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Papal ‘pilgrimage’ to honor Italian priest-activists

June 20, 2017

Pope Francis traveled to northern Italy on June 20, to pay tribute to two Italian priests known for their social activism in the 20th century.

The Pontiff traveled first by helicopter to Bozzolo, where he prayed at the tomb of Don Primo Mazzolari, known as the “parish priest of Italy,” who died in 1959. An opponent of fascism, Don Mazzolari worked on behalf of the poor, and his outspoken advocacy brought him into occasional conflict with Church authorities. Pope Francis remarked that Don Mazzolari was “not one who hung on to the Church of the past, but tried to change the Church through love and unconditional dedication.”

In an address at Bozzolo, the Pope contrasted the vigor of Don Mazzolari with the passive approach of clerics who “do not want to soil their hands.” He also criticized the “separatist activism” of those who set up Catholic institutions and devote themselves to managing those institutions rather than changing society. And he spoke against the “dehumanizing supernaturalism” of priest who withdraw from social concerns.

On his return trip to Rome, the Pope stopped in Barbiana, outside Florence, to pray at the grave of Don Lorenzo Milani, who established a parish school to educate the children of the poor.

 
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