Commemorative Report: Canonico Dottore Francesco Aloisio: A Diverse Profile of His Thinking
By: Gaetano Zummo
In: Comune di Poggioreale – Atti del Convegno Commemorativo Sulla Figura e Le Opere Dell’Arciprete Dott. Nunzio Caronna e del Canonico Dott. Francesco Aloisio. By Prof. Erasmo Velia e Ins. Gaetano Zummo. Prova d’Autore Press.
Before beginning my discussion, it seems right and proper to thank, together with the Municipal Administration of Poggioreale, the Mayor Pietro Velia, who invited me to make this report, thus offering me the opportunity and the pleasure of talking about our illusory fellow citizen Rev. Francesco Aloisio.
It is a task that I gladly accepted because I believe it is right and proper, that our fellow citizen, buried in total oblivion, may be better known even by more recent generations.
It would have been perhaps more just and wise to give him this recognition when he was still alive, when he spent sleepless nights in his private study of papers and books, to leave us this patrimony of works, most of which, linked to his belief, to its territory and its people.
I do not hide the difficulty and the difficulty of the task assigned to me, having to speak of a scholar, known only to the old generation, but of which, I believe, no one has ever written or highlighted his multiple peculiarities.
The historian Francesco Renda, in the second volume of his ponderous treatise on the History of Sicily from 1860 to 1970, writes:
“The last Sicilian nineteenth century was an island of time of priests and prelates of exceptional temperament, some even deserving of a process of beatification.”
It is reasonable to think, I say, that there may have been a historical motivation that would explain this new attitude of churchmen.
I believe, in my humble opinion, may be the logical consequence of the approval, July 18, 1870, of the Constitution: “Pastor Eternus,” by the Vatican Council I, prepared by Pius IX.
In fact, since the suppression of the millennial Papal State, the modern papacy was born, less bound to the “urbe” and more oriented towards “orbs,” that is, towards the whole world, towards man understood as the creature of God, regardless of the its geopolitical location and, therefore, with an increased attention and influence on the whole of Western Christianity.
The Pope and the Church, represented by his priests, from September 20, 1870 onwards, began to see their ascendant grow in an unstoppable way, not only spiritual, but also moral, cultural and even political.
The death of Pius IX, and the accession to the papal throne of the “liberal” Camerlengo Gioacchino Pecci with the name of Leo XIII, seemed to open a new era.
The long life of Father Francesco Aloisio began when he was born November 7, 1877 and he later died on May 18, 1965, at the age of 88. His long life was always infused with Christian spirituality and a love for the faithful, was always put at the service of community, as a priest, but also as a writer, having created works whose content is closely linked, as well as his belief, almost always to our territory, to our roots, to local customs and traditions, as well as to our beautiful, rich traditions of “ancient and precious things,” which unfortunately, time has partly erased and continues inexorably to erase.
He was ordained a priest in 1903 and carried out his ministry, always free from all selfishness, always far from personal interests or, in some way, contrary to the rules of the good shepherd.
He, in the exercise of his priestly ministry, always entrusted himself to the force of truth and not to forced compulsion.
He focused on the convincing attraction of the Gospel and of divine goodness and not on all that, in some way, is the effect of fear and faith.
He argued that “fraternal correction” is part of Christian life, and that Christian education consists not only in simply remembering the list of precepts and prohibitions.
“This”, he said, “was the attitude of the Pharisees when they complained to the Lord about the behavior noted in his that highlighted the most salient titles that characterized the scholar; we can identify at least five: the historian, the theologian, the philosopher, the preacher, the educator. During the development of this relationship, we will examine them, in a simple and summary way, one by one.”
It must be said that Father Aloisio, as a historian, had two great qualities: punctuality and the appreciable stubbornness that every historian should have in a careful search for the truth.
As evidence of this, he is pleased to cite the following expression by Gino Capponi:
“History is not guessed and never made by conjecture, where documents are missing, human things are told, not invented.”
Our illustrious scholar maintains that one must search with commitment and sometimes even with difficulty and dig to get to the sources and thus be able to document the truth, which, otherwise, could be considered questionable.
His historical research, in fact, was always passionate and zealous and, in some respects, even tiring.
This is clearly evident from his own words, often in support of theses of very eminent and authoritative ancient historians such as: Dionigi D. Halicarnassus, Diodorus Siculus, Thucydides, Darete Frige, to mention only the major ones, to demonstrate, as we said before, which were the real territory of the Elimi and the location of their city: Elima, founded, according to his thesis, on Monte Delle Rose, now Monte Castellazzo, in the territory of Poggioreale.
Or, again, when he had to prove another of his theses, in many respects, linked and correlated to the first, on the real site of the river’s course mentioned by the ancient historians with the name of Crimìso, according to which, that site corresponds perfectly to the course of the river that crosses our territory, that is the Belìce river, a voice that would have come from Belik, name of the homonymous Arab-Saracen Casale, founded on the Monte delle Rose in the year 828, after the destruction of Elima, by the same Arab-Saracens.
