Mons. Giuseppe Maria Palatucci.
It was January 16, 1938 when Monsignor Giuseppe Maria Palatucci solemnly entered the venerable diocese of Campagna to begin his ministry there pastoral. A memorable day: for him who could live the fullness of the apostolic priesthood and for the population who welcomed his new pastor in a blaze of joy, "a man - the chronicles would specify - of great talent and great culture, but even more, of great and sincere faith and piety, of enchanting Franciscan simplicity and humility ”. So the chronicles; but we want to know more about what precedes the memorable day of Campagna and what followed that day.
Giuseppe Maria Palatucci was born in Montella, in the province of Avellino on April 25, 1892, in a family with strong Christian roots, if it is true that together with him two other brothers and then a nephew had entered and will become part of the order. of Conventual Franciscan Minors, constituting a highly significant presence for it.
He attended high school at the Santa Maria del Monte convent, also in Montella, then went to the novitiate in Ravello, on the Amalfi coast, where he made his first religious profession, thus committing his life to the full service of God and the Church. A commitment that he kept accepting, as it should be, all the consequences.
He moved to Rome to further his philosophical and theological studies, earning academic degrees at the Gregorian University, where he graduated in philosophy. He attended theology courses at the Pontifical Theological Faculty of the Order of St. Bonaventure, refined his literary studies at the Apollinare and did not fail to attend specific Liturgical courses at the Roman Liturgical Academy. Let's say a humanly, culturally and Christianly complete man.
He was ordained a priest in Montella on May 31, 1915, and in Montella itself, specifically in the church of San Silvestro, he celebrated his first mass. Then, the following day, he was called into the army to fulfill his military duty as a priest. First in charge of transporting the wounded, he later became a military chaplain. After four years of military service, Fr. Giuseppe Maria completed his studies in Rome by obtaining a degree in theology and then assumed the role of philosophy teacher at the international college that his Order led in the city.
In 1923 he left Rome and was committed to guaranteeing the rebirth of his Order in the southern province, always acting on the Amalfi coast as director of the Seraphic College, as an educator and as a preacher: everywhere he obtained the right recognition for his intellectual skills and for his communicative charisma. as well as for its journalistic initiatives.
On November 28, 1937, while he was busy preaching a mission in Calabria, he was surprised by Pope Pius XI's appointment as Bishop of Campagna. Father Giuseppe Maria was then 45 years old and had a great intellectual, spiritual and pastoral experience. The ceremony of his episcopal consecration took place in Naples in the Basilica of San Lorenzo Maggiore, and was in the hands of Cardinal Alessio Ascalesi.
It is on the basis of these assumptions that we can understand what happened later, as Bishop of Campagna. In the meantime, he promoted a strong liturgical revival in the diocese and created the conditions for the people to return to a more authentic faith by renewing the Christian meaning of life and things, creating new necessary parishes for this purpose. He restored the diocesan seminary and re-evaluated its cultural dimension to the advantage of the city. He relaunched the cult in the Sanctuary of the Madonna di Avigliano and reorganized Catholic Action in the various countries of the diocese, which he traveled assiduously visiting the municipalities and parishes to promote and encourage their initial and final raison d'être. He created enthusiasm around the faith by soliciting sympathy and attraction. The Eucharistic Congress of Contursi and the Peregrinatio Mariae which went through the entire diocese were splendid.
Some of his initiatives that had social trends were also successful. Not that he made them himself, but his intelligent attention and his ability to convey means and human resources allowed the opening of construction sites for public housing, small aqueducts and a road that should have connected Campagna with Acerno.
As for his teaching, he did not fail to address pastoral letters to the diocese, the first of which was titled "The True Life" and reflected on the excellence of the Christian vision of things, time and space . The meaning of life is precisely and only in the relationship with God. His other pastoral letter was "For a better world" a push towards religious and Christian awakening after the evils wrought by materialism, and an invitation to missionary action.
Strong was his Marian devotion, which he privileged Mary under the title of Immaculate Conception. But his homiletic commitment was rich, his care of the seminarians was very careful, his interest in the problems and achievements of the Church was deep and far-sighted, and, finally, he was clear in the teaching of Christian doctrine and practice. All this proves how authentically thought and truly lived his episcopal motto was: " In fide et charitate fortitudo mea - My strength in faith and charity".
From 1940 onwards, Monsignor Palatucci wove his human and Christian masterpiece in the relationship with the inmates, when a concentration camp for Jews and politically persecuted was established in the City of Campagna, an evil action that dishonored the Italian government which had proclaimed the racial laws to please the German dictator, certainly not out of a desire of the Italian people. Monsignor Palatucci expressed particular attention and some facilitation towards them, recognized their cultural depth, and obtained understanding from the civil authorities, subsidies from the ecclesiastical authorities, in this clearly involving the Holy See.
To this end, he also worked in good cooperation with his nephew Giovanni, a public security officer serving in Rijeka as head of the foreign office, as sufficiently documented elsewhere.
She served her city with worried suffering after the bombing of September 17, 1943 which struck her in the heart and left 177 dead, as well as so much crying, so much helpless anger and an immense anxiety to resume living. On that occasion, Monsignor Palatucci did not fail to make himself present, as and where he could. The Bishop animated, encouraged, supported and also personally committed himself to giving a Christian and dignified burial to the dead.
He signed the petition in favor of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary into heaven, then proclaimed by Pius XII on November 1, 1950. In memory of that memorable date on one of the pillars of the pronaos of St. Peter's Basilica, together with that of all the bishops present , its name can also be read.
On March 31, 1961, after returning from the church of the Annunziata at the end of the religious function in memory of the passion and death of Jesus, as it has been written "the great Bishop and his soul returned to the seat of Love and Light, presenting himself before the Lord to receive the prize for his commitment to the service of the Church and of souls ”. He died thus, while he was sitting at the work table to scroll through the correspondence.
He was a man, a Christian and a bishop without adjectives. He fully realized the freedom to be one, the other and the other. And if today there is a need for high points of reference for the interpretation of life, here, in this man and in this life, one can be found: learned, true, willing and available. How humanity asks and how God commands. His episcopal service in the diocese of Campagna went from January 16, 1938 to March 31, 1961, for the exact duration of 23 years, 2 months and 15 days.
Text by Father Franco Stano.