22 August 2016

Giacomo Radini-Tedeschi – bishop

Progressive priest who shaped the destiny of a future Pope

Giacomo Radini-Tedeschi, the Bishop of Bergamo
Giacomo Radini-Tedeschi, the
Bishop of Bergamo

Giacomo Radini-Tedeschi, Bishop of Bergamo, who was a mentor for the future Pope John XXIII, died on this day in 1914 in Bergamo.

He was Bishop of the Diocese of Bergamo from 1905 until his death and is remembered with respect because of his strong involvement in social issues at the beginning of the 20th century when he sought to understand the problems of working class Italians.

Radini-Tedeschi was born in 1857 into a wealthy, noble family living in Piacenza in Emilia-Romagna.

He was ordained as a priest in 1879 and then became professor of Church Law in the seminary of Piacenza.

In 1890 he joined the Secretariat of State of the Holy See and was sent on a number of diplomatic missions.

In 1905 he was named Bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Bergamo by Pope Pius X and was consecrated by him in the Sistine Chapel.

Angelo Roncalli, Pope John XXIII
Angelo Roncalli, Pope John XXIII
Radini-Tedeschi was a strong supporter of Catholic trade unions and backed the workers at a textile plant in Ranica, a district of Bergamo Province, during a labour dispute.

Working for him as his secretary at the time was a young priest named Angelo Roncalli who had been born at Sotto il Monte just outside Bergamo into a large farming family.

Roncalli went on to become Pope John XXIII in 1958 but never forgot the values Radini-Tedeschi had taught him.

The Bishop became ill with cancer and died at the age of 57 just after the outbreak of the First World War. His last words are reputed to have been: ‘Angelo, pray for peace.’

Travel tip:

Piacenza, where Radini-Tedeschi was born, is on the western edge of Emilia-Romagna and is in a strategic position between the River Po and the Appenines, situated between Bologna and Milan. It has many fine churches and old palaces with splendid gardens to explore. Piacenza Cathedral was built in 1122 and is a good example of northern Italian Romanesque architecture.

The Church of Santa Maria Immacolata delle Grazia in Bergamo's lower town
The Church of Santa Maria Immacolata
delle Grazia in Bergamo's lower town
Travel tip:

A landmark in Bergamo’s lower town is the church of Santa Maria Immacolata delle Grazie in Viale Papa Giovanni XXIII, one of the main thoroughfares. The huge church on the corner of Porta Nuova has a 19th century green cupola topped with a golden statue with an early 20th century campanile next to it. But the origins of the church date back to 1422 when a convent was built on the site dedicated to Santa Maria delle Grazie. The beautiful cloisters have been preserved within the church buildings although the convent was suppressed at the beginning of the 19th century. The neoclassical design for the new church was created by architect Antonio Preda. In 1907 the main altar was consecrated in the presence of the bishop, Giacomo Radini- Tedeschi, accompanied by his 26-year-old secretary, Angelo Roncalli, the future Pope John XXIII.


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