Sept.7, 2012

Frati Minori di Sicilia announced that the Venerable Servant of God, Fr. Gabriele Maria Allegra, ofm, founder of the Studium Biblicum Franciscanum in Hong Kong, will be beatified on 29th September, 2012, at the Cathedral of Acireale, Catania in Sicilia.


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Aug.15, 2012

On the occasion of the Solemnity of the Assumption of Our Blessed Mother Mary, the Roman Curia announced through the Sicilian Franciscan Holy Name Province that the Venerable Servant of God, Fr. Gabriele Maria Allegra, ofm, founder of the Studium Biblicum Franciscanum in Hong Kong, will be beatified on 29th September, 2012, at the Cathedral of Arcireale, Catania in Sicilia.


Dec.22, 2007
Centenary of the birth of Venerable Gabriele Allegra

A hundred years ago on Dec. 26th Giovanni Stefano Allegra was born in San Giovanni La Punta (Catania). He became a Franciscan friar, priest and missionary, taking the name "Gabiele Maria". Today he is known as an outstanding figure in the Catholic Church of China in the 20th century and even so as a "St. Jerome of China".

After having heard so much of him in our Franciscan circles, I had the grace of meeting him a few years before he died; a small man with a great heart and an even greater genius. In September 1973, while I was still a student, I had taken part in the Convention of Franciscan Biblists of Italy in Rieti and I recall even today the impression he made on me by the way he preached, always modest and serene, an ardent homily in which he spoke of the Incarnate Word, that became the Sacred Scriptures; and a vigorous denunciation of the excesses and divisions existing in the Church at that time, particularly among the biblical scholars.

As we await the proclamation of his beatification as petitioned by the Minister General of the Franciscan Order to the Pope, let us recall briefly his life, especially the work that rendered him an "apostle of the Word of God" in China.

Gabriele was the first of eight children from an economically modest but spiritually rich family. Two sisters and a brother were consecrated to the religious life like he was. Attracted by the missionary ideal, he entered the Franciscan Order while still very young. During the year of his novitiate, he venerated the arm of St. Francis Xavier that was brought to Sicily, and received the gift of the missionary vocation from Our Lady. His superiors quickly recognized the signs and sent him to Rome for his theological and missionary studies. Here, thanks to various circumstances and providential readings, among which was the "Story of a Soul" by St. Therese of the Child Jesus, the call to go to China grew in him.

In his autobiography he recounts that during the solemn commemoration of the 600th anniversary of the great missionary Blessed John of Monte Corvino, the speech of the then director of the magazine "Le missione francescane" was for him like "a lighted match thrown into a powder keg". On that occasion he heard that the Catholics of China still did not have a Bible translated from the original languages. He himself wrote: "It was another powerful electric shock¡K thus two and a half years before I departed for China, my decision was made: I am going, or better, I will go to China to translate the Sacred Scriptures". It was an inspiration from heaven for this young aspirant missionary; a vocation that he followed throughout his life even during those moments when it became a painful martyrdom.

In 1931 he left for China. Thanks to his acute intelligence and hardwork, Fr. Gabriele was able to speak Chinese in only a few months. Faithful to the heavenly inspiration, he organized this life project: "I want little but I want it at all cost; not to waste time, to study the Chinese language and Sinology (history, geography etc.) 5 hours a day and another 3 hours in biblical studies (Greek, Hebrew, exegesis). Whatever time is left, I will use it for the spiritual life: prayer, Divine Office, spiritual reading etc." Thus on April 11th 1935, the feast of the Sorrowful Mother whom he had a tender devotion; he began alone the translation of the Bible from the original languages beginning with the Book of the Psalms.

The intense rhythm of work and an austere life took a toll on his health and in 1939 he was forced to return to Italy where he remained till 1941. He took advantage of this by resting but above all to deepen his biblical knowledge. There were many requests and proposals that he remain in Italy but Fr. Gabriele was resolute: his place was in China and his mission remains the same; the translation of the Bible into Chinese. Immediately before the outbreak of the war, he was able to make a brief pilgrimage to the Holyland and visit the Studium Biblicum Franciscanum and the biblical school of the Dominicans in Jerusalem; the two institutes that inspired him to found the Studium Biblicum in China.

