“A lay Catholic believer, courageous and generous, committed in transmitting the Gospel at all moments and in all decisions of his life.” Matteo Truffelli , national President of Catholic Action Italy, provided an accurate, cogent outline of Teresio Olivelli. In his capacities as history scholar, the President of Catholic Action (CA) knows the entire story of the future Blessed born in Bellagio, near lake Como, in 1916, grown up in the plains of Lomellina, member of CA and died as a martyr – for having defended an inmate from violent attacks in the lager of Hersbruck – on January 17 1945. In Vigevano everything is ready for the beatification of Saturday, February 3. The Holy Mass will be presided over by Cardinal Angelo Amato, Prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, and will be co-celebrated by over twenty bishops. Thousands of people are expected to attend from the same diocese of Vigevano and from other dioceses in Lombardy, members of Catholic Action and FUCI, of the Italian Alpine troops, of Italian partisan associations, from local universities and colleges, all of which have left a mark in the life of Olivelli.
President Olivelli was a young man who matured his choice of faith and witness in the dark days of fascism, ending his life – after the war, the Resistance and his imprisonement – as a martyr. In your opinion, what was Teresio’s “driving force”?
It was the Gospel and the constant reference to the figure of Jesus. Also Olivelli must have had uncertainties, doubts, he must have made mistakes, like each one of us. But he lived his entire life with unambiguous, powerful coherence and love for others.
This young man bore witness to the evangelical commandment of love with his life, with his decisions, with his actions and words.
This, in my opinion, is his true heritage, of great topical relevance, passed down to us through the life of the Blessed Teresio.
This beatification will take place at the heart of the celebrations marking the 150th anniversary of CA, founded by two young men, Mario Fani and Giovanni Acquaderni…
In fact, for Italian Catholic Action this is another reason for great joy. The figure of Olivelli is an extraordinary shapshot of the life of our Association, conveying the deep meaning of its commitment, which in the past 150 years was intertwined with that of the Church and of our Country. In the 29 years of his life Teresio undertook this exact path:
He was an active Christian protagonist of his time,
of the situation in that period in Italy and abroad, he followed every path – even when it entailed difficulties and suffering – that would make his everyday life true to the Gospel. With his beatification the Italian Church indicates a new role model to the faithful, which calls upon all of them to shape their life according to Jesus’ teachings. There is something I wish to add…
I wish to point out that for Olivelli the ancient motto of Catholic Action – prayer, action, sacrifice – that was “popular” at the time, was part of daily life, it was a source of inspiration for the choices of a life directed at building a world of peace, fraternity and justice. It’ impossible to imagine what it must have been like to live in that difficult historical period. Thus
the simultaneous beatification of Teresio Olivelli and the 150th anniversary of CA takes on a deeper meaning, highlighting the fundamental contribution of so many generations of lay Catholics in bearing personal witness to the “Good News” in the folds of history,
giving a decisive contribution to the construction of a more human, fairer and freer society. It’s a commitment that has a great appeal today, a vigorous, innovative force, that can transmit hope for the future of the world and of the Church.