The Real Rosmini

A Man of Dialogue 1




At the recent bicentenary celebrations Rosmini was mentioned frequently as a man of dialogue sometimes with too much appreciation and exaggeration resulting in some annoyance. The Rosminian brethren and sisters, preoccupied with the crisis of vocations and their own increasing age for active works, were wondering about the future of their Institute.

Meanwhile speaking and writing about Rosmini continues and the group of new admirers increases in numbers and enthusiasm. Monsignor Riva, questioned recently in an interview on whether he thought Rosmini was relevant to the men and women of today gave the latter a prominent place in the cultural plan which the Church, through the words of Pope John Paul II and the Synod of Italian Bishops gathered in Palermo, has proposed for the world of the Third Millennium.

Recently Maurizio De Paoli, the writer and journalist, wrote in Jesus, the well known Catholic review: "But who was really Rosmini? And what remains of his extraordinary witness as a man of faith and culture? Renewed interest for Rosminian work revolves round these questions. A first answer- continues De Paoli- can be gleaned from the Discourse of John Paul II at the gathering of the Institute of Charity on 10 November 1988". "Everyone knows the commitment to intense intellectual work that was characteristic of Rosmini, who was constantly striving to make the Gospel known. His mind was particularly sensitive to the great problem of harmonising faith and reason and he wished to devote his attention to the most renowned thinkers of…his time by seeking out ever more suitable ways of communicating Christian doctrine to people, and especially to the world of culture and knowledge, favouring an appropriate updating of language and dialogue." 2

Between different cultures, then, but surely also different religions and denominations. "Rosmini, as a man of dialogue and as author of a Cultural Project is capable of uniting humanity and its history with the proclamation of the Gospel."

We know that Rosmini conceived and set to work to bring about a Catholic encylopaedia to counteract that of the French Enlightenment. And if the project did not come to fruition…it was certainly not his fault."

"Dialogue and a cultural project - De Paoli continues- are precisely the great themes which still enliven discussion within the Church." (Jesus, n.5, 1997).

Personally I am a bit disappointed with the words of Cardinal Martini in his concluding address at the convention organised by the Catholic University, entitled The Origin, Destiny and Prophecy of the Five Wounds of the Church. Martini seemed to me to be intent on stressing the undoubted progress of the Church of which in his eyes there is no trace in the Five Wounds. "This work lacks any positive mention of the ecumenical problem, the great wound of division among Christian Churches, its implications and healing. There is no mention of the wound of the first division with Israel which was for Paul a cause of great suffering and Christian anguish. There is no mention of the hopes issuing from dialogue with the great religions, and the consequent overcoming of an attitude of outright condemnation." 3

This is the same as asking, "Was Rosmini a prophet"? Certainly he was but not enough for our Cardinal. Excuse my unwonted presumption but I would remind him of the date of the draft of the Five Wounds- 1830- with its problems and those of the Church at the time. And I would point out that Rosmini sent his first missionaries to England and to Ireland…. With a prophetic eye on India where the Rosminians would arrive more than a hundred years later.

With regard to this Monsignor Riva, mentioned above, stated more or less at the same time in his interview, Rosmini, no longer a Troublesome Prophet, 4 that the latter is now a universal patrimony.

During the Cattedra at Stresa (August 1997) a Polish university professor expressed his surprise at the significant agreement between the thought of Rosmini and that of Pope John Paul II on the subject of human rights and the dignity of the person. Another Professor from Georgia who has translated the Five Wounds into his own language and now is translating the book into Russian, stated that he considered this most renowned book as basic for the Orthodox world to which he belongs. Riva continues, "Rosmini analysed the problems of the Church in his day and felt the need of radical reform, taking the primitive Church as the model to follow. This return to the Church of our roots, to primitive Christianity, has great ecumenical value and is therefore greatly relevant. Rosmini was a prophet even in this matter."

As far as I am concerned, accepting only that Rosmini did not feel sorrow and deep sadness for the early break with Israel would be to do him an injustice. Indeed enamoured of God, of the Church and of people, Rosmini is also shown as a champion of that ecumenism which implies and presupposes an internal and external dialogue on the part of the Church which he foresaw and visualised to be as universal as is the Charity on which it is founded….He stated that as people always tend to restrict and shatter unity so in our days it is very expedient and necessary that Christians who are spread throughout the world unite together in a more zealous, wider and effective"…union to which the Institute aims with all its force.

There are hundreds and hundreds of statements of Rosmini in which his love of the Church is witnessed:


"The Church is the work of God, and not of man; it is founded solely on the Divine Word."

"The Church is a divine society which deserves all our love…and Christians should consider family, country and nation as parts of a greater and more lofty society, the great society of the Church …as so many means by which the glory of the Church is promoted…subordinating affection for family, country and nation to that of the Church."

This wholehearted love of Rosmini for the Church which was conspicuous came at great cost. Cardinal Martini certainly knows this and John Paul II understood this with his reference to the many trials that Rosmini experienced in his far from easy relations with certain eminent people and ecclesiastical circles:


"It was precisely these trials that bore witness to and matured the holiness of his life; precisely in this way he taught us how to love the Church, how to work for the Church, how one can and should suffer for her true good."

Even in the present difficulties it seems prophetic that another Jesuit stated recently that he would happily see Rosmini in the martyrology of the Church.


1 An article in Speranze n.146 by Fr Rinaldo Nave entitled, "Attualita di Rosmini, L'uomo d el dialogo.TEXT

2 Address to the chapter fathers 1988. Readers will know that Rosmini was mentioned in the Pope's latest Encyclical on Faith and Reason TEXT

3 See translation, "A Bishop's Reaction to reading the "Five Wounds of the Church". Translated from Speranze n.142.. TEXT

4 See translation, "No longer a Troublesome Prophet". Translated from Speranze n.143. TEXT