LETTER OF CARDINAL ANGELO SODANO
Your Most Reverend Excellency,
The Supreme Pontiff has learned with joy that this Diocese and the Confederation of the Oratory of St Philip Neri are intending this August to celebrate with special solemnity the fourth centenary of the death of Bl. Giovanni Juvenal Ancina. He desires to send his cordial greetings for this important anniversary to you, to the clergy and to the faithful of Saluzzo, as well as to the Oratorian priests, and expresses the hope that the happy event will be a favourable occasion to become better acquainted with this outstanding Pastor, in order to point him out as an example of holiness to the people of our time.
Giovanni Juvenal Ancina was born in Fossano on 19 October 1545. There, thanks to his encounter with some eminent teachers, including St Robert Bellarmine, he acquired a broad knowledge of theology and cultivated his literary and musical gifts with excellent results.
His meeting with St Philip Neri in 1576 further enlightened his mind and especially warmed his heart, inducing him to ask for admittance to the Congregation in which he was to carry out his ministry as an esteemed and appreciated preacher, confessor and theologian.
Obeying orders, Fr Ancina moved to Naples in 1586. He became the champion of a wide variety of pastoral and cultural activities that met with popular approval. Ten years later, he was recalled to Rome when his appointment as Bishop of Saluzzo was already imminent.
In the end, after an initial, vigorous resistance, he accepted the new office in a spirit of obedience to the Pope's decision, made official at the Consistory of 26 August 1602.
During his brief period as Bishop of Saluzzo, he convoked the Diocesan Synod, founded the Seminary and began his Pastoral Visit, faithfully applying the measures of the Council of Trent with the gentleness and firmness typical of the "Philippine" spirit.
The enormous mountain of work that he undertook every day took nothing away from the prayers to which he dedicated much time, remaining for hours on end in adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. His sudden death on 30 August 1604 put an end to his intensely active reform of the clergy, the Religious and the Christian laity.
St Francis de Sales, who had had the opportunity to meet Ancina in Rome between 1598 and 1599, wrote of him immediately after his death: "Non memini me vidisse hominem qui dotibus, quas Apostolus apostolicis viris tantopere cupiebat, cumulatius ac splendidius esset ornatus".
Cardinal A. Capecelatro, in his biography, Vita di San Filippo Neri, said of Ancina: "Few men were capable of imitating St Philip as well as he; and very few had as strong a determination. Just over five years in the Congregation of Rome sufficed to make him a perfect disciple of our Saint".
The Supreme Pontiff joins in the thanksgiving that the Diocese of Saluzzo and the Oratorian Family are raising to the Lord for the countless miracles of good he has wrought in Giovanni Juvenal Ancina.
He likewise hopes that the anniversary of the entry into eternity of this illustrious Pastor and worthy disciple of St Philip will afford the clergy, the Religious and faithful an opportunity to relive their commitment to personal perfection and unflagging apostolic dedication.
With these sentiments, the Holy Father assures you of his prayers and cordially imparts a special Apostolic Blessing to you and to your faithful, as well as to the Priests of the Oratorian Family, to whom I ask you, Your Excellency, to kindly convey a copy of this letter through the General Procurator.
As I express to you in turn my own good wishes for the full success of all your Jubilee initiatives, I gladly confirm my deepest respect and esteem for you, Your Most Reverend Excellency, and remain,
Yours most devotedly in the Lord,
Cardinal Angelo Sodano