo. Studi sull’episcopato e sull'archivio di Giacomo Lercaro a Bologna. 1952-1968, edited by Nicla Buonasorte (2004) and Rimozioni. Lercaro 1968 by Alberto Melloni (2018) have already been published by Il Mulino.

Contributors: Nicla Buonasorte, Alberto Melloni.

Lorenzo Milani

After over thirty years of research on Don Milani and the collection of his papers carried out over the years, FSCIRE has been able to propose and set up the project for the critical edition of his texts. The worthiness of the project was recognized in November 2015 by the Ministry of Heritage and Culture and Tourism, which promoted the National Edition, directed by Alberto Melloni, and a scientific commission was established. The critical edition of Don Lorenzo Milani’s opera omnia was published in 2017 by Meridiani Mondadori (Don Lorenzo Milani. Tutte le opere, directed by A. Melloni, edited by F. Ruozzi, A. Cafora, V. Oldano, S. Tanzarella, 2 vols., Milan, Mondadori, 2017).
Don Lorenzo Milani’s archive was formally constituted at FSCIRE in June 1974, when his mother, Alice Weiss Milani Comparetti, wrote a circular letter on behalf of herself and her children, Adriano and Elena, addressed “To the friends of Don Lorenzo Milani”, in which she communicated the family’s decision: “So that the legacy of his word and his example may not be dispersed, a common good entrusted to all, a Lorenzo Milani Fund has been set up at the Istituto per le scienze religiose in Bologna, destined to collect and preserve writings, letters, and testimonies that may directly or even indirectly illuminate his figure and his work”. The seriousness and rigor of this institution seemed to be the right place to which her papers should be entrusted in order to promote the study of Don Lorenzo’s work. Since 1974, the fund has been enriched with further funds and donations of either original or copies of papers (Elena Milani fund, Pecorini fund, Pirelli Brambilla fund, Cartoni fund, Francuccio Gesualdi fund, and many others), and a project of digitalization of the deposited papers and of those kept in other archives was initiated in order to reunite, at least on a virtual level, a single, complete Milani archive. The results of the critical edition were previewed at the conference Don Lorenzo Milani. «Al centro della Chiesa, non ai margini» on 31 October 2015 at the Gabinetto Vieusseux, in Florence, under the patronage of the Archdiocese of Florence.

Contributors: Federico RuozziAlberto Melloni.

John Courtney Murray

Murray (1904-1967), a Jesuit theologian, was born in the United States and entered the Society of Jesus in the New York Province in 1920. After completing his classical and philosophical studies at Boston College, he taught Latin and English literature at the Ateneo de Manila, in the Philippines. Upon his return to the United States, he undertook theological studies at Woodstock College, Maryland. In 1933, he was ordained a priest and continued his studies at the Gregorian University, where in 1937 he obtained a doctorate in sacred theology with a specialization in the doctrine of grace and the Trinity. Upon his return to Woodstock, he taught Trinitarian theology and in 1941 took on the editorship of the Jesuit journal «Theological Studies». His European experience brought him closer to the study of Catholic doctrine on the relationship between Church and State and his contributions on the subject were widely published in the United States and Europe. His positions led him to censorship in 1955. Invited as an expert witness to Vatican II in 1963, he worked with Pietro Pavan on the Declaration on Religious Freedom. The research project on Courtney Murray aims to place the Jesuit within the broader American context in which he grew up and was formed, extending the study of the American Catholic Church in the twentieth century, its relations with the government and its positions with respect to the particular constitutional structure of the United States.

Contributor: Francesca Cadeddu.

Ivan Illich

Ivan Illich (1926-2002), a Catholic priest who renounced the exercise of his ministry in 1969 as a result of disagreements with the Roman Curia, was one of the most radical exponents of “critical thought” in the twentieth century, carrying out a ruthless analysis of modern “advanced” societies, their rituals and the related mythologies, which he ultimately interpreted as a distortion of Christianity. The research that concerns him aims to reconstruct the years of his formation (1926-1951) in their historical-geographical setting – between his father’s Dalmatia, his mother’s Vienna, the city of Florence, where he was saved from anti-Jewish persecution, the Rome of his philosophical-theological preparation – and in the prism of the affective, intellectual and spiritual relationships that led Illich to his first maturity as a man and a Catholic priest.

Contributor: Fabio Milana.

Alberto Altana

Don Alberto Altana (1921-1999) was born in Reggio Emilia, where he lived most of his life and where, together with his teacher Don Dino Torreggiani, he founded the Servi della chiesa religious family. In 1939, he began his university education, attending courses in Law at the University of Bologna, and Literature and Philosophy courses at the Università Cattolica in Milan. In the same years, he dedicated himself to the study of theology, first at the seminary of Albinea, the “temporary” seat of the Reggio Emilia seminary, and then at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome. Ordained a priest on 19 March 1949, he immediately took up the formation and retreats of the probationers of the institute. He was the priest of the Roma and Sinti gypsies, prisoners and the homeless, in the most depressed areas of the city. During the years spent in the parish of San Giovanni Bosco, he was also a teacher of Moral Theology at the episcopal seminary of Reggio Emilia. In 1963, he was sent to Rome for the building of the parish of St. Gregory the Great, in the working-class neighborhood of Magliana, still under construction and without a parish complex, where he remained until 1968, when he was called back to Reggio Emilia to deal with the restoration of the permanent diaconate. In that year he founded the magazine «Il diaconato in Italia» and two years later he was among the promoters of the «Comunità del diaconato in Italia». He was one of the protagonists in the events of the Church in Reggio Emilia that saw in 1978 the ordination of the first deacons and the synod on the theme of Evangelizzazione in terra reggiana e guastallese oggi (1979-1987).
The research project on Alberto Altana has two objectives: first, the in-depth analysis of the figure of the priest from Reggio Emilia and his inclusion in the context of the pre- and post-conciliar Church in Reggio Emilia (writing a biography and drawing up a bibliography) and, second, the inventory and cataloguing of the material of the Altana fund, preserved at FSCIRE.

Contributor: Giulia Grossi.