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Alfredo Ildefonso Schuster

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Alfredo Ildefonso Schuster

Archbishop of Milan
Formal portrait, c. 1930
ChurchRoman Catholic Church
Appointed26 June 1929
Term ended30 August 1954
PredecessorEugenio Tosi
SuccessorGiovanni Battista Montini
Other post(s)Cardinal-Priest of Santi Silvestro e Martino ai Monti (1929–54)
Ordination19 March 1904
by Pietro Respighi
Consecration21 July 1929
by Pope Pius XI
Created cardinal15 July 1929
by Pope Pius XI
Personal details
Alfredo Ludovico Schuster

(1880-01-18)18 January 1880
Ospedale Santissimo Salvatore, Rome, Kingdom of Italy
Died30 August 1954(1954-08-30) (aged 74)
Archiepiscopal Seminary Pio XI, Venegono Inferiore, Varese, Italy
BuriedCathedral of Milan
Previous post(s)
Coat of armsAlfredo Ildefonso Schuster's coat of arms
Feast day30 August
Venerated inRoman Catholic Church
Beatified12 May 1996
Saint Peter's Square, Vatican City
by Pope John Paul II
  • Pastoral staff
  • Cardinal's attire
PatronageArchdiocese of Milan
Ordination history of
Alfredo Ildefonso Schuster
Priestly ordination
Ordained byPietro Respighi
Date19 March 1904
PlaceLateran Basilica, Rome, Kingdom of Italy
Episcopal consecration
Principal consecratorPope Pius XI
Co-consecratorsCarlo Cremonesi
Agostino Zampini
Date21 June 1929
PlaceSistine Chapel, Vatican City
Elevated byPope Pius XI
Date15 July 1929
Episcopal succession
Bishops consecrated by Alfredo Ildefonso Schuster as principal consecrator
Arcangelo Mazzotti, O.F.M.26 April 1931
Francesco Fulgenzio Lazzati, O.F.M.8 November 1931
Adriano Bernareggi24 January 1932
Giacinto Tredici, Obl.Ss.A.C.6 January 1934
Rodolfo Orler, F.S.C.J.7 February 1934
Gustavo Testa1 November 1934
Pietro Mozzanica, Ob.S.C.23 December 1934
Enrico Montalbetti, Obs.S.C.9 June 1935
Giovanni Luigi Marinoni, O.F.M. Cap.23 August 1936
Paolo Castiglioni7 February 1937
Domenico Grassi, P.I.M.E.1 May 1939
Norberto Perini30 November 1941
Ildebrando Vannucci, O.S.B.2 August 1942
Domenico Bernareggi29 July 1945
Egidio Bignamini2 December 1945
Giuseppe Obert, P.I.M.E.6 February 1949
Giovanni Battista Cesana, M.C.C.I.1 April 1951
Alfonso Beretta, P.I.M.E.8 April 1951
Vitale Bonifacio Bertoli, O.F.M.20 May 1951
Anacleto Cazzaniga19 March 1953
Costantino Caminada29 June 1953
Agostino Saba4 October 1953

Alfredo Ildefonso Schuster O.S.B. (Italian pronunciation: [alˈfreːdo ildeˈfɔnso ʃˈʃuster],[1][2] German: [ˈʃuːstɐ]; born Alfredo Ludovico Schuster; 18 January 1880 – 30 August 1954) was an Italian Catholic prelate and professed member from the Benedictines who served as the Archbishop of Milan from 1929 until his death. He became known as Ildefonso as a Benedictine monk and served as an abbot prior to his elevation to the cardinalate.[3]

He led the Milanese archdiocese during World War II and was known to have supported fascism at first. His views changed to opposition after the annexation of Austria and the introduction of Italian racial laws, which prompted vocal criticisms of anti-Christian aspects of Benito Mussolini's regime.[4]

Schuster's beatification was celebrated in mid-1996 in Saint Peter's Square.[3]


Childhood and priesthood[edit]

