Card. Giacomo Lercaro: bishop that held dialogue with communists

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The clash between the Catholic Church and Western communism is perhaps best represented by the Italian city of Bologna.

Tensions were running high, but late Cardinal Giacomo Lercaro earned the respect of working class families with his down-to-earth approach.

At the very height of Communism, he founded local parishes in the city's outskirts. He also turned his living quarters into a safe haven for the youth.

Secretary of Cardinal Giacomo Lercaro
“He used every single corner to welcome more people. There were about 70 of them. In the morning, he would go wake them up. He was like a father figure and would often refer to them as his family. Cardinal Montini went to visit him once and asked 'How can you manage? At night I relax with classical music.' He responded by saying: 'The voice of the youth is my classical music.'”

His greatest achievement, though, wasn't fighting Communism, but rather speaking and engaging with those who defended it. Despite the stark differences, he had the respect and understanding of the city's then mayor, Giuseppe Dozza.

These revelations are highlighted in a documentary titled 'Secondo lo Spirito' by Italian director Lorenzo Stanzani.

Director 'Secondo lo Spirito'
“I decided to make a documentary about Cardinal Lercaro because it's a beautiful story that can teach us all something. I'm an atheist, but I think today's world is in dire need of spirituality.”

Things didn't always go smoothly for Cardinal Lercaro. His style also led to harsh criticisms. Some believe the negativity led to his resignation in 1968.

Perhaps the tipping point was a blunt speech he gave after the U.S military launched air strikes in Vietnam.

It's a speech that was touched on 50 years later by Pope Francis. During his visit to Bologna, the Pope reiterated that the Church cannot be neutral before evil.

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