8 March 2021

Gianni Baget Bozzo – priest and politician

Theologian moved from party to party

Gianni Baget Bozzo during a session of the European Parliament, where he spent 10 years
Gianni Baget Bozzo during a session of the
European Parliament, where he spent 10 years
Prolific writer, ordained Catholic priest, political activist and one-time MEP Gianni Baget Bozzo - often referred to as Don Gianni - was born on this day in 1925 in Savona in the northern Italian region of Liguria.  He took the name Baget from his mother, who was of Catalan origin but died when he was five, and Bozzo from the two uncles who raised him.

Baget Bozzo was known for supporting parties from both ends of the political spectrum at different times. At one time a Christian Democrat activist, Baget Bozzo was elected as a Member of the European Parliament for the Italian Socialist party in 1984, which led to him being suspended from the priesthood. He was a member of Silvio Berlusconi’s centre-right Forza Italia party from 1994.

He wrote many books about Christianity and as a theologian was a follower of the theories of Joseph Ratzinger, who became Pope Benedict XVI in 2005.

Baget Bozzo grew up in Genoa where he graduated in law. He studied at the Pontificia Universita Gregoriana in Rome, which was established by Ignatius Loyola in 1551 as a school of grammar, humanity and Christian doctrine. It was more generally referred to as the Roman College. After graduating Baget Bozzo was ordained as a priest in 1949.

Over the years he contributed to many newspapers, in particular La Repubblica and he wrote dozens of books.

Baget Bozzo made regular appearances as a guest in televised political debates
Baget Bozzo made regular appearances as a
guest in televised political debates
Among them was one about the Christian Democrats, The Christian Party in Power: the DC of De Gasperi and Dossetti, 1945-1954. He also wrote Catholics and Berlinguer’s letter (Enrico Berlinguer was the leader of the Italian Communist party from 1972 until 1984).

In 1983 with Giovanni Tanassini, he co-authored Aldo Moro: A politician in Crisis 1962-1973. Moro, who was twice elected as Prime Minister of Italy, was kidnapped by the Red Brigades in 1978 and killed after 55 days in captivity.

During the early 1970s Baget Bozzo had been moving closer to the Socialist Party (PSI) and he eventually became a strong supporter of Bettino Craxi.

In 1993 he transferred his allegiance to Berlusconi and became one of his advisers and speech writers.  He had been suspended from the priesthood after becoming an MEP but was readmitted after leaving the European Parliament in 1994. He continued to write about religion and politics until 2006, by which time his output exceeded 70 titles.

Baget Bozzo died in Genoa in 2009 at the age of 84. 

A view of the harbour area in Savona, the third largest city in maritime Liguria
A view of the harbour area in Savona, the third
largest city in maritime Liguria
Travel tip:

The third largest city in Liguria after Genoa and La Spezia, Savona used to be one of the biggest centres of the Italian iron industry, the iron works and foundries providing materials for shipbuilding and railways among other things. It also has a busy port but as well as industrial areas the city has a charming medieval centre containing architectural gems such as the Baroque Cattedrale di Nostra Signora Assunta - behind which is Italy’s other Sistine Chapel, like the Rome version erected by Pope Sixtus IV - and the Fortezza del Priamar, built by the Genoese in 1542 after their conquest of the city and later used a prison. The popes Sixtus IV and Julius II were born in the city and it was there in 1830 that the revolutionary Giuseppe Mazzini was imprisoned.   Food specialities include gnocchi with nettles, bardenulla (white polenta flavored with leek and mushrooms) and tagliatelle with mushrooms.

Il Bigo, the sculpture by Renzo Piano which is a centrepiece of his old harbour development
Il Bigo, the sculpture by Renzo Piano which is a
centrepiece of his old harbour development
Travel tip:

Genoa, wedged between the Ligurian Sea and the Apennine mountains, is a colourful port city with a vibrant character and the home of many outstanding buildings, such as the Romanesque Cathedral of San Lorenzo, with its black-and-white-striped façade and frescoed interior, the Doge's Palace and the 16th century Royal Palace.  The area around the restored harbour area offers a maze of fascinating alleys and squares, enhanced recently by the work of Genoa architect Renzo Piano, and a landmark aquarium, the largest in Italy.  The city’s Piazza de Ferrari, as well as being renowned for its bronze fountain, is surrounded by the headquarters of a number of banks, reflecting the status the city enjoyed at the end of the 19th century as Italy's financial centre, alongside Milan.  

Also on this day:

La Festa della Donna - Women’s Day

1566: The birth of controversial composer Carlo Gesualdo

1949: The birth of singer-songwriter Antonello Venditti

(Picture of Savona by Mariangela Calabria via Wikimedia Commons; Il Bigo by Mirko Bozzato from Pixabay)


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