Alfredo Ludovico Schuster was born in 1880 in the Ospedale Santissimo Salvatore in Rome to Johann Schuster (a Bavarian tailor and double widower) and Maria Anna Tutzer (who hailed from Bolzano).[4][3] Johann was three decades older than Tutzer. His sister Giulia entered the Vincentians as a nun. He also had three half-siblings from his father's second marriage. Schuster was baptized on 20 January as "Alfredo Ludovico Luigi". In his childhood, he was kidnapped for a brief period but the kidnapper was arrested.[5]

Schuster received his Confirmation on 2 April 1887 from Monsignor Giulio Lenti and made his First Communion on Pentecost 1890 in the church of Sant'Anna in Porta Angelica. His father Johann died on 18 September 1889.[4]

He served as an altar server at the Santa Maria della Pietà in Camposanto dei Teutonici church next to Saint Peter's Basilica. Schuster completed his high school studies (ginnasiali and liceali) at the Basilica of Saint Paul Outside the Walls in November 1891. On 13 November 1898, he joined the Order of Saint Benedict at their novitiate at Saint Paul Outside the Walls when he took the name Ildefonso.[5] He later professed his monastic vows on 13 November 1900. He graduated with a Doctor of Philosophy on 14 June 1903 and later received a doctorate in theology from the Pontifical Atheneum of Saint Anselm in Rome.

Schuster received his ordination as a priest on 19 March 1904 at the patriarchal Lateran Basilica in Rome from Cardinal Pietro Respighi (its archpriest). He returned to the Basilica of Saint Paul Outside the Walls in 1904. His two mentors during his time of education were Father Bonifacio Oslander and Tommaso Riccardi.[3]


He became the novice master in 1908 and prior in 1916 before he was elected as the abbot for Saint Paul Outside the Walls on 6 April 1918. He also received the abbatial blessing from Cardinal Basilio Pompili on 14 April there.[5] He served as the Procurator General for the Cassinese Congregation from 1914 to 1929 and also served as the President of the Pontifical Oriental Institute from 1919 to 1922. He visited the seminaries of the northern Lombard region as well as those in the southern regions of Campania and Calabria from 1924 to 1928.[5] Either in November or December 1926 he preached the spiritual exercises to Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli (the future Pope John XXIII) at Saint Paul Outside the Walls. While abbot he was made a consulter to the Congregation for Rites and the Congregation for the Oriental Churches.[4]

Episcopate and cardinalate[edit]

Schuster was named Archbishop of Milan on 26 June 1929 to succeed Eugenio Tosi. On the following 13 July, he took the oath of allegiance to the Italian state in front of King Vittorio Emanuele III; he was the first Italian bishop to do this since the new Lateran Concordat required it according to Article 20 of the concordat.[3][5] Pope Pius XI elevated Schuster to the cardinalate in 1929 as the Cardinal-Priest of Santi Silvestro e Martino ai Monti. Carlo Cremonesi and Agostino Zampini served as the co-consecrators. In 1933 he was conferred as a bailiff grand cross of honour and devotion to the Order of Malta.[6]

Schuster ordained 1265 priests and consecrated 22 bishops during his tenure as archbishop.[3] He also made five pastoral visits during his episcopate and selected Saint Carlo Borromeo as his model as an archbishop. He emphasized the importance of catechetics and promoted the Catholic Action movement for the faithful. He also believed that the goal of all Christians was holiness.[4]

He served as a papal legate on several occasions. On 15 August 1932 he was appointed as the legate to the celebration of Nostra Signora di Caravaggio; on 21 March 1934 to the millennial commemorations of the Einsiedeln convent in Switzerland; on 15 September 1937 to the inauguration of the new facade of the cathedral of Desio; and on 2 August 1951 to the National Eucharistic Conference in Assisi.[citation needed]

He participated in the papal conclave in 1939 which elected Pope Pius XII on the eve of World War II and was even considered as a papabile candidate for those seeking a more pastoral pope.[citation needed]


Schuster's tomb in the Cathedral of Milan.

