A leading figure: the Blessed Giuseppe Girotti, O.P.

The Holocaust Memorial Day, which will be celebrated on January 27, 2020, as it was established by the United Nations by the resolution 60/7 of the November 1, 2005. The importance of this date is because it wants to commemorate the victims of the Holocaust, of the racial laws and all those who risked and gave their lives to protect the persecuted people. As for our Order on this memorial day we need to mention one of our beloved brothers Giuseppe Girotti, who was killed in the Concentration Camp of Dachau by the Nazis.

Born in Alba (Cuneo) on July 19, 1905, he entered the dominican College of Chieri in 1918, where, later on, he took the religious habit in 1923. In the same year on October 15, he made his profession in the Order of the Preachers and was ordained priest on August 3, 1930. The following year, having obtained a Lectorate in Sacred Theology, his superiors decided to send him to the newly established École Biblique de Jerusalem, at the school of Joseph Marie Lagrange and other illustrious biblical scholars.

After obtaining a Licentiate in biblical sciences in 1934 before the Pontifical Biblical Commission, Fr. Girotti returned to Italy and started his lectures in Holy Scripture at the dominican center of studies of Santa Maria delle Rose in Turin and at the College of the Missionaries of the Consolata. He carried out his priestly ministry, in special way towards the needy, among the poor and humble people, in particular at the poor old people’s house called Ospizio dei Poveri Vecchi.

When Fr. Marco Sales died in 1937, Fr. Girotti was assigned with the task of continuing the unfinished work of the dominican scholar on the commentary of the Holy Bible. He accepted, and did so with great dedication that came from his careful preparation, teaching experience and natural ease of assimilation and explanation. In 1838, Fr. Girotti pubblished his commentary on the book of Wisdom and in 1941 on the books attributed to the prophet Isaiah; two powerful publications, in which the young author combined the qualities of clarity and practicality of Fr. Sales. He combined the precision and depth of the criticism and the modern exegesis.

But even Fr. Girotti’s work was to remain unfinished. The prior of the convent of Saint Dominic, in Turin, noted how Fr. Girotti, especially after the day of the armistice, September 8, 1943, arrived at the convent loaded with parcels, many times late at night. He justified himself by saying: “Everything I do is only for charity”. During the war, he helped, in particular, the Jews who where persecuted because of the racial laws. Amongst them there was the niece of the Rabbi Deangeli of Rome who decided to accompanying her to Switzerland. Along the way they where hidden by the doctor Giuseppe Diena in Cavoretto, and because of that they where discovered and arrested on August 29, 1944. Prof. Diena was deported to Flossemburg where, on March 2, 1945, was killed; Fr. Girotti was instead killed on the feast of the Easter of Resurrection, on April 1, 1945, in Dachau, where he was interned precisely because of the aid given. He was then 39 years old. The news spread. On the shore of his bed, an anonymous hand wrote: Saint Giuseppe Girotti.

On February 14, 1995, the State of Israel decided to honor Giuseppe Girotti, who during the period of the Holocaust in Europe exposed his life to save the persecuted Jews, giving him the honour of Righteous Among the Nations. The Church has recognized the testimony of Fr. Giuseppe Girotti and on Aprile 26, 2014, was declared Blessed, at the Cathedral of Alba, his hometown.

Holy Father, we thank you for the gifts of charity and science that inspired Blessed Giuseppe Girotti to sacrifice his life for his neighbors. Help us too to live the Gospel, and to treasure your Word through good works. Through his intercession we beseech you to grant us the grace …, and deign to glorify him here on earth, so that he may become a guide for us all. We ask this of you through Christ, our Lord who is the way, the truth and the life. Amen.

Fr. Massimo Negrelli, O.P.
Promotor for the causes of Saints for the Province of Saint Dominic in Italy

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