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Saint Robert Bellarmine: Servant of the Truth and Doctor of the Church

Giancarlo Pani SJ - La Civiltà Cattolica - Tue, Oct 26th 2021


Four centuries ago, on September 17, 1621, Cardinal Robert Bellarmine’s earthly life ended in Rome. He was almost 79 years old and his name was known throughout Europe.

In 1599, Clement VIII, during a consistory in which he announced the names of cardinals, pronounced what one might well consider an apt eulogy: “We choose one who has no equal in the Church of God as far as doctrine is concerned, and is the nephew of the excellent and most holy pontiff Marcellus II.” The pope emphasized his wisdom and his kinship with a reforming pope who had transformed the worldly customs of the Roman Curia in the 21 days of his pontificate.

Bellarmine was loved and hated throughout Europe: loved for his theological teaching and for his Controversies, his spiritual treatises, his Catechism, and, above all, for the passion with which he preached; but he was also detested as the “hammer” of heretics, an acute detector of their contradictions, a critic even of the way they uncritically venerated Sacred Scripture. He was criticized not only in the Reformed camp, but also within the Church, and even by some of his confreres. Yet he never failed in his passionate search for truth, which for him was marked by sincere fidelity to his vocation as a man and a religious: he was truly a servant of truth. His role within the bodies of the Curia and in the main Roman Congregations, especially the Apostolic Penitentiary, the Index and the Holy Office, was not an easy one, with the resulting responsibilities, was not an easy one

When news of his impending death spread, he was visited by the newly elected Pope Gregory XV and many prelates. Most already venerated him as a saint. However, his human and spiritual qualities, as well as his dedication in carrying out the tasks entrusted to him, also brought him adversaries, who came out into the open after his death. They were decisive in blocking the process of beatification: Bellarmine, considered a “saint” in life, was not canonized until three centuries later, on June 29, 1930.


As unusual as it may seem, one may begin his biography with the cause of beatification, which was immediately opened on his death in Montepulciano and Capua, where he had been archbishop. Urban VIII approved of the start of the cause in 1626, but then redefined the grounds for beatification and set a minimum of 50 years after death to start the process for a confessor of the faith.

The cause was reopened in 1675 and almost reached the stage of beatification, with the declaration of heroic virtues, when something unexpected happened. The promoter for the faith, Lorenzo Prospero Bottini, discovered a text of Bellarmine in which he himself narrated briefly his own life. It was a draft requested for internal use by the Society of Jesus. Bottini recovered it, had it printed and distributed it to the cardinals, causing a scandal. The writing contained criticism of popes that could be misinterpreted, seemed to be an encomium of his own achievements, and revealed the secrets behind the publication of the Sistine Vulgate. In short, it stopped the cause of beatification.

It was resumed in 1752, but the opposition of French cardinals of Jansenist tendencies and the political situation of the time forced Benedict XIV, who also firmly wanted the beatification of Bellarmine, to be prudent and postpone the decision. Unfortunately, soon after, the pope died. The cause was reopened in 1919: Pius XI beatified him in 1921, declared him a saint in 1930 and the following year proclaimed him Doctor of the Church.

Bellarmine’s ‘Autobiography’

The stone of scandal that sank the process was precisely the writing, to which was inappropriately attached the term “autobiography.”[1] Reading it today, without the animosity and malevolence of its time, one is amazed that a few pages of an extraordinary simplicity and immediacy could have caused a delay of centuries of the beatification. It is the “secret history of his soul.”[2]

The biography begins by praising the piety of his parents, in particular his mother – a woman of prayer and contemplation – who had the opportunity to meet the Jesuit Paschase Broët, one of the first companions of Ignatius of Loyola. He was passing through Montepulciano, seeking medical treatment and was invited to stay by Cardinal Marcello Cervini, who later became Pope Marcellus II in 1555. On that occasion he also met Robert’s family and his mother, Cinzia Cervini, sister of the future pope. Bellarmine made the Spiritual Exercises with the visitor, which marked his life and began his devotion to the Society of Jesus.

