Jump to content

Giovanni Benelli

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Giovanni Benelli
Archbishop of Florence
Giovanni Benelli in 1978.
Appointed3 June 1977
Term ended26 October 1982
PredecessorErmenegildo Florit
SuccessorSilvano Piovanelli
Other post(s)Cardinal-Priest of Santa Prisca (1977–82)
Ordination31 October 1943
by Giuseppe Debernardi
Consecration11 September 1966
by Amleto Giovanni Cicognani
Created cardinal27 June 1977
by Paul VI
Personal details
Giovanni Benelli

(1921-05-12)12 May 1921
Died26 October 1982(1982-10-26) (aged 61)
Florence, Italy
Previous post(s)
  • Apostolic Pro-Nuncio to Senegal (1966–67)
  • Apostolic Delegate to Western Africa (1966–67)
  • Titular Archbishop of Tusuros (1966–77)
  • Substitute for General Affairs (1967–77)
MottoVirtus Ex Alto
("Power From on High")
Coat of armsGiovanni Benelli's coat of arms
Styles of
Giovanni Benelli
Reference styleHis Eminence
Spoken styleYour Eminence
Informal styleCardinal

Giovanni Benelli (12 May 1921 – 26 October 1982) was an Italian Cardinal of the Roman Catholic Church. He served as Archbishop of Florence from 1977 until his death. He was made a cardinal in 1977.


Early life and ordination[edit]

Giovanni Benelli was born 12 May 1921 in Poggiole di Vernio, Tuscany, to Luigi and Maria (née Simoni) Benelli. Baptised the day after his birth, on 13 May, he was the youngest of his parents' five surviving children, and his uncle Guido was a revered Franciscan friar. Benelli entered the Seminary of Pistoia in 1931, and then attended the Pontifical Gregorian University and the Pontifical Ecclesiastical Academy in Rome. He received the clerical tonsure on 23 December 1939, and was eventually ordained a priest on 31 October 1943 by Bishop Giuseppe Debernardi.[1] At age 22, he had not yet reached the canonical age of 24 for priestly ordination, and therefore was given a special dispensation. Benelli finished his studies at the Gregorian in 1947, and also undertook pastoral work in Rome until 1950.

Roman Curia[edit]

His abilities were noticed by the Church, becoming private secretary in 1946 to Deputy Secretary of State Giovanni Battista Montini.[1] Benelli joined the diplomatic service in 1948, and was raised to the rank of Monsignor on 16 July 1950. He served as the Secretary of nunciatures to Ireland (1950–1953) and to France (1953–1960). Benelli was then appointed to the following posts: auditor of nunciature to Brazil (1960–1962), counsellor of nunciature to Spain (1962–1965), and permanent observer of Holy See to UNESCO in Paris (1965–1966).


On 11 June 1966, he was appointed Titular Archbishop of Tusuro and Apostolic Nuncio to Senegal, as well as apostolic delegate to Western Africa. Benelli received his episcopal consecration on the following 11 September from Cardinal Secretary of State Amleto Giovanni Cicognani, with Archbishop Pietro Sigismondi and Bishop Mario Longo Dorni serving as co-consecrators. These assignments gave him a deep interest in the battle against illiteracy and the Church's work for peace and economic development.[1]

Within a year, on 29 June 1967, he entered the Roman Curia as Substitute, or Deputy, of the Secretariat of State. As Cicognani was too old to fulfil most of his duties, they fell to Benelli. He worked closely with his former master, now Pope Paul VI, and remained in this post for ten years.

Some referred to him as "the Berlin Wall"[2] and the "Vatican Kissinger"[3] in the Vatican for his aggressive and almost authoritarian tenure as Substitute of the Secretariat of State, including having the more senior Curialists channel business through him.

Benelli was promoted to Archbishop of Florence on 3 June 1977, and was created Cardinal-Priest of Santa Prisca by Paul VI in the consistory of 27 June 1977.


Upon the deaths of Popes Paul VI and John Paul I, Benelli was considered the leading moderate candidate to succeed them, because of his close ties with Paul and his Italian heritage. He was one of the cardinal electors in the conclaves of August and October 1978. During the August conclave, Benelli supported Albino Luciani, the eventual winner, who became Pope John Paul I.[4][5] In the October conclave in 1978, he was one of two leading Italian candidates in a tie with Giuseppe Siri to succeed John Paul I, but was defeated with fellow Italian candidate, Siri, on 16 October by Karol Wojtyła, who became Pope John Paul II.

Later life and death[edit]

Benelli continued in his capacity of Cardinal and Archbishop of Florence until 26 October 1982 when he died of a sudden heart attack in Florence, at age 61. His funeral Mass was celebrated by Cicognani's successor, Agostino Casaroli, and his remains were buried in Santa Maria del Fiore cathedral.

See also[edit]



  1. ^ a b c Saxon, Wolfgang. "Giovanni Cardinal Benelli Dead", The New York Times, 27 October 1982
  2. ^ "The Pope's Powerful No. 2". Time. 14 March 1969. Archived from the original on 5 June 2008.
  3. ^ "Recent Events". Time. 8 November 1982. Archived from the original on 5 June 2008.
  4. ^ "In Rome, a Week off Suspense". Time. 28 August 1978. Archived from the original on 5 June 2008.
  5. ^ "A Swift, Stunning Choice". Time. 4 September 1978. Archived from the original on 30 September 2007.


(1976) Pancorbo, Luis: "Monseñor Benelli" en "Diálogos italianos". pp. 343–353. Sedmay, Madrid. ISBN 84-7380-124-5 (in Spanish)

External links[edit]

Catholic Church titles
Preceded by Substitute for General Affairs
29 June 1967 – 3 June 1977
Succeeded by
Preceded by Archbishop of Florence
3 June 1977 – 26 October 1982
Succeeded by