Diocese San Benedetto del Tronto - Ripatransone - Montalto

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Diocese Montalto - Ripatransone - San Benedetto del TrontoTHE HISTORY OF THE DIOCESE

RIPATRANSONE (1571): the diocese of Saint Pius V

With negotiations having begun on February 19, 1485, in 1571 Ripatransone succeeded in crowning its almost century-old dream of becoming a diocese unto itself, separating from Fermo. This came after a long process beginning with its rise to importance in almost all sectors of everyday life of the inhabitants. In the meantime, Ripatransone saw a growth in its population (1.300 “fires”), and together with the support of Asciano Condivi, Annibal Caro, Michelangelo Buonarroti, San Filippo Neri, and thanks to the determination of Pope Pius V in defending against the last opposition (Farfa, Bishop of Fermo, Cardinal Montalto, Offida), Ripatransone underwent the necessary processes, first in Marche in 1567 then in Rome in 1570 – 71, to accomplish this dream.

With the Papal bull “Illius fulciti presidio” of July 30, Pius V elevated Ripatransone to the rank of city and Episcopal seat with jurisdiction over: Quinzano, Monteprandone, Force, Montalto, Montedinove, Rotella, Porchia, Cossignano (localities separating from the Farfa Presidato); Acquaviva, San Benedetto, Gissi, Grottammare, Marano, SantàAndrea (localities separated from the diocese of Fermo); Colonnella and Patrignone (localities separated from the diocese of Ascoli). With the institution of this diocese, a buffer was instituted between the secular rivals Ascoli and Fermo and eventually filled a pastoral void. Moreover, this new diocese broke the secular and anachronistic jurisdiction of Farfa and, pushed by the new reformers fresh from the Council of Trent, carried out its work a real revolution in the area.

The first bishop, Mons. Lucio Sassi di Nola (1521 – Rome, 1604), made his solemn entrance to Ripatransone on Sunday, March 23, 1572. In 1586 Pope Sixtus V divided the territory to create the diocese of Montalto, his homeland, and he created the Suffragan diocese of Fermo. In 1597, when the Ripani decided to build a new cathedral in the center of the city, the Bishop Pompeo De Nobili solemnly laid the first stone. On the Octave of Easter in 1622, the Ripani triumphantly welcomed the simulacrum of the Madonna of Saint John (from Loreto), proclaimed patron of the city and diocese, and crowned solemnly on May 10, 1682 by the Vatican Chapter (the first in the Papal State). On one of these two dates, the “Cavallo di fuoco” or “Horse of fire,” a traditional pyrotechnic folkloric manifestation of the Sunday after Easter was born, the only of its kind in Italy.

In the same period, there were important events including: transfer of the seminary of the great Monastery of Santa Chiara (1820), transfer of the Episcopal palace and the curia to the Convent of Saint Catherine of the Augustinians (1875), solemn celebrations of the second centenary of the coronation of the Madonna of S. Giovanni (1882). In the second half of the nineteenth century, the Episcopal Seminary became one of the most famous in the region thanks to the dynamic rectors, such as Don Giambernardino Mascaretti of Grottammare and very skilful teachers, such as the Latin and Dante teacher Don Carmine Galanti (1821-1890) of Cossignano, Don Luigi Antonio Paielli (died in 1878) and Don Augusto Stazzuglia (1846-1903) of San Benedetto del Tronto, Don Adolfo Cellini (1857-1920) of Ripatransone, scholar, theologian and exegete.

MONTALTO (1586): diocese of Sixtus V

Montalto owes its designation as a diocese to the great pontiff Sixtus V, who has always been very generous towards this locality and loved to remember it as his “dearest homeland” (even though he was born in Grottammare on December 13, 1521). A gift from its illustrious son, in fact, the Papal bull “Super universas orbis ecclesias” dated November 14, 1586 created Montalto as a city and bishopric.

