On February 7, 2020, Sergio MATTARELLA, the President of the Italian Republic, made a private visit to the Pontifical Basilica of St. Anthony of Padua. The President made the side trip while attending a ceremony to inaugurate the City of Padua as the European Capital of Volunteering for 2020. The event was held at the Fiera di Padova exposition complex in Padua, Italy.
The President was greeted in front of the Basilica by the Most Reverend, Fabio DAL CIN, Papal Delegate; Friar Oliviero SVANERA, Rector of the Basilica; and Emanuele TESSARI, the Head President of the Presidency of the Venerable Ark of St. Anthony [the Basilica’s lay administrative organization]. Many faithful and onlookers warmly applauded the President.
After a moment of recollection and prayer at St. Anthony’s tomb, President MATTARELLA stopped by the Confessional-Memorial of Servant of God Friar Placido CORTESE (1907-1944), where he was welcomed by the Vice-Postulator for the Causes of Saints, Friar Giorgio LAGGIONI.
Earlier that morning at the Fiera di Padova, the President had mentioned the Servant of God during his address, saying: “Passion defeats indifference. The indifference that may arise toward the difficulties and sufferings of others and which cynically manifests itself in history, even in the presence of cruel persecution. That is the indifference against which Father Placido Cortese rebelled.”
During the Second World War, the Servant of God went out of his way to save political prisoners, prisoners of war and Jews being persecuted by the ongoing Nazi-Fascist furor. For this, he was brutally tortured and murdered by the Gestapo.
The President’s visit ended with a stop at the Chapel of the Relics in the Basilica of St. Anthony. At that time, the friars gave the President a painting entitled “Saint Anthony and Father Cortese, Defenders of the Oppressed.” The work had been specially painted by the Artist Silvano VECCHIATO and was dated “Padua, 2020.”
This visit followed an event that was held February 8, 2018, during which President MATTARELLA presented the friars with the gold Medal of Civil Merit, in honor of Friar Placido.
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