Robert was born in Montepulciano in 1542. One of his earliest childhood memories was at the age of six when he stood up at a banquet and preached on the passion of the Lord. But he was a young man like other young men: he learned to play the violin, the lute and other instruments; he went hunting, knew how to fix nets for ambushes; he liked poetry and wrote  verse some; some of the material he wrote he subsequently burnt.

The story of his education is straightforward: humanist studies, student at the recently founded Jesuit college in Montepulciano, but also teacher of catechism to children and religious instructor of farmers. In the meantime, he was conducting a spiritual search for the meaning of his own life. He chose to enter the Jesuit Order because the Constitutions stated that Jesuits should not aspire to prelacy and positions of dignity outside the Society. Fr. Laínez, then Provost General, granted his request to enter the novitiate. Robert studied at the Roman College, where he had his first health difficulties due to consumption, but he was successful in his studies. Sent to Florence to teach Ancient Literature, he recovered his health. Although young and not yet a priest, he preached three times in the Duomo, where the powerful voice of Savonarola had resounded in his time. He was then sent to Mondovì to teach Latin and Greek: although he knew little Greek, he devoted himself to it with enthusiasm, until he acquired the necessary competence to teach Demosthenes. He was an autodidact.

In 1569 he was sent to Louvain, where he became a priest and where he remained until 1576. The city has been called the “breakwater of Catholic resistance” against the Calvinists.[3] Bellarmine’s preaching caused a sensation. He was also entrusted with the teaching of Scholastic Theology, based on St Thomas Aquinas’ Summa Theologiae. In the young teacher, however, there was an awareness that the traditional doctrine was not sufficient in the clash of opposing confessions. Luther, Calvin and others appealed to the Bible as the only rule of faith, the regula fidei: it was the fundamental criterion for distinguishing truth from heresy. Moreover, for them the Word of God  should be accessible to all. For Bellarmine, however, the Bible was not so clear and accessible, indeed in some points it was obscure and difficult to interpret. Thus began the confrontation with the Protestants and the foundations of the future Controversies were born.

In 1559 the first volumes of the Magdeburg Centuries, a historical work by the Protestants against the Catholic Church, were published. The authors, called “centuriators,” argued, with careful documentation, that the true Church of the apostles was the current Lutheran one. Rigorously retracing the history, century after century, from the origins of Christianity to the present time, they attempted to prove their thesis. It was a monumental work, published from 1559 to 1574. A papal legate called it the most damaging work for the Catholic Church[4]; and a historian, “the deadliest blow that had ever been dealt to Catholicism.”[5]

The century in which Bellarmine lived

The 16th century represented a crucial turning point that marked the transition from the Middle Ages to the Modern Age. In particular, the Reformation had rediscovered the Bible as a spiritual guide and had given conscience an extraordinary value. Luther, Calvin and the other reformers spoke a new language, which was not that of the community and external affiliations, but that of personal faith and salvation of the soul, which touched the most intimate sphere of the person and his or her destiny. Knowledge of the Bible spread silently through all strata of society.

The new apostolic field had become the conscience of the person, which had to be accessed with the language of truth and persuasion. The old religious orders were taken by surprise by the new reality, and parish priests and bishops were even more unprepared. It was in this situation that priests aware of the need for reform emerged, including the Jesuits, and in particular, Bellarmine.


