Georg (Giorgio) La Pira
09.01.1904 - 05.11. 977

A brief biography.

Georg (Giorgio) La Pira was born in Pozzallo (Ragusa),on 09.01.1904 in a poor family. an died in 1977. On graduating  in law, he went to Firenze where, in 1934, he became professor of Romen Law and founded the 'Messa di San Procolo', for the spiritual and material assistance to the poor, which got his name from the abandoned church in which it met at first.
Between 1929 and 1939 he developed an intense scholarly activity which put him in contact with the Catholic University of Milan. He dedicated himself totally to Catholic Action for young people and to Catholic publishing, writing in many magazines, among which the famous Frontespizio.

In 1939 he founded and edited the magazine Principi in which - during the Fascist regime, which in a  short time would ban its publication - he presented the Christian requirements for a true democracy.  Then the year 1943 arrived: it was the year in which the clandestine paper called San Marco was born, while the secret police did everything to arrest him. He arrived in Rome, and the following year he held a series of lectures in the Ateneo Lateranense - organized by the Catholic Institute for Social Activities -which were published under the title 'Le premesse della politica', (An introduction to politics).

Later, in the social action of the Federation of Italian Catholic University Students, La Pira was a welcome and incisive guest. I remember him at the National Congress in 1942 in Assisi, at a dramatic moment for Italy, rent by the war then lost, speaking in praise of the peace that constructs and of the love that rebuilds.
Steadfast in his thinking, his style was plain; and in the end even the Fortini, the podestą, who had expressed uneasiness on hearing hatred for the English stigmatized, was overwhelmed by La Pira’s charm and hugged him with feeling, when he received from La Pira, to our loud applause, a small Our Lady’s medal.

He was mayor of Firenze (from 1950-1956 and 1960-1964). He played an important role in writing the Constitutional Charter supporting the immanent value of human beings and the inviolability of their fundamental rights.  On January 6, 1951, kneeling in the front of the altar of St. Philip Neri in the Chiesa Nuova in Rome, La Pira perceived that his new vocation was to devote himself to peace. So he was the first mayor to sign a Sister City Agreement in 1954 with the Mayor of Reims, Renč Bride, on Juli 3rd, 1954. He firmly believed that it was an important instrument to promote world peace. Giorgio La Pira was for many years Chairman of the World Federation of Sister Cities.

Later, in his political work, in Parliament, in government and especially when in charge of the city of Firenze, about which Mayor Domenici will speak, he was to hinge his teaching and his work on the subordination of the law to the needs of penniless citizens. An economist may wonder whether needs should be matched to possible resources, but not La Pira.

In an unpublished letter from April 16, 1944, La Pira wrote that peace in the world is linked  to peace in the family of Abraham, and to the political, historical and geographical destiny of the people who live in the Holy Land. (Published by L'Osservatore Romeno, November 4, 2007). The 'Meetings for peace and Christian civilization' promoted by La Pira in Firenze from 1952 to 1956, in order to favour friendship among Christians, Jews and Muslims are emblematic.
In 1959 La Pira visited the USSR and spoke in front of the Supreme Soviet at the Kremlin on the question of disarmament and also about religious freedom as an essential element in whole process of building peace.

Giorgio La Pira died on 5 November 1977, and was buried in the cemetery in Rifredi.

His cause of beatification was started in 1986. La Pira, a member of the Dominican Laity, was a Christian Democratic deputy during the Constitutional Assembly, which followed the Second World War. He referred to the homeless as his "ambassadors."  On the eve of 5 November 1990 Cardinal José Saraiva Martins, C.F.M., Prefect of the Congregations for the Causes of Saints, celebrated in the Dominican church of San Marco in Firenze on occasion of the 13th anniversary of the death of George Pira and blessed a new tomb for his remains, transferred to this church , where La Pira lived sharing prayer with the friars, as a member of the Dominican Laity.

Pope John Paul II wrote a letter on the occasion of the centenary of the birth of Giogio la Pira to Cardinal Ennio Antionelli, Archbishop of Firenze on 01.11.2004.

"I learned with pleasure that the Church in Firenze intends to commemorate with fitting celebrations the centenary of the birth of Giorgio La Pira, who was a highly esteemed Mayor of Firenze and an exemplary lay Christian. I had the opportunity to remember him last April, on the occasion of the meeting with the National Association of Italian Communes. I recalled then in particular his political, social and administrative work. On this happy occasion, I would like to reflect briefly on his spiritual profile.

Outwardly frail, Mr La Pira was endowed with great intellectual and moral energy, strengthened and refined by extensive daily study, thought, ascesis and prayer. Intuitive by nature, he felt called to develop his Christian commitment in the footsteps of Jesus, sent "to preach good news to the poor" (Lk 4: 18). It was necessary to avoid the "temptation of Tabor", as he called it (cf. Diario, 14 September 1951), in order to go down to the planes of daily dedication to the many needs of his neighbour in difficulty.
His spirituality was, as it were, "immanent" in his daily work. He went from Eucharistic communion to meditation, cultural commitment and social and political action without a break. He was intensely aware of the presence of the Most Holy Trinity who attracted him and gathered him, heart and soul, in contemplation and adoration. He liked the motto "contemplata aliis tradere", which he had learned from St Thomas Aquinas and the Dominican school that had contributed so much to his formation."

Source: Parts of the  speech given at the memorial service of Giorgio La Pira in the Palace of Montecitorio on 25 February 2004. © 30 Days in the Church and the world. All rights reserved     
: International Dominican Information (IDI) nr 458 ,January 2008).


Portrait of Giorgio La Pira with texts from his publications:

'L įttesa della povera gente', and 'La nostra vocazione sociale'.        

Italy 2004, Mi 2945, Sc 893.


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