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The 14-year-old seminarian martyred by communists in Italy

Rolando Rivi

CC/Wikimedia

Francisco Veneto - published on 05/12/23

First, the Nazis closed the seminary where Blessed Rolando Rivi was studying. Then, communist guerrillas kidnapped, tortured, and killed him.

Rolando Maria Rivi, now beatified, was 14 years old and a minor seminarian in Italy when, in 1944, Nazi forces from Germany occupied Italy. The occupying forces closed the seminary Rolando had entered only two years earlier.

Obligated to return to his parents’ home, Rolando refused to give up wearing the cassock; after all, he was still a seminarian, despite the occupation.

His parents, however, were afraid. They insisted that their son wear civilian clothes, since he wasn’t obliged to keep wearing his cassock. Indeed, Rolando was not a member of the clergy or of a religious congregation or order. He had not yet taken religious vows, and was therefore canonically dispensed from wearing the habit. Still, he insisted on keeping that visible sign of his dedication to God, wanting to show even outwardly that he would not renounce his vocation to the priesthood. He declared, “I belong to Jesus.”

Kidnapping, torture and martyrdom

However, Rolando’s parents’ fear was justified. In April 1945, in the final weeks of the Second World War, he was kidnapped by a group of communist partisans, guerrillas engaged in the Italian resistance to the Nazis. The kidnappers left a note to Rolando’s parents: “Non cercatelo. Viene un attimo con noi partigiani.” (“Don’t look for him. He will spend some time with us partisans.”)

The communist guerrillas took the teenager to a forest near the village of Piane di Monchio, in the province of Modena. There began his two days of humiliation and torture.

Accusing him without any basis of being a “Nazi spy,” the criminals stripped Rolando of his cassock and made him dig his own grave. Forced to kneel, the seminarian prayed the Our Father in front of his executioners. At the end of the prayer, he was martyred with a shot to the head and another to the chest — at the age of 14.

In 1951, his murderers — Giuseppe Corghi, who had shot him, and Delciso Rioli, commander of the 27th Garibaldi “Dolo” Brigade — were sentenced to 23 years in prison. After the sentence was appealed to the three instances of Italian justice, the two criminals were definitively sentenced for murder to 22 years in prison. However, they only served six years due to amnesty laws signed at the time.

The process of canonization

Since his martyrdom, Rolando Maria Rivi has been informally venerated as an intercessor before God. A series of otherwise inexplicable healings attributed to his intercession began to be reported to Church authorities. In January 2006, the Archdiocese of Modena opened his cause for canonization, and in May 2012, the Vatican officially recognized Rolando’s martyrdom, suffered as a result of hatred of the faith (“in odium fidei“).

On March 28, 2013, Pope Francis authorized the Congregation for the Causes of Saints to promulgate the decree recognizing his martyrdom, and on October 5 of the same year, his beatification ceremony was celebrated.

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