Thursday, January 16, 2014

Blessed Giuseppe Antonio Tovini - a Blessed Banker from Brescia

Giuseppe Antonio Lomuscio b.1955
Canvas for the Beatification of Blessed  Giuseppe Antonio Tovini, 1998 (detail)
Oil on canvas

Today is the feast day of Blessed Giuseppe Antonio Tovini (1841 – 1897) - lawyer, banker and tertiary Franciscan

The canvas banner for the Beatification of Blessed Giuseppe Antonio Tovini was executed by the distinguished Italian religious artist Giuseppe Antonio Lomuscio (b.1955) whose work I have already touched on in earlier articles when, for example, his statue of St Michael the Archangel was unveiled recently in the Vatican Gardens

The blessed`s birthplace Cividate Camuno is shown in the background. It is near Brescia in Lombardy, hence the beautiful scenery

It is the Blessed`s feast day, the commemoration of the day of his death. 

The town is proud of their local son. A monument was put up for him in the town square. Here it is

Simone Magnolini 1895 -1982
Statue memorial to Blessed  Giuseppe Antonio Tovini
13 x 18 cm
Collection of the Lombardy Region, Milan

One great admirer of the Blessed was Pope Paul VI who in October 1953 as Monsignor Giovanni Battista Montini wrote a preface to a Biography of the Blessed. The Book and preface can be viewed in Italian here

It is an interesting introduction by the young Montini and provides an insight into his view of Catholic social teaching which he saw as not starting with Pope Leo XIII but rather Blessed Pope Pius IX. 

In particular it shows how  he saw Catholic Action growing out as a reaction to and antidote to the secularisation of the Reunification of Italy and a United Italy after 1870

It was an alternative to secular Italian nationalism at the end of the nineteenth and early twentieth century

But it was more than a political party or pressure group. It was above all, a spiritual enterprise

Tovini was a lawyer who involved himself in social projects. He founded two banks: Banca di Valle Camonica and the Banco Ambrosiano in the area of Brescia

He was heavily influenced by Rosmini

It was of course the Banco Ambrosiano which collapsed in 1982 (with the Vatican Bank being its main shareholder)  and its chairman Roberto Calvi was found that year hanging from Blackfriars Bridge in London, presumably murdered

Imaginations have of course gone into overdrive

Tovini however ran a clean establishment and that was the way it was for a very long  time

He cannot be blamed for corruption which set in nearly seventy years after his death

And so Blessed Pope John Paul II on 20 September 1998 journeyed to Brescia for the Beatification of Giuseppe Tovini. At the same time he celebrated the 100th anniversary of the birth of Pope Paul VI

In his homily he launched into an encomium of the Brescian church and at the same time the lives of Pope Paul VI and Blessed Giuseppe Tovini

He said:
"4. The roots of Pope Montini’s particular sensitivity to the great social questions of our century are sunk deep in his Brescian origins. 
In his own family and then during the years of his youth in Brescia, he breathed that atmosphere, that fervour of activity which made Brescian Catholicism one of the significant landmarks of the Catholic presence in the social and political life of the country. 
Addressing his fellow citizens at the beginning of his Pontificate, Paul VI expressed this debt of gratitude: 
“Brescia! The city which not only gave me birth but is such a part of the civil, spiritual and human tradition, teaching me as well the meaning of life in this world and always offering me a framework which, I think, will withstand future experiences ordained over the years by divine Providence” (cf. Address to a Pilgrimage from Milan and Brescia, 29 June 1963, in Insegnamenti I [1963], p. 647).
5. Bl. Giuseppe Tovini was certainly a great witness of the Gospel incarnated in Italy's social and economic history in the last century. He is resplendent for his strong personality, his profound lay and family spirituality, and for his generous efforts to improve society. Between Tovini and Giovanni Battista Montini there is — as a matter of fact — a close, profound spiritual and mental bond. 
In fact, the Pontiff himself wrote of Tovini: 
“The impression he left on those I first knew and esteemed was so vivid and so real that I frequently heard comments and praise of his extraordinary personality and his many varied activities; astonished, I heard admiring expressions of his virtue and sorrowful regrets at his early death” (cf. Preface by Giovanni Battista Montini to the biography of Giuseppe Tovini by Fr Antonio Cistellini in 1953, p. I)."
Perhaps it was the fact that his nuncio was having to explain the clerical child sex scandal to the United Nations in Geneva today. 

Perhaps it was today`s memorial to Blessed Giuseppe Tovini and how Tovini`s foundation had originally been a spiritual enterprise and a force for good which inspired Popes and Catholic foundations not only in Italy but throughout the Catholic world. 

He had very strong words regarding these scandals
"“Do we feel ashamed? So many scandals that I do not want to mention singularly, but we all know them. We know where they are! Scandals, some who have paid so much money ...The shame of the Church!” he exclaimed. 
“The Word of God in those scandals is rare; in those men and in those women the Word of God was rare! 
They did not have a bond with God! They had a position in the Church, a position of power, also of comfort. But the Word of God, no! 
‘But, I have a medal’; ‘I wear the Cross’’. Yes, like those who carried the Ark! Without the living relationship with God and with the Word of God! The Words of Jesus come to mind for them and for those involved in scandals. 
And here scandal has come: a decay of the people of God, to the weakness, to the corruption of priests”
The task of the Holy Father to reform the institutions of the Church is immense. 

He is up against huge vested interests who are self satisfied and at best blinded by their own corruption. 

He should not be criticised or vilified. 

Has the old Brescian model run its course ? Is it broken down beyond repair ?

Pope Benedict started the reforms. Pope Francis is now left to continue these reforms and expand them

We should pray for him as he seeks to restore the pristine face of Christ on earth - the Church


Blessed  Giuseppe Antonio Tovini had a nephew, Father Moses Tovini (1877-1930).  

Giuseppe was also Moses` godfather at his Baptism. Moses was close to his uncle and looked on him as a role model

Blessed Moses Tovini

Pope Paul VI  (when Archbishop Montini) said of Father Moses:
" A pious, learned and zealous priest; and one might add, a profusion of many other adjectives:  affable, humble, calm, refined, generous, patient, loyal.... He was a priest through and through, as priests should be. ... 
Indeed, he had unique qualities:  a strong speculative intelligence distinguished him from the ordinary; kindness, veiled by candour and timidity, on which he never went back; everything in him was so modest and thoughtful that to appreciate him for what he was worth, it was necessary to be close to him and to know him well.  
And after becoming acquainted with him and appreciating him, praise would not be so much confirmation of the uniqueness of his virtues as rather of the balance, harmony and range of his gifts, natural and acquired, that made the priest the rarest yet at the same time the most common man; the man relatively perfect to be admired.  
And all together accessible to all to be imitated".