In 1576 Gregory XIII restored the chair of Disputation Theology in the Roman College. The holder had the task of defending the Catholic faith by basing the defense on Sacred Scripture. Bellarmine was called there from Louvain, and for 12 years he gave a series of lectures on the answers to be given to the problems raised by the Reformation. The lectures formed the basis of the Controversies on the Christian Faith,[6] which was his magnum opus, a masterpiece of the search for truth, and at the same time a model of argumentation, which on the one hand was inspired by charity and respect, on the other was totally devoid of rancor and insulting expressions, which were then normal. The basis of the Controversies is Scripture, especially regarding the Lutheran positions which had to be countered: for “we and all opponents, without exception, admit the Word of God as the rule of faith.”[7]

The publication of the Controversies was a historical event: “a theological self-portrait of the Tridentine Church.”[8] Not since early Christianity had we seen such a catalog of doctrinal theses, taken from Lutheran, Calvinist and Anglican texts, with ample quotations, set out according to the different schools, proposed according to Scripture and compared with Catholic doctrine, the Fathers of the Church and hagiography, without omitting history. They present us with the Church of the 16th century after the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, with its juridical and hierarchical structure: Bellarmine spoke of it as the “true bride of Christ.”[9] The very first book of the Controversies highlights the great loves of his entire life: “for the Word of God, for Christ the head of the whole Church and for the Supreme Pontiff, head of the Church militant.”[10] This is precisely one of his characteristics: the search for and affirmation of the truth constitute the historical contours of his life and work.[11]

The fame of the Controversies drew attention to a much debated topic: the superiority of the spiritual power of the pope over the temporal one, which latter was  based on the pontifical prerogative of being able to excommunicate sovereigns and to release their subjects from the bond of obedience. Bellarmine adopted the solution of the indirect power of the popes in temporal and political problems (potestas indirecta in temporalibus), adapting it from scholasticism. For this reason he was identified as the champion of the papacy and its right to intervene in political affairs.

This is a complex issue. For Bellarmine, the pope had received from Christ the power to lead his flock to eternal salvation which gave him a spiritual jurisdiction superior to the temporal power of kings and princes. Therefore, the pope possessed temporal power as well as spiritual, but only on matters that have an indirect relationship to faith and salvation. Therefore, the pope cannot depose a king as he deposes bishops, even if there were just grounds for doing so; moreover, he cannot impose civil laws on states, neither confirm nor annul those established by competent authority. The indirect power of the pope in political matters consists, therefore, in a competence in matters which, though in principle foreign to spiritual jurisdiction, has an indirect relation to the religious purpose of the Church.[12]

If Bellarmine owes much of his fame to the theory of indirect power, it should be noted that St. Thomas had already formalized it in the Middle Ages. The novelty introduced by Bellarmine lies in having specified that political power is completely autonomous and legitimate with respect to the Church, in the sense that the pope could not consider himself in any way the absolute ruler of the world, as many then thought and as Sixtus V explicitly wanted asserted.[13]

The Controversies played a prominent role in Catholic theology until Vatican I, which culminated in the definition of papal infallibility.

Bellarmine and Sixtus V

His love for the pope did not make Bellarmine a servile flatterer. He was not content to defend the pontiff from attacks that came from afar, but fought to eradicate the evil aspects of the papal court, and did everything possible to counter them.

Already at the time of Sixtus V, he considered it his duty to defend the theory that the power of the popes over states was indirect, while the pope for his part claimed to have direct temporal jurisdiction, by divine right, over states, as heir of the royal and universal power conferred by Christ on Peter. Bellarmine had no qualms about demonstrating his theory in the first book of Controversies, but this cost him the inclusion of the volume in the Index of prohibited books, “until it is corrected.” The theologian defended himself in vain, arguing that Jesus, neither as God nor as man, had ever possessed an earthly kingdom, nor claimed any temporal power. In 1590, after the death of Sixtus V, the text was immediately taken off the Index by the Congregation.