The same diocese was formed by carving Montallto, Porchia, Patrignone, Montedinove and Rotella from Ripatransone; Montelparo, Comunanza and Montemonaco from Fermo; and Castignano from Ascoli. The Pontiff also thought of the Episcopal refectory by establishing the great estate of Rovetino (Rotella and with the Abby of S. Maria in Monte Santo in Abruzzo where the Bishop is still the effective Abbot with jurisdiction over ten parishes (Municipality of S. Egidio alla Vibrata, hamlets of Civitella del Tronto). Directly subjected to the Holy See, the diocese remained under this juridical position only until May 24, 1589, when Sixtus V raised Fermo to a metropolitan seat and Montalto therefore became a Suffragan of the neo-archdiocese (Ripatransone had the same fate). Montalto obtained other privileges from her generous son: a typography, a tannery, a woolen mill; hangings, sacred objects, and a very precious reliquary, annuities for poor girls to help them marry, the granting in 1578 of two annual fairs in addition to a weekly market, the institution of the mint (1587-91) to face the enormous quantity of money required by the prodigious building plan launched by the same Pope to change the small town into a city. Moreover, Montalto became the capital of the re-established Presidiato (small province directly dependent on Rome). Moreover, the Pope wanted the construction of a new and monumental Cathedral (project of Girolamo Rainaldi). The first stone was laid on May 13, 1589. According to legend, Sixtus V wanted to transfer the Holy Sepulcher from Jerusalem.

The first Bishop was Mons. Paolo Emilio Giovannini di Porchia. As long as he had constant aid from the Pontiff, his duties were easy to fulfill. However, once the great benefactor died, he found himself alone to face many problems, such as robbery that had reappeared, and the finalization of the great and complex works.

Around 1660 the bishop Mons. Girolamo Codebò erected the Seminary in the Convent of Saint Augustine that had been suppressed due to lack of funding. Between the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, for a good 37 years Mons. Ascanio Paganelli (1673-1710) governed the diocese. Due to his inexhaustible activities (eight pastoral visits, two synods) and his charity, he was considered the second founder of the diocese after Sixtus V.

At the beginning of the eighteenth century, Mons. Lucantonio Accoramboni (1711-35) completely finished the Seminary, but by that point had become rather unpopular for his failed initiatives during his last years at Montelparo. At the end of the eighteenth century, Montalto had its “holy” bishop: Mons. Francesco Antonio Marcucci (1717-1789). Struck by the preaching of S. Leonardo da Porto Maurizio, he followed his calling and took up many popular missions. At the age of 27, he founded the religious Congregation of the Pie Operaie dell’Immacolata Concezione to educate young girls. In 1770, Clemente XIV appointed him bishop of Montalto. Although he was bishop of Montalto, he was also appointed Vicegerent of Rome (office he held until 1785), then elevated to Patriarch of Constantinople. Mons. Francesco Saverio Catiglioni, diocesan pastor from 1800 to 1816, was the first Bishop of the Marche to be removed from his seat (1808) for not having sworn allegiance to the Napoleonic regime. He was brought first to Pavia, then to Mantova, and finally to Milan. Only in 1814 was he freed and triumphantly returned to Montalto. Once Cardinal in 1816 and elevated to the papal throne with the name Pius VIII, he never forgot the Montaltese diocese.

His successor Mons. Pietro Paolo Mazzichi (1817-1823) erected a new and powerful Seminary (Arch. Pietro Maggi) in the Sixtus V square in front of the Cathedral on part of the foundation of the two buildings started by the benefactor Pope that were never finished. Mons. Eleonoro Aronne governed the diocese for a good 40 years (1847-87). He brought to completion the beautiful Cathedral (architect Luigi Poletti), having it decorated by the Marchegian Luigi Fontana. He was involved in resurgent events (1849, the year in which he withdrew to Gaeta; 1860) and lost the estate of Rovetino.