To this end, the zealous and indefatigable scholar vigorously reiterated the thesis supported by the Most Illustrious Bishop Vincenzo Di Giovanni in his historical research: New Sicilian Effemèrids and, through indisputable sources and ancient written testimonies, he demonstrated, with extreme clarity, that Elima came located on the Monte delle Rose, which dominated the Crimìso from the sources (to the north) to the mouth (to the south-south-west) and which Crimìso called the today’s Belìce Destro vases.
This responds exactly to the topography and is chosen as their protector and of the very troubled affair to get to place the Saint in his definitive church, the night of June 13, 1862. Until that date, the saint was forced to stay for 66 years, in the church of Jesus and Mary, because his church, built at the expense and interest of a lay citizen: Don Giuseppe Campisi, also with the help of legacies and large sums offered by its sister Donna Antonia Campisi in Agosta, was completed only in 1862, but was not yet open for worship.
“It was so that on June 13 of that year, when, in the evening, the procession, coming from the Mother Church, arrived before the church of the Saint, the population stopped, shouting in chorus: ‘Lu Santu nun fly ahead, fly open the church!’. There stood before all the people, without distinction of social classes. Indeed those who presided over the government of the country and the same urban guards, while apparently shouting, inviting to order, whispered to the assault to take possession of the church.”
I skip, for the sake of synthesis, some passages of the author, who thus continues:
“Thus, having become one man, that human mass, gave furious climb to the gate, breaking the locks with blows of a hammer and breaking into the atrium, freed the door of the church from the blocks of stone that obstructed it…”
It is a publication which, as the author himself states in the preface to the book:
“Reveals the antiquated glories of the buried Entella and arouses interest and constitutes an incentive for more in-depth and documented studies, with which they can be provoked and obtained by the Regional Councilorship and from the Ministry of Cultural Heritage, those excavations that are so necessary, that with their unrepeatable testimony, they will be able to give the decisive and clear sentence on that city, by presenting it in its true light.”
We cannot not share the opinion of the author. By removing the thick dust accumulated over the centuries, we could appreciate the ancient splendor of this mythical city, founded by Entello, friend and companion of Enea founder of Erice, and brother of Elimo and Egeste, founders respectively of Elima and Segesta.
His is almost a prophecy! In fact the archaeological research at Entella began in 1979, 14 years just after his death, bringing to light works and testimonies of very high archaeological and historical value.
But his main and best known work, as a historian, is certainly The History of Poggioreale of Sicily, published in 1955 and written on behalf of the Mayor of the Municipality of Poggioreale, Cav. Nicolò Tamburello, with by decree: Protocolo Numero 3394 of November 10, 1954.
The book that was published by the publishing house Boccone del Povero, on December 28th 1956 and that, for he was appointed: a member of the Sicilian Society for the History of the Homeland in Palermo; a member of the Opera Our Contemporaries in Rome; and the Director of the Municipal Library of Poggioreale.
Now we will try to learn more about the Priest Theologian.
In this context, the Illustrious Canonico Aloisio has created a very unique and in some respects, also very original work: Gli Angeli, published in 1963.
A difficult subject, very difficult to deal with, only a few expert Doctors of Christian Doctrine and specialized Theologians have spoken and written about these perfect Spirits or pure creatures possessing the splendor of God in the greatest possible degree.
The first to realize the difficulty of the task and the importance of this work was Prof. Can. dr. Melchiorre Geraci Master of Sacred Dogmatic Theology and Philosophy in the Episcopal Seminary of Mazara del Vallo, who, before the publication of the work, so the serious ones:
“Allow me to express from a distance my admiration for your valuable writing that with edifying humility, he wanted to give me to listen. I hope that you decide to publish it to make others participate in your high commitment to a theme of exquisite theological flavor, highly recorded on magnetic tapes and cassettes.”
One of these boxes would also have been recorded by the Renewal in the Holy Spirit group, kindly guided to Palermo and I believe in Sicily, by the charismatic great man of faith Father Matteo La Grua, whose healing prayers, always addressed to the Almighty Father, have healed and healed several people, even from evils considered incurable by the greatest experts in contemporary medicine.
In this respect, therefore, Father Aloisio, with his publication was by faith and certainly not by fashion, a precursor, in dealing with such a particular subject.
He stigmatizes in this work of his, how we cannot think of being strangers to the Angels, but we are in a union of presence. They monitor all our actions. They pray for us, but, individually, each Guardian Angel prays for his guardian. The presence of the Guardian Angel is the proof that God wants everyone to be saved and as proof of this he cites the following sentence written in Latin, taken from an ancient text of theology: Voluit omnes salvos fieri, [God, over time, wants everyone saved.]