He died on 30 August 1954 at 4:15 am of a heart ailment in the seminary of Venegono Inferiore near Milan. Cardinal Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli (the future Pope John XXIII) celebrated his funeral. He was buried on 2 September 1954 in the metropolitan cathedral next to his two immediate predecessors.[5] His tomb was opened on 28 January 1985 and his remains were found to be intact.[7]


Relations with fascism[edit]

There were claims during the process for Schuster's beatification that he was supportive of Italian fascism.[7] While there is evidence of some support for fascist ambitions, there is also evidence that he denounced the anti-Christian element of fascism. It was said that he refused to participate in ceremonies involving Mussolini and also condemned racist legislation during the fascist period.[7]

After the signing of the Lateran Pacts of 1929, Schuster thought it was possible to christianize Italian society within the framework of the Fascist state, so he considered necessary to collaborate with it only if the scope and prerogatives of the Church were protected. In June 1929, at the time of his appointment as Archbishop, Minister of Justice Alfredo Rocco described Schuster as a Fascist "regime sympathizer". On 21 March 1930, in the anniversary of the foundation of the Fasci di Combattimento, Schuster spoke of a "mission of salvation" being entrusted to the Duce, which caused confusion among some Catholics.[10]

Schuster was an enthusiastic supporter of the Italian invasion of Ethiopia in 1935, compared it to the Crusades, and viewed it as a potential source of converts.[11][12] On 28 October 1935, while celebrating Mass in the Cathedral of Milan, he asked God to protect the Italian troops as "they open the door of Ethiopia to the Catholic faith and Roman civilisation"[13] before he blessed the banners of the departing troops.[citation needed]

In a speech at the School of Fascist Mystique in Rome in 1937, he spelt out a fanciful direct link between Imperial Rome and Christian Rome to fascism: "God has chosen to reward the Duce by drawing his historical figure closer to the great spirits of Constantine and Augustus, through the work of Benito Mussolini reconnecting Rome and its King to a shining new imperial crown of Roman peace."[14]

In 1938, his views changed by Germany's annexation of Austria and its introducing racial doctrines, reflected then in the Italian Racial Laws of 1938.[15]

Relationship with Mussolini[edit]

The Italian fascist and German Nazi press attacked Schuster during the war, without his suffering loss of esteem among his own flock in Milan. On 25 April 1945, the cardinal hosted in the archbishop's residence in Milan a meeting between Italian partisans and Mussolini in an attempt to reach a truce between the two parties. However, Mussolini did not accept the demand for unconditional surrender as advanced by the partisan delegates Marazza and Pertini. Mussolini arrived on time at 4:00 pm without the other side being present. The delegates Cadorna and Lombardi as well as Marazza arrived an hour later. In the meantime, Mussolini had a conversation with Schuster, who gave him a glass of rosolio to drink and a copy of a book he had written about the life of a saint. Schuster made an effort to preach humility to Mussolini. Varying accounts by participants of what happened in the meeting after Graziani and the other Fascist leaders arrived vary.[16]

Although the cardinal sought Mussolini out on 25 April 1945 and urged him to make his peace with God and his fellow man, Mussolini spurned the admonition and was killed within a week.[citation needed]

Following the end of the war, the cardinal made frequent attempts to emphasize the danger of totalitarianism that communism and fascism inspired.[17]

Relations with Nazi Germany[edit]

In May 1984, United States Department of State and the United States Army declassified documents through the Freedom of Information Act which revealed that, from 1943, Archbishop Schuster maintained relations with Holocaust perpetrator and Nazi officer Walter Rauff, head of the SS in northern Italy, resident at the time in Milan. Rauff had numerous meetings and exchanged letters and gifts with Schuster and his secretary, Monsignor Giuseppe Bicchierai. The two Catholic prelates also acted as envoys for the Holy See while Germany and Italy negotiated secretly with the Allies to surrender at the end of World War II; Rauff was involved in these negotiations, too, and often discussed prisoner exchanges and releases with Bicchierai and Schuster. The Simon Wiesenthal Center released the documents to the public and asked the Holy See to investigate whether Schuster helped Rauff escape from Italy to Chile in order to evade justice. This was the first time high-ranking church officials were mentioned in the context of a "Vatican escape route" for Nazi war criminals.[18]


Monument in Verano Brianza.