At the disappearance of the Bishop of Ripatransone Mons. Luigi Boschi, with the papal decree of Pius XI of December 18, 1924, the Ripan church was joined “ad personam episcopi” to the Montaltese church, thereby the pastor in charge, Mons. Luigi Ferri, assumed the name of Bishop of Montalto and Ripatransone. Mons. Ferri lived in poverty having given everything away. His life was a continual drive for sanctification. A man devoted to the Eucharist, he organized an Interdiocesan Eucharistic conference at Ripatransone (September 8-11,1932). He wanted the Institute Sacramentini Priests and the Sanctuary of the Adoration (where his remains have been since 1955) located in S. Benedetto del Tronto (1939). He was also very determined in founding the Monastery of the Passionists in Ripatransone (1928) and the Institute of the Salvatorians (Society of the Divine Savior) in Montalto Marche (1939)

After the brief episcopacy of the Piedmontese Mons. Pietro Ossola (1946-51), who in 1948 called for the “Peregrinatio Mariae” in the two dioceses that brought all of the parishioners to the feet of the Virgin in three months, Mons. Vincenzo Radicioni di Numana (Ancona) made the solemn entrance to the two dioceses on March 19, 1952 and governed until April 6, 1983. Over his long episcopacy, many works were realized in the diocesan seats and in the various parishes (of which many were newly-created), and many initiatives were undertaken in various fields. From 1952 to 1983, the two dioceses were construction sites. There is not a town, a parish or an institute that was not marked by the zeal and initiative of Mons. Radicioni.

In the diocesan seats, he saw to the restoration and expansion of the two bishop seats and the two seminaries as well as to the restoration and the embellishment of the two monumental cathedrals, elevated in 1965 to the rank of minor basilicas and provided with a crypt of the Bishops in 1974. He favored the creation of a large assistance center (“Casa Gioiosa”) in Montemonaco whose founder was Don Settimio Vallorani (1912-83). In Ripatransone he worked for the institution of the College for Italian child emigrants abroad at the Institute of Saint Teresa. He promoted historical research on the origin of the two dioceses and held solemn celebrations in 1971 for the fourth centenary of the Ripan diocese. Particular attention was paid during the entire episcopacy to the valorization of the biggest diocese center, San Benedetto del Tronto, that over ten years has seen a surprising demographic increase (23,000 inhabitants in 1951, 47,000 in 1981). In fact, in this city not only were new parishes instituted, but he also organized the main interdiocesan events such as the Eucharistic conferences of 1955 and 1969. He created the building of the Catholic works (1961). He enlargened and elevated the parish Church of S. Maria della Marina (1973) to co-cathedral. In almost 32 years, Mons. Raidcioni completed four pastoral visits, had the consolation and satisfaction of ordaining 114 priests (secular and regular clerics) and two bishops: Mons. Francesco Amadio in 1967 (Bishop of Rieti) and Mons. Edoardo Pecoraio in 1971 (Nunzio Apostolico).


With a papal decree dated April 7, 1983, the Ripan church took the name of diocese di Ripatransone-San Benedetto del Tronto and was united with that of Montalto aeque principaliter or equally important. Therefore, from this date the new denomination became that of the Diocese of Montalto and Ripatransone-San Benedetto del Tronto, the latter city became a bishopric of the two churches.

Managing the passage to the new restructured diocese was Mons. Giuseppe Chiaretti, appointed April 7, 1983, ordained in the cathedral of Spoleto on May 15, and entered the diocese July 3 (as Vicar general). He was the 22nd Bishop of Montalto, the 42nd of Ripatransone and the first for San Benedetto del Tronto. He dedicated all of his efforts to pastoral activities (evangelism, lay ministry, diocesan Eucharistic conferences, two pastoral visits), and to social (marginalized people, Biancazzurro Social Cooperative ONLUS) and cultural initiatives (celebration of the Sistine centennial, weekly and monthly newsletter, etc.). In December 1995, Mons. Chiaretti was promoted to the metropolitan archbishop seat of Perugia. The present pastor, Mons. Gervasio Gestori, was appointed on April 7, 1983, ordained in the cathedral of Milano on September 7, 1996, and entered the diocese in September 1996.


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