Bellarmine, however, did not hold any grudge against the pope, to the point that, as he wrote in his Autobiography, he “rendered to Pope Sixtus good for evil.”[14] He was referring to the edition of the Vulgate known as the Sistine, published in 1590, a few days before his death. “In the text there were many parts that had been mistranslated. There was no lack of authoritative persons who held that this edition of the Vulgate should be suppressed. But [he] demonstrated, in the presence of the pontiff, that it should not be; rather it should be corrected so that it could be published with the corrections made, saving the good name of Pope Sixtus.”[15] The cardinal thus obtained the concession that the erroneous passages be corrected and that an “introduction be added in which it is made clear that, in the first edition of Sixtus, some errors on the part of the printers or others were made in haste.”[16]

The Jesuit cardinal

Since Bellarmine became a consultant of almost all the Roman Congregations, trusted theologian of several popes, member of the commission for the revision of the Martyrology and the Breviary, in 1599 he was created cardinal by Clement VIII. From then until his death, he lived the most intense years of his life, but he did not change his lifestyle as a religious. He wrote in his Autobiography: “He decided not to change, in the cardinalate, first of all his way of living, as far as far as it effected food, the prayer, the meditation, the daily mass and the other norms as far as the customs of the Society of Jesus were concerned; secondly, not to accumulate money, nor to enrich his relatives but to donate to the churches or to the poor all that remained from the annuities; thirdly, not to ask the pontiff for greater annuities and not to accept gifts from the princes. He has observed all these intentions.”[17] Insofar as this refers to himself, all this corresponds to the truth. In the process of beatification, this picture was confirmed, despite the opponents. In his service Bellarmine had only 10 gentlemen with a few servants, while usually cardinals had more than a hundred.[18] He was indeed a “poor cardinal,” in a baroque period when the Church and the members of the Sacred College were prominent for their wealth and pomp.

To Clement VIII he presented a Memorial on Reform in which he indicated what the principal office of the pontiff was: solicitude for all the Churches and vigilance over the bishops.[19]

His sincerity and correctness in criticizing the abuses of the papal court made him fall into disgrace, so much so that he was made archbishop and removed from Rome to preside over the diocese of Capua.

From 1602 to 1605 he lived in Capua, a very fruitful period of his life, both on the level of pastoral ministry and on the personal and spiritual level. He was often seen with the priests and with the poorest of the city; he distributed his goods to the needy. He attended Matins in the cathedral with his clergy, went to the villages to visit the parish priests, taught catechism to children and received anyone who knocked on the door of the archbishop’s palace. With great simplicity he wrote, referring to the period of Capua: “He was loved by the people and he, for his part, loved the people. Even the representatives of the king never bothered him, because they considered him a servant of God.”[20]

European disputes

When Clement VIII died, Bellarmine traveled to Rome for the conclave. As a cardinal he participated in two conclaves: in the first he was afraid he might be elected. His Autobiography recorded his prayers: “Send the one you want to send,” and “Free me from the papacy, Lord.”[21] In the second conclave he was nearly elected, as he himself reveals in his memoirs. Although Cardinal Baronio promoted his election, a new and insuperable obstacle arose: Bellarmine was a Jesuit. Therefore, Cardinal Borghese was elected as Paul V.

In the first years of Pope Paul V’s pontificate, the cardinal’s European disputes took place. The controversy over the interdict imposed on Venice and the controversy with the Servite, Paolo Sarpi date back to 1606. In the same year, Bellarmine was commissioned to explain the reasons for the papal Brief that, after the Gunpowder Plot (1605), forbade Irish Catholics to take the oath of allegiance to the Crown, imposed by James I.

A harsh exchange of arguments ensued between Bellarmine and the king on the distinction of the limits of the two powers, spiritual and temporal. James I supported the theory of the divine right of kings and denied the spiritual sovereignty of the Church. The cardinal instead reaffirmed the primacy of the spiritual power, with a doctrinal clarification against those who claimed direct temporal power of the pope over the states. In this way he “rendered a service not only to the Church, but to the spiritual freedom of humanity, in that he placed an inflexible barrier to the tyrannical claims of royal absolutism.”[22]

Catechism and preaching

When he was theologian to Pope Clement VIII, Bellarmine wrote a catechism: Dottrina cristiana breve, published in 1598, followed by a more extensive explanation for catechists. It consisted of 94 short questions with answers to be memorized, concerning faith and morals: the great theological truths thus put within the reach of children and the people. The Catechism was extraordinarily successful and remained in use for at least three centuries, translated into 60 languages, until it became the “Catechism of the Catholic Church.”