The process for his beatification opened in Milan in a diocesan process that his successor inaugurated on 30 August 1957; that first phase was concluded on 31 October 1963 after a process was held in Rome from 21 November 1959 to 13 July 1961 to collect additional evidence and documentation.[citation needed] Schuster's writings were approved on 5 March 1970 as having adhered to traditional doctrine. The cause remained dormant for some time until 18 July 1986 when the Congregation for the Causes of Saints validated the diocesan phase while later receiving the Positio for assessment in 1989.[citation needed] Theologians approved the cause on 12 October 1993 as did subsequently the members of the Congregation for the Causes of the Saints on 11 January 1994. Pope John Paul II confirmed that Schuster had led a life of heroic virtue and accorded him the title Venerable on 26 March 1994.[19]

Schuster's beatification now depended upon one confirmed miracle. One such case was investigated and the evidence collected was sent to the Congregation in Rome, which validated the report on 5 July 1985. Medical experts confirmed this miracle as such a decade later on 17 November 1994 while theologians confirmed the assessment on 21 February 1995; the Congregation itself approved it on 2 May 1995. On 11 July 1995 John Paul II confirmed that the healing in question was a miracle and decreed Schuster's beatification. He celebrated The beatification at a solemn Mass in Saint Peter's Square on 12 May 1996.[5][7]

The miracle that led to his beatification was the cure of the nun Maria Emilia Brusati from a severe glaucoma.[3]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Luciano Canepari. "Alfredo". DiPI Online (in Italian). Retrieved 13 January 2021.
  2. ^ Luciano Canepari. "Ildefonso". DiPI Online (in Italian). Retrieved 13 January 2021.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g "Beato Alfredo Ildefonso Schuster". Santi e Beati. Retrieved 17 November 2017.
  4. ^ a b c d e "Schuster, Alfredo Ildefonso, Bl". New Catholic Encyclopedia. 2003. Retrieved 17 November 2017.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g Miranda 1998.
  6. ^ Stroebel, James-Michael von, "Blessed Alfredo Ildefonso Cardinal Schuster, OSB", Order of Malta American Association
  7. ^ a b c d Terry 2010.
  8. ^ "Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem, Notable Members". www.holysepulchre.ie. Archived from the original on 27 October 2021. Retrieved 12 October 2021.
  9. ^ "The Order of Malta Federal Association, USA is a lay religious order of the Catholic Church". www.orderofmaltafederal.org. Retrieved 12 October 2021.
  10. ^ Alfredo Canavero (2018). "SCHUSTER, Alfredo". Enciclopedia Treccani (in Italian). Retrieved 17 March 2024.
  11. ^ Lee 2000, p. 126.
  12. ^ Chadwick 1988, p. 8.
  13. ^ P. Beltrame Quattrocchi, Al di sopra del gagliardetti. L'arcivescovo Schuster: un asceta benedettino nell'era fascista, Marietti, Casale Monferrato (1985), s.v. "Etiopia". (in Italian)
  14. ^ Harris 2007, p. 218.
  15. ^ E. Nobili, La parabola di un'illusione. Il cardinale Schuster dalla guerra d'Etiopia alle leggi razziali, NED, Milan (2005), s.v. "Leggi razziali". (in Italian)
  16. ^ P. Beltrame Quattrocchi, Al di sopra del gagliardetti. L'arcivescovo Schuster: un asceta benedettino nell'era fascista, Marietti, Casale Monferrato (1985). (in Italian)
  17. ^ T. Leccisotti, Il cardinale Schuster, S. Benedetto (1969), Vol.II. (in Italian)
  18. ^ Thomas O'Toole (10 May 1984). "Jewish Group Seeks Vatican Probe of Nazi's Escape". The Washington Post.
  19. ^ "Blessed Ildefonso Schuster | Communio". communio.stblogs.org. Retrieved 1 July 2020.


External links[edit]

Catholic Church titles
Preceded by
Antoine Delpuch
Rector of the Pontifical Oriental Institute
7 October 1919 – 4 July 1922
Succeeded by
Preceded by Archbishop of Milan
26 June 1929 – 30 August 1954
Succeeded by
Cardinal-Priest of Santi Silvestro e Martino ai Monti
18 July 1929 – 30 August 1954