The learned man of faith also quotes St. Francis, claiming that this great saint, during a heavenly vision, saw 38 Angels, who had the task of accompanying souls from place to place, according to the will of God; the head of these Angels was Saint Michael the Archangel.
This was my assumption:
“I have chosen a very difficult matter to deal with, that, if the suitable and specific terms were lacking, one could not express, with extreme clarity, such high level concepts, such as those that define these admirable spiritual creatures, the most exalted and eminent after God and Mary Saint Mary, in the universality created by God.”
“My”, he said, “wants to be a challenge to myself, but above all to the world of academics and linguists, to show them that the Sicilian is not a dialect, but a real language, capable of expressing any concept, also abstruse and difficult and able to treat any subject, from scientific to philosophical and even theological ones.”
I took that manuscript to my house and read it. I confess that I got tired not a little, being the Sicilian difficult to read even for us Sicilians and especially for those who are not used to it.
When the next evening we met, I told him that his work was fascinating and supremely rich in theological doctrine, naively showing him my perplexity and that the wonderful work written in Sicilian, given the difficulty of the language, might have read it in a few; it was like a precious gem enclosed in a casket of which few enthusiasts could appreciate and enjoy its splendor.
The Father told me that he too had the fascinating eloquence, he carried the audience up high, towards the Mighty and the Divine.
As a preacher he was required and preached in the major and most important Italian bases: in Palermo, in Cagliari, in Livorno, in Rome twice in the prestigious Basilica of Santa Maria degli Angeli, always receiving praise and certificates of praise.
I quote one for all, that of Mgr. Lorenzo Jella, Vicar General of the Diocese of Mazara del Vallo, who in a letter dated 2 April 1923, sent from Rome, wrote to him as follows:
“Most Reverend Can. Dr. Francesco Aloisio, it is of utmost joy to signify to you that you have truly done honor, giving new proof of being a talented speaker.”
His audience, in the great Temple of Santa Maria degli Angeli, was always very numerous and elected and all were fully and entirely satisfied.
“A very high and flattering goal that very few can and know in Rome. Among the sacred orators of Lent, whom they preached in Rome this year, she was deservedly ranked among the first.”
Even the press of the time took care of him ..
The Livorno newspaper “La Verità”, on March 20, 1910, wrote:
“Everyone likes to hear the opinions of others when they are well expressed. Even the most ferocious anticlericals appreciate the learned, lucid and elegant word of the Cathedral’s valorous Lentenalist, the strictly materialistic Canon, which gives the idea that the inert matter formed by atoms is organized and obeys specific laws, regardless of an intelligent and transcendent cause. Our illustrious thinker maintained that chance cannot order matter, it cannot transform it from brute to thinking. The atoms that make up the matter have been and will always be equal in space and time. Those that make up any star, thousands of light years away, are identical to those that make up the matter of our Earth or any other planet. They did not agree to have the same characteristics and to obey the exact same laws. A single cause, out of space and time, absolute master of being, could make them identical in their essence, that is, could create them. This cause can only be God, the infinite and eternal Being, the unique Principle of all things. For which reason, according to the order established by Him, inert matter already intrinsically contains the germs, that is, the beginnings of life.”
In Rome, August 5, 1912, following the performance of the aforementioned Philosophical Degree Thesis: “The matter in its genesis”, as the highest recognition of the value of the thesis, the Hispano-Americana University decreed to grant him the degree: State Doctor of Philosophy.
This is a passage that fully reflects the qualities of our educator and to which he was certainly inspired, both in his educational work and in his other activities as a writer.
That Father Aloisio, in which contemporaries recognized, besides the marked cultural and moral qualities always founded on theological ones, also singular and noble social virtues, remains a leading figure; certainly a figure of all times, to be able to present as a model of life, both to ecclesial communities and to civil ones.
His works, almost all dated, born in a socio-economic-cultural-religious context very far from the current one, I believe they cannot be repeated, at least in their forms. The spirit that pervaded and animated them, however, remains and remains current, because it is that which is always alive and dynamic of the Gospel, according to a religious conception neither secular nor clerical.
“All our dignity as men lies in thought. In it we must look for the reason to rise and not in space and time that, given our limitations, we could never fill.”
In his long life Father Aloisio always kept in mind this wise and enlightened teaching of the great French thinker, “Language inherited from our fathers is a precious heritage that must be valued, safeguarded, jealously guarded and never lost.”
[This webpage is excerpted from the book: “The History of Poggioreale, Sicily – From 1640 to 1956.” Originally written in Italian by: Canonico Dottore Francesco Aloisio in 1956. Adapted and translated by: Dr. Jeremiah P. Spence, Ph.D. of Austin, Texas. 5th Edition. International Order of Genealogists Publishing. Ireland. 2019. ISBN: 9781072403371. The book can be purchased online at: https://www.amazon.com/History-Poggioreale-Sicily-1640-1956/dp/1072403374/ ]