As we have seen, Bellarmine was truly a great preacher, and he was loved, and appreciated for his homilies. He preached not in order to give an oratorical demonstration, but out of love for God and for the faithful: he sincerely loved everyone and rendered an incomparable service, which was the humble communication of the truth. In turn, he was very well liked, and the memory of this unanimous affection for him has survived the centuries and even some intense hostility towards the Jesuits.

The few hints in the Autobiography  suggest that Bellarmine’s spirituality was imbued with the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius. Love of prayer, fidelity to the daily Eucharist, the spirit of poverty and service to the needy are the signs of his intimate communion with the Lord. In 1620, a year before his death, Bellarmine published a manual on the Art of Dying Well. It was the fruit of his involvement with the  Spiritual Exercises; he noted: “If someone begins, inspired by God himself, to truly love God for himself and his neighbor for God, he will begin to leave the world and will decrease his love of concupiscence. What seemed impossible when concupiscence dominated, that is, that a man should live in the world as if he were not of the world, becomes easy when charity grows.”[23]

It was precisely faith that led Bellarmine to love the Breviary and the Psalms; he composed a commentary on the entire Psalter: the Psalms, he wrote, are “like a letter sent by God to me, a letter with which he consoles me, rebukes me, instructs me.”[24]

Bellarmine’s last appearance on the European scene dates to 1610, with the work De potestate Summi Pontificis in rebus temporalibus, a synthesis of the doctrine on the power of the pope. It was a real “farewell as a protagonist.”[25]

In France, however, the book caused embarrassment and outrage, so that the Gallican party took the opportunity to accuse the Jesuits of endorsing the doctrine of regicide. The parlement of Paris asked for the condemnation of the book and obtained the condemnation that it be burned in front of Notre-Dame cathedral. This notoriety was avoided thanks to an extraordinary intervention of the Queen Mother, Maria de’ Medici.

Bellarmine and Saint Aloysius Gonzaga

When he was a professor at the Roman College, Bellarmine also had the task of spiritual father of the scholastics, and among them was Aloysius Gonzaga. He was his student, but above all a favorite disciple. In his Autobiography he speaks little of him, but confesses, in the process of Aloysius’ beatification , to have dealt at length with “his innocence, austerity of life and miracles; [concluding] that all saints were considered such either for innocence, or for penitence, while […] Aloysius could be beatified for both virtues.”[26] Numerous biographers note the affection he had for him, to the point of assisting him at the end, day and night. At his death, on June 21, 1591, he urged Fr. General not to have his body laid in a common tomb, but in a coffin, so that he could be recognized if he were canonized one day. He later expressed the desire to one day be able to rest beside his spiritual son. This was possible in 1923, when Bellarmine was beatified.

The controversy over grace and human freedom

It is necessary to recall an episode that revealed Bellarmine’s discernment and balance: the De auxiliis controversy which turned on the relationship between the action  of grace and human freedom. This was a dispute that had been dragging on for twenty years between Dominicans and Jesuits, between an ancient and very authoritative Order and a recent one, but already capable of contending in a difficult theological issue. The Council of Trent had defined in its decree on  justification the value of human freedom and the efficacy of grace, without, however, specifying how these were to be reconciled. What was really the value of free will in relation to the efficacy of grace?

Here a Jesuit, Luis de Molina, came into play with his Concordia liberi arbitrii cum gratiae donis… of 1588, where he affirmed that God’s will is capable of saving people respecting their freedom. The problem of divine omnipotence was manifest in omniscience, through the so-called scientia media: God possesses knowledge of all possible uses that people can make of grace (the “futuribili”) and the consequences that would result. While recognizing the necessity of grace, Molina subordinated its effectiveness to human cooperation, to the choice and putting into practice of the futuribili.

