Born on May 21, 1922 in Castiglione, Italy Cardinal Pio Laghi was ordained after the war at the age of 24 on April 20, 1946 in his Diocese of Fiorli-Bertinoro in the Romagna region. He continued his studies after ordination, receiving his Doctorate in Theology a year later and three years later in Canon Law from the Lateran. Two years later Pope Pius XII tabbed him for a career in the Vatican's diplomatic services. His first assignment was to Nicaragua for two years before he was appointed secretary of the apostolic delegation to the United States and India from 1956 to 1961 when Pius' successor Pope John XXIII recalled him to Rome to serve on the Pontifical Council for Public Affairs of the Church. until June 22, 1969 when John's successor Pope Paul VI elevated him to titular Archbishop of Mauriana. That same year he was reassigned to the diplomatic corps, being appointed Apostolic Delegate to Jerusalem and Palestine, serving as Pro-Nuncio to Cyprus and Apostolic Visitor for Greece until 1974 when he was made Papal Nuncio to Argentina. This post lasted until December 1980 when Paul's successor Pope John Paul II made him Apostolic Delegate to the United States and four years later in March of 1984, the Holy See and the US established official diplomatic ties which made Archbishop Laghi the First Pro-Nuncio to the U.S. during the Reagan era in the White-House and the fall of communism worldwide.
On April 6, 1990 he was recalled to Rome to begin a stint as Pro-Prefect of the Congregation for Catholic Education. A year later, during the Holy Father's third Consistory of June 28, 1991 he was named to the cardinalate, receiving the titular church of St. Mary Auxiliartrix in Via Tuscalona. The "pro" was also removed from his title and two days after receiving his red-hat as a cardinal-deacon he was made Prefect of the same congregation he had served for a year. It is a position he still holds today. In 1993 he was named to the additional honor of Grand Chancellor of the Pontifical Gregorian University and Patron of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta. At 72 he enjoys active curial memberships in the Secretary of StateCongregation of Bishops, the Congregation for Oriental Churches, the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, the Congregation for Causes of Saints, the Congregation for the Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life and the Congregation for the Clergy plus the Pontifical Council for Culture.
He has been traveling the world, especially returning often to the United States to research on-site educational methods being employed in Catholic education at every level, especially the seminaries which had fallen into such disarray during the late seventies and eighties when liberal elements infiltrated them and began preaching heresy that affected many young men. On the Solemnity of the Holy Family in late December 1997 he released the document The Catholic School on the Threshold of the Third Millennium outlining guidelines for revamping the educational system and re-establishing values in symphony with the teachings and doctrines of the Church. Also co-responsible for the formation of the permanent deaconate, he co-issued, with Cardinal Dario Castrillon Hoyos, the Prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy, a similar document of guidelines for deacons on the Feast of the Chair of Peter, February 22, 1998. His most recent document was published on January 6th this year for Europe outlining the guidelines for New Vocations for a New Europe as the final document of the Congress on Vocations to the Priesthood and to Consecrated Life.
At 76 years-old and only a short time left before he'll have to retire from the Curia, Cardinal Laghi is hopeful that with the new millennium, his endeavors in promoting vocations and solid education will begin to bear fruit and the pendulum will swing back toward the center and the Faith will be paramount in Catholic education in grade schools, high schools, colleges and universities and especially in seminaries where tomorrow's leaders of the Church will have a firm foundation to instill on others the essence of Catholicity.
On November 17, 1956 Pope Pius XII named him Titular Bishop of Tacape and Auxiliary Bishop of Kisimu where he was installed on February 25, 1957. Three years later Pope John XXIII appointed him Bishop of Kisii on May 21, 1960 where he remained until November 15, 1969 when Pope Paul VI made him Titular Archbishop of Bomarzo and Coadjutor Archbishop of Nairobi. Two years later on October 24, 1971 he was promoted to Archbishop of Nairobi where he also served as President of the National Bishops Conference of Kenyaand was appointed to the Permanent Commission of the Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar.
In the Consistory of March 5, 1973 Paul VI elevated him to the cardinalate in which he received the titular church of St. Gregroy Barbarigo. After twenty-six years as Archbishop of Nairobi he resigned on May 14, 1997 to become Military Ordinary of Kenya, a less taxing position for he is getting up there in age, now 76. He still enjoys membership in the Roman Curia serving on Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life and the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples.
During the past few weeks, we have meditated on the themes of Heaven, hell and Purgatory. Today we reflect on the path which leads us to our final destiny.
The Christian life can be considered as a great pilgrimage to the house of the Father, ďwhose unconditional love for every human creature ... we discover anew each dayĒ (Tertio Millennio Adveniente). Our present life is already marked by the salvation which Christ has won for us through his death and resurrection. We are journeying towards the full actualization of this salvation, which will take place at the final coming of the Lord. As we make this journey, we are called to share in the Paschal mystery of the Lord and to live up to the demands of Christís offer of redemption. An important part of this is our continual purification and struggle against sin, in the knowledge that in rising from the dead, Christ has already overcome the power of sin and death. In involving ourselves in the realities of this passing world, we must fix our gaze on our final goal, bringing the light of God to bear on all that we do.
During this final year of preparation for the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000, the whole Church is called to reflect on the theme of conversion, and the liberation from sin which this implies. While the struggle against evil is a significant part of the experience of personal and community life, we know that to overcome sin we must rely on the strength which God gives us in Christ.
Sacred Scripture emphasizes that a sincere return to God and liberation from evil are part of one process of conversion. In this process, the sinner recognizes his sin and returns to God, placing his confidence in God's mercy and forgiveness.
As Christians, we believe that Jesus Christ has definitively conquered the evil one. However, each one of us must freely accept this victory by undertaking the commitment and continual vigilance which the struggle against sin requires. In the midst of our efforts and despite our failings, we can draw comfort from Christ's words: "In the world you will have trouble, but take courage, I have conquered the world" (John 17:33).
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
In our reflections on conversion, we now consider sin in its personal and social aspects. Jesus came to break sinís power and to bring mankind true freedom. He did this in His own life by always saying yes to the Fatherís plan of love, and His grace now enables us to do the same. The new evangelization needs to stress both Godís loving mercy and the reality of our own sin, and thus lead to conversion and authentic liberation. While all sin is ultimately personal, the accumulation of personal sins can create structures of injustice which consolidate the power of evil in the world. The proclamation of Christís complete victory over evil gives us the certainty that, in addition to personal sins, even the most oppressive structures of evil in society can be redeemed. The Great Jubilee of the Year 2000 invites us to renew the struggle against sin in all its forms, and to work as individuals and communities for an ever more just and humane world.
Death of Saint Pammachius, Roman senator and friend of Saint Jerome who married the daughter of Saint Paula.
Death of Saint Fiacre. This Irish saint migrated to France where he lived as a hermit and there planted a garden which yielded a tremendous harvest every year, allowing him to share all the produce with the poor. He is considered patron saint of gardeners.
Death of Pope Alexander III, 170th successor of Peter who ruled for 22 years. It was Alexander who excommunicated Barbarossa because of his misdeeds, and, by supporting the the Lombard League, defeated Barbarossa at Legnano by means of the famous carroccio. He also called the 11th Ecumenical Council.
Cardinal Pietro Barbo is elected by his peers as Pope Paul II, 211th successor of Peter. Paul decreed that only cardinals would wear the red berretta and reduced the interval between Holy Years to 25 years. His pontificate would last for seven years
Pope Clement X canonizes Saint Rose of Lima making her the first saint from the new world.
Pope Leo XIII issues his fifteenth encyclical Superiore anno dealing with the recitation of the Rosary.