Giuseppe Toniolo

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Bl. Giuseppe Toniolo
Born March 7, 1845
Treviso, Italy
Died October 7, 1918
Venerated in Roman Catholicism
Beatified 29 April 2012, Basilica of Saint Paul Outside the Walls by Pope Benedict XVI
Controversy Catholic social action

Blessed Giuseppe Toniolo (1845-1918) was an Italian Catholic economist and sociologist.

Early life[edit]

Toniolo was born to a middle-class family in Treviso, in the parish of Sant'Andrea. During his childhood, Toniolo's family moved several times, as his father, an engineer, took different jobs at various places in Italy's Veneto region. Toniolo attended secondary school in Venice, before entering the University of Padua. There, he studied jurisprudence and took courses by Fedele Lampertico and Angelo Messedaglia. Toniolo graduated in 1866 and married married Maria Schiratti in 1878; the couple eventually had seven children.

Career and Thought[edit]

Rather than pursue a legal career, Toniolo taught economics for more than four decades, Toniolo was named assistant to the chair in juridical-political studies at his alma mater, the University of Padua in 1868, then taught in Venice at the Istituto tecnico for four years beginning in 1874, interrupted by another short stint at the University of Padua. In 1878, Toniolo became a professor at the University of Modena and Reggio Emilia. Named a professor at the University of Pisa in 1883, Toniolo held the chair of political economics there until his death in 1918.

Toniolo defended the importance of religious values in politics and economics, although some Catholics of his day shunned politics because of masonic and anti-clerical elements who had helped to unify Italy as a country in 1860. Toniolo developed theories of Catholic social teaching which formed a middle path between the laissez-faire economics as then taught by followers of Adam Smith (and advocated in Italy by Cavour and later Vilfredo Pareto), and the state-centered socialism taught by followers of Karl Marx.[1] Germanic historical economic thought, particularly Gustav von Schmoller and later Joseph Schumpeter heavily influenced Italian intellectuals of the day.[2] Toniolo advocated worker protection, and in 1889 founded a union to fight for worker rights, and also worked to limit the work week and protect women and children. Toniolo believed in institutions which could mediate between individuals and the state, from the family, to unions and professional associations. Toniolo led the Catholic Social Action movement in Italy after 1900, somewhat similar to Catholic social activism in the United States including by Dorothy Day. Toniolo's ideas in particular influenced Popes Leo XIII (including the 1891 encyclical Rerum novarum) and Pius X.[3]

Death and Legacy[edit]

In the month before he died, Toniolo urged his friends to establish a university at Milan after the current war ended, Agostino Gemelli founded the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart (a/k/a Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore) in 1921, and it grew to become one of the world's largest universities today. One branch of its medical school is in Rome (the Gemelli Institute), and always keeps space open to serve the pope's medical needs.[4]

Toniolo's remains lie buried at the church of Santa Maria Assunta at Pieve di Soligo in his native Veneto region.

The Federation of Catholic University Students began lobbying for recognition of Toniolo's sanctity in 1933, and a man was inexplicitly healed of serious injuries sustained in a 2006 fall after invoking Toniolo's intercession.[5] In June, 2012, Pope Benedict XVI beatified Toniolo, the first economist to be so honored. In a symposium concerning the recently beatified Toniolo, Vatican Secretary of State Bertone specifically cited him as a model for lay activism.[6] However, as of 2013, none of Toniolo's works has been translated into English.

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