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St. Robert Bellarmine

Robert Bellarmine was born October 4, 1542 at Montepulciano, Italy to Vicenzo Bellarmine and his wife Cinthia Cervini. His mother was the sister of Cardinal Marcello Cervini who became Pope Marcellus II. Robert was educated at the Jesuit college in Montepulciano and entered the Society of Jesus shortly before his eighteenth birthday; he was allowed to immediately make his first vows. He then studied philosophy at the Roman college for three years. He taught the humanities at Florence and Mondovi, before beginning his study of theology in 1567. In 1569, he was sent to finish his theological degree at Louvain, so that he could gain a first-hand understanding of the prevailing heresies in the region. He was ordained at Louvain and quickly became known as a brilliant preacher, whom both Catholics and Protestants flocked to hear. In 1576, he was assigned to teach at the Roman College about the doctrinal controversies then waging. He wrote a well-received book, De Controversiis which explained the various controversies. Pope Sixtus V at first warmly accepted the book, but later decided to put it on the Index of Forbidden Books because it said the popes had authority only in spiritual matters and not temporal. The death of Sixtus V forestalled this move. Father Bellarmine continued to work as the Spiritual Father at the Roman College; he assisted St. Aloysius Gonzaga on his death bed. Bellarmine assisted in the revision of the Vulgate (St. Jerome’s Latin translation of the Bible) called for at the Council of Trent. In 1597, Bellarmine was appointed as the pope’s theologian and the Examiner of Bishops and Consulter of the Holy Office. Shortly afterwards he was appointed Cardinal-Priest and then Archbishop of Capua. During the papal election of 1605, Bellarmine received several votes, much to his distaste. The new pope made him a member of the Holy Office. It was in this capacity that Cardinal Bellarmine was involved in the Galileo case. Bellarmine liked Galileo and was interested in his heliocentric theory. He advised Galileo that if a scientific theory has not yet been proven, it should be advanced only as a theory, but if it has been proven, then Scripture should be interpreted with it in mind. As Bellarmine's health failed, he retired to Saint Andrea and prepared for death. He died September 17, 1621. Robert Bellarmine was canonized in 1930 and made a Doctor of the Church the next year. Due to his involvement with the Catechism of Trent, he is the patron of catechists.

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