The Dominicans, relying on St. Thomas and St. Augustine, denounced Molina’s Concordia, accusing it of Pelagianism. They argued that human freedom was possible because God physically impelled it toward the good (praemotio physica), making sure that free creatures act freely. At this point the Jesuits accused them of supporting predestinarianism. Over the years, the dispute became increasingly heated, so that Clement VIII was forced in 1601 to entrust the resolution to Bellarmine.

He suggested to the pope two ways to solve the problem: to silence everyone, or to convene a Congregation to which the arduous task could be delegated. The pope convened the Congregation De auxiliis (excluding Bellarmine, since he had been sent to Capua): it met for three years without being able to decide much. The death of the pontiff in 1605 interrupted the work. Paul V, who had participated in the Congregation, convened a meeting of the cardinals interested in the solution in 1607. Finally, the pope took the matter upon himself, following Bellarmine’s advice: the parties could continue the dispute, provided they respected each other and did not accuse each other: a polite way to impose silence.

Giordano Bruno and the ‘Galileo case’ [27]

Giordano Bruno, a Dominican, philosopher and writer, had been held in the prison of the Holy Office since 1593, after being denounced for heresy. There were many accusations: disciplinary infractions and irreverent gestures (he wanted to set fire to his convent; he denounced the misgovernment of the Church, he railed against the friars whom he called “donkeys” and “too rich”).  Theological accusations against him included: the identification of the Holy Spirit with the soul of the world, the denial of the divinity of Christ, the Incarnation, transubstantiation and the virginity of Our Lady; and finally, the novelties of Bruno’s writings: the infinite and eternal universe, the nature of the earth’s motion, the denial of the eternity of hell, the doctrine of the anima mundi.[28]

The process had come to a standstill. The consultants of the Holy Office, where Bellarmine was the most authoritative theologian, were instructed to extract from the works of the accused a list of erroneous propositions in order to invite him to abjure them.[29] Eight of them were drawn up and presented to him. He seemed ready to retract them, but then he confirmed all of them.

Bellarmine intervened in the process only at the end, after his appointment as cardinal on March 3, 1599: by then the interrogations were done. However, in talks with the cardinal, Bruno showed himself to be willing to recant, even in August of that year. But then he did not recant and was condemned as a formal heretic, unrepentant and obstinate. On February 17, 1600, Giordano Bruno was burned at Campo de ‘Fiori. He died a “‘martyr and willingly,’ with the consciousness of perishing under an unjust sentence, but faithful to a truth of which he felt he was the bearer.”[30] The trial was conducted in compliance with the law, and Bruno listened with dignity to the sentence. His last words are well known: “Perhaps you tremble more in pronouncing this sentence against me than I do in hearing it.”

It is not easy to evaluate Bellarmine’s role in the affair, since the minutes are lost. In the first process of beatification, a witness reported seeing the cardinal’s imperturbability blur twice: first, when he learned of the death of a gentleman, his fellow citizen, in a state of concubinage; second, when he saw a man condemned by the Holy Office die unrepentant.[31] Was this the case of Giordano Bruno? In the testimony this is not specified. A historian, Le Bachelet, investigating the testimony, concluded that he was referring to the outcome of the trial of Bruno.[32] The cardinal, although convinced he was acting rightly perhaps bore in his heart the weight of that judgment.[33]

Bellarmine, the most authoritative cardinal of the Sacred College of the time, the trusted theologian of the popes, the defender of Catholic doctrine, because of his austerity of morals and rigorous faith in the absolute primacy of the pope, was part of that generation of pastors and mystics of the Catholic Reformation who accompanied the Church from the Renaissance to the Modern Age, and contributed, even with their limitations, to the state of the Church today.

DOI: La Civiltà Cattolica, En. Ed. Vol. 5, no.9 art. 7, 0921: 10.32009/22072446.0921.7

[1].      R. Bellarmine, Autobiografia (1613). Con Sinossi dei dati cronologici della Biografia di Bellarmino e delle sue pubblicazioni, Brescia, Morcelliana, 1999.

