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 • Chiesa di Sant' Ignazio di Loyola a Campo Marzio
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 • Lazio
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Cardinal Paolo Dezza S.J.
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Birth: Dec. 13, 1901
Death: Dec. 17, 1999

Born in Parma, Italy, on December 13, 1901, Cardinal Paolo Dezza led the Pontifical Gregorian University during the Pontificate of Pope Pius XII, whom he aided in the preparation of the Dogma of the Assumption of Mary. He served as Confessor to Pope Paul VI and his Successor, Pope John Paul I, and teacher of Pope John Paul I's famed Successor, Pope John Paul II. In 1981, Pope John Paul II appointed then-Father Dezza and an Assistant, then-Father (later Archbishop) Giuseppe Pittau SJ., to head the Jesuit Order, which would have preferred a liberal American, Father Vincent O'Keefe. In 1991, Dezza was named Cardinal by Pope John Paul II out of gratitude for his services to the Church in the management of the crisis and for his work as a Theologian and University President. Pope John Paul II personally conducted the Mass of Christian Burial for the Funeral of Cardinal Dezza on Monday, December 20, 1999.

Aged seventeen, Dezza entered the Jesuit Order on December 2, 1918. He studied both in Madrid, Spain; Naples, Italy; and Innsbruck, Austria. He was ordained to the Priesthood in Naples, on March 25, 1928. A brilliant scholar, he was named Professor of Philosophy at the Gregorian University, but had to spend several years in Switzerland because of health complications. Upon completing his theological studies, he taught Metaphysics at the Gregorian University from 1929 to 1932. In 1935, he was named Provincial for the Province of Venice and Milan, and on August 5, 1941, he was named head of the Gregorian University. With Robert Leiber, Augustin Bea, Otto Faller G. Hentrich and R. G. de Moos he assisted in the preparation of the Dogma of the Assumption of Mary. As head of the University during the war years, after Croatian students started a nationalistic riot, he ruled that in future only the diocesis of origin not nationality is to be given by students of the University. In 1936, he helped found a centre for Scholastic Philosophy at Gallarate called the Aloisianium, and was made Professor of Metaphysics and Rector of this centre in 1939.

One Provincial who visited Dezza was astonished by his knowledgeable questioning, ranging not only over Jesuit work in the pPovincial's country but over the state of modern philosophy. This was all the more impressive as Dezza conducted the meeting at an empty desk with no notes.

In 1945, he baptized Israel Zolli, the Chief Rabbi of Rome and head of the Jewish Community, who, in recognition of the interventions of Pope Pius XII for the Jews in Rome during German occupation, took on the name Eugenio Zolli. Eugenio Zolli worked for the rest of his life in the Gregorian University. Dezza was said to be a leading candidate in the election for a new Jesuit General in 1946. Faculty Member of the Roman St. Robert Bellarmino College from 1951 until 1965, and General Delegate for the Jesuit International Houses between 1951 and 1962, from 1951 onwards, he headed as General Secretary the International Federation of Catholic Universities. He was Confessor to two Popes, Paul VI and John Paul I, arriving at the Vatican every Friday evening at seven pm., The only words he ever spoke about his long service to Pope Paul VI during his Pontificate were, that "this Pope is a man of great joy".

In an interview with Vatican Radio in 1997, Dezza revealed that late in his life, as age and infirmity overtook him, Pope Paul VI had seriously considered resigning, but decided against it because he believed it would be traumatic for the Church.

Dezza was also present when Paul VI died, as he later recounted. "At the moment of death, the alarm clock went off. It was a little alarm clock he had had for years and it was a bit damaged. That morning the secretary had fixed it and, without realising it, set the alarm precisely for the time the Pope died. I gave him the last absolution and saw how he expired serenely."

After the death of Pope Paul VI, Dezza was more outspoken, saying that "if Paul VI was not a saint, when he was elected Pope, he became one during his Pontificate. I was able to witness not only with what energy and dedication he toiled for Christ and the Church but also and avove all, how much he suffered for Christ and the Church. I always admired not only his deep inner resignation but also his constant abandonment to divine providence.".

Once, when the newly elected John Paul I sent word that he wished Dezza to hear his confession, Dezza telephoned the Pope's secretary to arrange the appointment. The man who answered the phone regretted that the secretary was unavailable but asked if he could help. Dezza - who was long familiar with Vatican protocol - was astonished to learn that the Pope himself had answered the telephone.

Named General Assistant of the 31st General Congregation of the Society of Jesus in 1965, Regional Assistant for Italy, and Admonitor to the Superior General in 1973, Dezza was appointed President of the Commission of Superior Studies of the Society of Jesus in 1974. After being named General Assistant, he moved to the Jesuit headquarters, a stone's-throw from the Vatican, at Borgo Santo Spirito, where he lived for the rest of his life.

In 1981, as the battle between conservatives and liberals in the Jesuits intensified, the Order's Superior General, Pedro Arrupe, suffered a stroke. The Jesuits nominated the Rev. Vincent O'Keefe, an ardent American liberal, to run the order until a successor could be found. The Pope, in a highly unusual and historic decision intervened and appointed instead Father Dezza, who was known as a brilliant scholar and also a traditionalist, as a special pontifical delegate to serve as the Jesuits' interim leader. Already in 1979, the newly elected Pope warned a gathering of Jesuits that their Order was causing confusion among the Christian people and anxieties to the church. The Pope knew Dezza personally as his teacher. As a student in the Belgian College in Rome after the war, he had attended Dezza's lectures at the Gregorian Pontifical University. Although nearly blind and approaching his 80th birthday, Dezza accepted the difficult task of persuading the more rebellious Jesuits to cool it, while persuading the Pope that the Society had realised the dangers of its stand and was renewing its loyalty to the Holy See.

In 1983, the Jesuits elected Peter Hans Kolvenbach, a Dutch academic as their new Superior General.

At 89 years of age, Dezza was created Cardinal Deacon in the Consistory of June 28, 1991, by Pope John Paul II, receiving the Deaconry of S. Ignazio di Loyola a Campo Marzio.

Cardinal Dezza passed away in Rome, on Friday, December 17, 1999, aged 98. Buried, temporarily, in the Mausoleum of the Society of Jesus in Campo Verano Cemetery of Rome, his remains were transferred to the Church of S. Ignazio di Loyola a Campo Marzio, on Sunday December 17, 2006, and buried in a specially constructed marble sarcophagus. 
 
Inscription:
QUI
NEL SUO TITOLO
RIPOSA
IL CARDINALE PAOLO DEZZA S.I.
FEDELE SERVITORE
DELLA SEDE APOSTOLICA E DELLA COMPAGNIA DI GES┘
PARMA 13.12.1901 ROMA 17.12.1999
 
Burial:
Chiesa di Sant' Ignazio di Loyola a Campo Marzio
Rome
Provincia di Roma
Lazio, Italy
 
Created by: Eman Bonnici
Record added: Mar 23, 2011
Find A Grave Memorial# 67309844
Cardinal Paolo Dezza S.J.
Added by: Eman Bonnici
 
Cardinal Paolo Dezza S.J.
Added by: Eman Bonnici
 
Cardinal Paolo Dezza S.J.
Added by: Eman Bonnici
 
 
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Requiem Šternam dona ei, Domine : et lux perpetua luceat ei. In memoria Šterna erit iustus, ab auditione mala non timebit!
- Eman Bonnici
 Added: Mar. 23, 2011
 
 
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