The beatification of Fréedéric Ozanam
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John Paul II beatified Frédéric Ozanam, founder of the Society of St Vincent de Paul, during World Youth Day. The solemn celebration was held on Friday 22 August in the Cathedral of Notre-Dame. Here is a biographical sketch of the new Blessed. «It is too little to help the poor day by day; we must begin from the root of the evil and, through wise reform, reduce the causes of the people's poverty».

«Charity must never look behind itself, but before it, because the number of its past good works is always too small and the present and future miseries it must alleviate are always infinite».

Frédéric Ozanam was born in Milan on 23 April 1813. At the age of twenty he obtained his baccalaureate, at twenty-six, in Paris, he received his doctorate in literature with a thesis on the philosophy of Dante Alighieri. In October 1840, at the age of twenty-seven, he won the competitive examination for the chair of foreign literature at the Sorbonne. He travelled at length throughout Europe, especially in Italy, and wrote works on the origins of European culture which are still important even today.

At the age of 28 he married Amélie Soulacroix, by whom he would have a daughter. At 35 he was also a journalist and had numerous articles in support of the working classes published in "L'Ere Nouvelle". He became deeply interested in social problems and presented ideas up to that time unknown in the Christian environment; in one of his lessons he foresaw and proposed workers' associations! He is recognized as a precursor of the Catholic Church's social doctrine, whose cultural and religious origins he wanted to know and on which he wrote books which are still in great demand.

On 15 September 1853, at the age of forty, he died in Marseilles of a serious illness, lived with Christian resignation. He had written: «Great men are those who never have the plan of their Christian destiny in advance, but they have let themselves be led by God's hand».

What gave a special hallmark to his life, what will make him remembered by the new generations, began precisely on his twentieth birthday, 23 April 1968: «Among all those we will see representing a conspicuous part of social Catholicism, there might not be one who has not passed through the St Vincent de Paul Conferences» to meet the countless needs of the poor.

Ozanam defined the St Vincent Conferences: «A Catholic but lay society, humble but numerous, poor but full of poor to relieve; above all in an age in which charitable associations have such a great mission to carry out for the revival of the faith, the support of the Church, for a truce from the hatred which divides men».

Ozanam was a lay witness to the faith, the anticipator of that profile of the lay Christian that the Second Vatican Council would outline in Lumen Gentium. The Society of Saint Vincent de Paul is present in Italy with more than 20,000 members, organized into 2,153 Saint Vincent Conferences, and it is, by constitution, an association created by young people for young people, who are willing, through direct personal relations in home visits to the poor, to share every form of poverty and marginalization in the quest for social justice. It intends to keep alive the Founder's spirit, adapting it to the many needs of the new forms of poverty, in full communion with the ecclesial Community.