In our last Blog we spoke of SERVANT of GOD ORESTE BENZI the spiritual director of Ven. Sandra Sabattini. He was an Italian priest and the founder of the "Community of Pope John XXIII". Father Benzi championed the rights of the individual and founded his association to aid teenagers in their lives and their path to Jesus Christ while also striving to evangelize to those including the destitute.
Oreste Benzi was born in San Clemente,
1925 the seventh of nine children to the poor Achille Benzi and Rosa Silvagni,
who instilled a sense of great piousness in her children.
His second grade teacher Olga Baldani spoke of a priest and of a scientist and explorer in a tale meant to challenge the students as to what would seem the better profession. This had a profound impact on the child who returned home and told his mother that he wanted to become a priest.
He began his studies for the priesthood in 1937 first at Urbino and then at
He transferred his studies to Bologna due
to Allied bombings during World War II around Rimini . After
ordination in 1949 he was appointed as the chaplain for the parish of San
Nicolò in Rimini . Rimini
In 1953 Father Benzi was made the spiritual director of students in Rimini and he later oversaw the establishment of an Alpine vacation home for teenagers in Alba di Canazei (built between 1958 and 1961) that saw him make several visits to the USA in order to raise funds.
In 1968 he founded the "Community of Pope John XXIII". The priest opened the first home for families at Coriano in 1973. The Italian government recognized the movement, while it received diocesan recognition in 1983. The Pontifical Council for the Laity recognized the movement as an "association of the faithful" in 1998.
Father Benzi was known for his action in defense of those who were marginalized and his battle against prostitution and homosexual unions. His work bought him into contact several times with Pope John Paul II. From 1969 until 2000 he served as a parish priest at the Resurrection parish in the Grotta Rossa neighborhood of
Teresa of Calcutta and St. Maximilian
Kolbe inspired him as well as spiritual writers such as
Cardinal Henri de Lubac and Bl. Antoine
Father Benzi died in 2007 after suffering a heart attack. More than 10 000 mourners attended his funeral and it included several of the prostitutes that he had rescued. His movement is now present in a total of 27 European countries as well as in Asia and Africa and Latin America and Australia.
When Father Benzi died, Pope Benedict XVI sent his heartfelt condolences, recalling Father Benzi’s early enthusiasm for pastoral work as a parish priest and his later role as an indefatigable apostle for charity in favor of the least and the defenseless, shouldering the burden of so many of the serious social problems afflicting our modern world.