Rome – Pope Francis took a helicopter ride from the Vatican on Tuesday to pay tribute to two 20th century Italian maverick priests who were sidelined by the Catholic Church establishment of their time.
Francis first visited the tomb of Don Primo Mazzolari in Bozzolo, about 140 kilometres south-east of Milan, and later flew about 150 kilometres south to Barbiana in Tuscany, the final resting place of Don Lorenzo Milani.
“Today I am a pilgrim here in Bozzolo, and then in Barbiana to trace the footsteps of two parish priests who left a bright mark, albeit controversial, in their service to the Lord and the people of God,’’ the pope said.
Mazzolari (1890-1959) was a pacifist and an advocate for the poor who criticized the Catholic doctrine of just war.
He also helped the partisans and was briefly arrested during World War II.
Milani (1923-67) ran an egalitarian “school of the people” and defended the right to conscientious objection, or refusal to join military service.
A foul-mouthed, exuberant personality, he was exiled by his superiors in Barbiana, a remote mountain community.
“The two priests are a symbol for “a Catholic Church that is exactly the opposite of the Church of Francis’ conservative and traditionalist opponents,’’ Italian theologian Massimo Faggioli told the National Catholic Reporter website in April.
During the pope’s visit to Bozzolo, the bishop of Cremona, Monsignor Antonio Napolioni, said Mazzolari’s beatification process would start on Sept. 18.
Report says beatification is the last step before sainthood, and is usually linked to the recognition of a miracle.