Bellarmine, Saint Robert

Italian Roberto Francesco Romolo Bellarmino

born Oct. 4, 1542, Monrepulciano, Tuscany
died Sept. 17, 1621, Rome; canonized 1930; feast day September 17

Italian cardinal and theologian.

He joined the Jesuits in 1560, and after ordination in the Spanish Netherlands (1570) he began to teach theology. He was made a cardinal in 1599 and an archbishop in 1602. He took a prominent part in the first examination of Galileo's writings; though somewhat sympathetic to Galileo, he thought it best to have the Copernican system declared "false and erroneous," which was done in 1616. He gave impartial attention to Protestant works and was regarded as an enlightened theologian. He died a pauper, having given all his funds to the poor. In 1931 he was named a Doctor of the Church.

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▪ Italian cardinal
Italian in full  San Roberto Francesco Romolo Bellarmino  
born Oct. 4, 1542, Montepulciano, Tuscany [Italy]
died Sept. 17, 1621, Rome; canonized 1930; feast day Sept. 17

      Italian cardinal and theologian, an opponent of the Protestant doctrines of the Reformation.

      Bellarmine entered the Society of Jesus in 1560. After studying in Italy at Rome, Mondovì, and Padua, he was sent to Leuven (Louvain) in the Spanish Netherlands, where he was ordained in 1570 and began to teach theology. He was forced by the strength of Protestantism and the Augustinian doctrines of grace and free will prevailing in the Low Countries to define his theological principles. He returned to Rome, where he lectured at the new Jesuit College. Made a cardinal by Pope Clement VIII in 1599, he was subsequently appointed archbishop of Capua (1602). As a consultor of the Holy Office, he took a prominent part in the first examination of Galileo's (Galileo) writings. Bellarmine, somewhat sympathetic to Galileo's views, granted him an audience in which he warned him not to defend the Copernican (Copernican system) theory but to regard it only as a hypothesis. Acting on the part of the Holy Office, and fearing scandal at a time when Roman Catholicism and Protestantism were embroiled, Bellarmine thought it best to have the Copernican theory declared “false and erroneous.” The church so decreed in 1616.

      Bellarmine took a personal interest in the poor, to whom he gave all his funds. He died a pauper. During his lifetime he gave impartial attention to Protestant works and was regarded as one of the most enlightened of theologians. He was named a doctor of the church by Pope Pius XI in 1931.

      Bellarmine's most influential writings were the series of lectures published under the title Disputationes de controversiis Christianae fidei adversus huius temporis haereticos (1586–93; “Lectures Concerning the Controversies of the Christian Faith Against the Heretics of This Time”). They contained a lucid and uncompromising statement of Roman Catholic doctrine. He took part in the preparation of the Clementine edition (1591–92) of the Vulgate. His catechism of 1597 greatly influenced later works. In 1610 he published De Potestate Summi Pontificis in Rebus Temporalibus (“Concerning the Power of the Supreme Pontiff in Temporal Matters”), a reply to William Barclay of Aberdeen's De Potestate Papae (1609; “Concerning the Power of the Pope”), which denied all temporal power to the pope. Bellarmine's autobiography first appeared in 1675. A complete edition of his works was published in 12 volumes (1870–74).

Additional Reading
Works on Bellarmine include E.A. Ryan, The Historical Scholarship of Saint Bellarmine (1936); and James Brodrick, Robert Bellarmine, Saint and Scholar (1961). Spiritual Writings, trans. and ed. by John Patrick Donnelly and Roland J. Teske (1989), provides a selection of his spiritual writing.

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Universalium. 2010.

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