Georg (Giorgio) la Pira

A brief biography.

Georg (Giorgio) la Pira was born in Pozzallo, Sicily, on 09.01.1904 an died in 1977. He was mayor of Florence (from 1950-1956 and 1960-1964), and the first mayor to sign a Sister City Agreement in 1954 with the Mayor of Reims, Renè Bride, on Juli 3rd, 1954. He firmely 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.

"The tendency was at first to establish relationships with European and Mediterranean cities and to overcome the East-West block. In recent times Sister City agreements have been aimed at establishing links of co-operation on economic, democratic, social levels with cities of the southern hemisphere. Verona has now Agreements with 18 cities.

After his studies when he held the chair of Roman Law, La Pira was to be for many generations of university students not only a renowned teacher but a master of life, especially through that Mass of the poor which he brought to Rome from Florence, himself often attending it on Sundays in the church of San Girolamo della Carità to show affectionate concern to some hundreds of victims of poverty, to whom he said that we students should be thankful because they were teaching us the real philosophy of life. Lively and joyful, the professor had a fitting word for everyone, but especially a reassuring smile.

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 podestà, 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.

Later, in his political work, in Parliament, in government and especially when in charge of the city of Florence, 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. There were moments in which this humanism of La Pira’s set him in opposition to the so-called authorities. He did not accept, for example, at a congress, De Gasperi’s objection on the need of matching the programs of development called for by La Pira with tax revenue. La Pira insisted with a firm: «Amicus Plato sed magis amica veritas». And he also reacted toughly to the criticisms of Don Sturzo on an alleged underlying economic statism.
La Pira devoted himself to foreign policy with intensity and in an original way.
He felt Florence to be a place called by Providence to construct and live messages of peace. And for him peace was Christian. In a pencilled note he passed me on 26 April 1962 during a ceremony in Palazzo Vecchio (and that I have kept) he wrote: «You see, in Florence the boldest things can be done and said framed explicitly within the Christian vision of history; and i.e. with extreme logicality and clarity, as workshop and experiment»."

Source: Parts of the  speech given at the memorial service of Giorgio La Pira in the Palace of Montecitorio on 25 February 2004.
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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 Florence on 01.11.2004.

"I learned with pleasure that the Church in Florence intends to commemorate with fitting celebrations the centenary of the birth of Giorgio La Pira, who was a highly esteemed Mayor of Florence 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."

His cause of beatification was started in 1986. La Pira, a Third Order Dominican, was a Christian Democratic deputy during the Constitutional Assembly, which followed the Second World War. He referred to the homeless as his "ambassadors."


Portrait of Giorgio la Pira with a text from his publication:

'Láttesa della povera gente'.            On order.


Italy 2004, Mi 2945, Sc

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