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Pope notes death anniversary of his favorite author



Kathleen N. Hattrup - published on 05/28/23

The Pope, once a literature teacher himself, calls this Italian novelist and poet "one of the loftiest figures in literature"

After praying the midday Regina Caeli with pilgrims on this Pentecost Sunday, May 28, Pope Francis noted an Italian author who wrote one of the Pope’s favorite books, which he has referenced a number of times.

Last May 22 marked the 150th anniversary of the death of one of the loftiest figures in literature, Alessandro Manzoni. He, through his works, was a cantor of the victims and the last: They are always under the protective hand of divine Providence, which “lands and arouses, afflicts and consoles”; and they are also sustained by the closeness of the faithful pastors of the Church, present in the pages of Manzoni’s masterpiece.

Alessandro Manzoni (1785-1873) is the author of The Betrothed, as well as other works. The novel recounts the story of a young couple that wants to marry but runs into a number of problems: firstly the bride is eyed by the local baron, and by the end, they’ve both nearly died of the plague. In their difficulties, they are aided by a Capuchin friar, and inspired by the archbishop of Milan, Charles Borromeo.

Pope Francis once said, “I have read The Betrothed, by Alessandro Manzoni, three times, and I have it now on my table because I want to read it again. Manzoni gave me so much. When I was a child, my grandmother taught me by heart the beginning of The Betrothed: ‘That branch of Lake Como that turns off to the south between two unbroken chains of mountains….’”

Pope Francis, who taught literature in the 1960s at a Jesuit university in Buenos Aires, has drawn many lessons from the book, including one on remorse:

Alessandro Manzoni, in The Betrothed, gave us a wonderful description of remorse as an opportunity to change one’s life. It is about the famous dialogue between Cardinal Federico Borromeo and the Unnamed, who, after a terrible night, presents himself destroyed to the cardinal, who addresses him with surprising words:

“You have some good news for me; why do you hesitate to tell it?” “Good news?” says the other. “I have hell in my soul […]. Tell me, tell me, if you know, what good news could you expect from such a one as I.” “‘That God has touched your heart, and is drawing you to himself’ replied the cardinal calmly” (Ch. 23).

God touches the heart, and something comes to you inwardly, sadness, remorse for something, and it is an invitation to set out on a new path. The man of God knows how to notice in depth what moves in the heart.

CulturePope Francis
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