Editor’s note: please see Mediatrix Press for The Bellarmine Translation Project.
Today four centuries have passed since the death, at almost 79 years of age, of St. Robert Bellarmine. A memorial tablet on his birthplace praises him as “the glory of the Church, of Italy, of his native place, for the sanctity of life and the vast doctrine that made him an unconquered athlete in dogmatic, moral and biblical controversies.”
Born on October 4, 1542 in the province of Siena, in “Montepulciano of the good wine” (A. Bresciani, Ubaldo and Irene, Vol. 2, Rome 1855, p. 257), in 1560 he entered the Society of Jesus in Rome. He studied philosophy at the Roman College and theology in Padua and Louvain. He taught in some cities and then becomes spiritual father and rector of the Roman College. In Naples he was provincial of the Jesuits and, after returning to Rome, after various prestigious positions, in 1599 Pope Clement VIII made him cardinal saying: “We elect this man because he has not an equal for learning in the Church of God and because he is nephew of the good Pope Marcellus II” (G. Fuligatti, Vita del cardinale Roberto Bellarmino della Compagnia di Giesù, Rome 1624, pp. 122-123). In 1602 he was archbishop of Capua, Campania region, southern Italy, but after three intense years the Pope wanted him within the organs of the Roman Curia and in the principal Roman congregations. He died in Rome on September 17, 1621, already revered by the most as a saint. Under Pope Pius XI he was beatified in 1923, canonized in 1930 and proclaimed Doctor of the Church in 1931.