[2].      P. Giustiniani, “Editoriale”,  ibid., 10.

[3].      J. Brodrick, S. Roberto Bellarmino, Milan, Àncora, 1965, 43.

[4].      A. Richardt, Saint Robert Bellarmin (1542-1621). Le défenseur de la foi, Paris, F.-X. de Guibert, 2004, 41.

[5].      J. Brodrick, S. Roberto Bellarmino, op. cit., 67.

[6].      R. Bellarmine, Disputationes de controversiis Christianae fidei, adversus hujus temporis haereticos, 3 vols., Ingolstadt, D. Sartorius, 1586-1593; they were reprinted numerous times until 1872 and translated into French and German.

[7].      Ibid., Praefatio (last page of preface, unnumbered).

[8].      F. Motta, Bellarmino. Una teologia politica della Controriforma, Brescia, Morcelliana, 2005, 230.

[9]  .    I. Iparraguirre, “S. Roberto Bellarmino”, in In Cristo Gesù. Profili spirituali dei Santi e Beati della Compagnia di Gesù, Milan, Àncora, 1974, 122.

[10].    R. Bellarmine, Disputationes…, op. cit. These are the titles in the Index totius operis.

[11].    Cf. F. Motta, Bellarmino. Una teologia politica… , op. cit., 10.

[12].    See in particular V. Frajese, “Una teoria della censura: Bellarmino e il potere indiretto dei Papi”, in Studi storici 25 (1984) 139-152.

[13].    Cf. F. Motta, Roberto Bellarmino. Teologia e potere nella Controriforma, Milan, Il Sole 24 Ore, 2014, 165f.

[14].    R. Bellarmine, Autobiografia… , op. cit., 59.

[15].    Ibid. The new edition was generally known as the Clementine Vulgate after Clement VIII.

[16].    Ibid.

[17].    Ibid., 66f.

[18].    J. Brodrick, S. Roberto Bellarmino, op. cit., 225-227.

[19].    Its title was: De officio primario Summi pontificis ad Clementem VIII P.O.M.; cf.

[20].    R. Bellarmine, Autobiografia…, op. cit., 71.

[21].    Ibid., 72.

[22].    J. Brodrick, S. Roberto Bellarmino, op. cit., 361.

[23].    R. Bellarmine, De arte bene moriendi libri duo, Viterbii, Typis Discipulorum, 1620, lib. 1, cap. 2.

[24].    Id., Exhortationes domesticae, Brussels, s.n., 1899, 20.

[25].    F. Motta, Roberto Bellarmino. Teologia e potere…, op. cit., 224.

[26].    R. Bellarmine, Autobiografia…, op. cit., 80.

[27].    With regard to “the Galileo case” please refer to the previous article in Civ. Catt. 2021 II 449-463.

[28].    Cf. R. Bellarmine, Autobiografia…, op. cit., 90.

[29].    Cf. A. Richardt, Saint Robert Bellarmin…, op. cit., 126f. According to Firpo, the initiative came from the Cardinal: cf. L. Firpo, Il processo di Giordano Bruno, Rome, Ed. Salerno, 1993, 91.

[30].    Ibid., 112.

[31].    Cf. L. Firpo, Il processo di Giordano Bruno, op. cit., 92. The testimony was given in 1627 in Montepulciano at the process of beatification.

[32].    Le Bachelet firmly maintained that this was Giordano Bruno: cf. X.-M. Le Bachelet, “Bellarmin et Giordano Bruno”, in Gregoriana 4 (1923) IV 210.

[33].    It is necessary to keep in mind that over four centuries separate us from these events, which cannot be judged according to the categories of our day: centuries of growth in civilization in the growing awareness of individual rights and freedoms. But also centuries of spiritual growth that in the Church have gradually matured the disposition to listen, to confrontation and to dialogue.

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