After an adventurous journey of 4 months, he reached Beijing where he took up again his work. In May 1945 he succeeded translating the entire Old Testament. These were not easy years. But Fr. Gabriele was not discouraged by the disturbances brought about by the 2nd World War and the Sino-Japanese war. During an internment for 15 days, he translated the Book of Esther. Still in 1945, having earned the esteem and support of his superiors and confreres, he founded the Studium Biblicum where he gathered several collaborators whose mother-tongue was Chinese. With these friars, they embarked on revising the Old Testament and a commentary of it. But even this work underwent enormous difficulties hence the Studium Biblicum was transferred several times till it reached Hong Kong. In 1954 the work on the Old Testament was brought to completion by this team; it consisted of 8 volumes of over 6,000 pages.

At this point and before starting to translate the New Testament, he and his collaborators spent time to study at the Studium Biblicum Franciscanum in Jerusalem between 1954 and 1955. They then returned to Hong Kong and very soon published in 3 volumes the translations of the Gospels, the Acts of the Apostles and the Pauline Letters, The Catholic Letters and the Apocalypse. On Christmas 1968 the Bible in one volume was published, which Fr. Allegra called the "Christmas Bible" or the "Bethlehem Bible".

Having brought to an end this immense undertaking, Fr Allegra with his collaborators and indeed the entire Franciscan Order merited the recognition and appreciation of the Catholic Church. He then began to compile the Chinese Bible Dictionary that complemented the Bible. But even the realization of this work cost him obvious and hidden sacrifices. But Fr. Allegra never lost sight of his goal and in April the "dream of [his] youth" was rewarded with the publication of the Dictionary. Thereafter he spent several months writing his "Memories" (autobiography) which his superior had asked him to write under obedience. It is a precious text for the understanding of the history of the Chinese Bible, and a source for understanding the soul and personality of this great yet little Franciscan. On Jan. 26th 1976 he died a holy death in Hong Kong to the regret of many who considered him a man of God.

As can be imagined, the work or process for the public recognition of his sanctity began soon after; and this has reached its first goal. As of 2002 everything is ready for the beatification of Fr. Gabriele. It only awaits the decision of Pope Benedict XVI.

Giovanni Claudio Bottini
Studium Biblicum Francescanum, Gerusalemme

This article first appeared in Squilla dei fratini di S. Antonio. A bimonthly for vocation animation for the Friars Minor of Abruzzo, no.6 Nov.-Dec. 2007.


Dec.22, 2007

"If I had not felt the urgent need of continuing to fulfill my work in China, believe me, I would have remained in Jerusalem, the ideal place for studying the Sacred Scriptures... I remember always and at times with nostalgia, the Flagellation, but obedience is the most important". This remark, written on August 1st 1974 and again on October 20th 1975 to Fr. Bellarmino Bagatti (? 1990), then director of the Studium Biblicum Franciscanum, expresses in itself the affection Fr. Gabriele Allegra had had for the Holy City and in particular for the Studium Biblicum.

The first contact that Fr. Allegra had with the Holyland was in the Spring of 1940, albeit a very short one. It was a pilgrimage that nevertheless gave him the opportunity to visit the biblical schools of the city. This fact is not known in his biography, but Fr. Allegra made many references to it. In his autobiography he writes: "The most Rev. Father [Minister General] decided to send me to the Holyland and after two or three months, to return to Italy in order to depart for China. In the Holyland I met again my old companions of the Antonianum¡K and naturally I visited often the Studium Biblicum of the Flagellation, and even visited the Ecole Biblique of the Dominican fathers and the Melchite Seminary (if I'm not wrong) cared for by the White Fathers. But the threat of war was ever more imminent and thus led to my early return to Italy".

The kindness of Bro. Cristoforo Alvi allowed me to retrace in the Archive of the Custody of the Holyland, the dates in which he celebrated Mass in the principal sanctuaries and where he signed his name in each sanctuary's register, adding to his name "missionary in China": on April 20th at the Holy Sepulchre, on April 23rd at Gethsemane, on May 1st in the Grotto of the Nativity in Bethlehem, on May 8th in Nazareth. On this occasion he would have known the Custos of the Holyland, and in his autobiography he writes regarding the Scriptorium, the room where he and his collaborators studied and worked on the Chinese translation of the Bible: "The king and inspirer of this room was the little wooden statue of the Infant Jesus, a gift to me from Fr. Alberto Gori, Custos of the Holyland in 1941". In 1940 he had not yet founded the Studium Biblicum of China for the translation of the Bible, but he already that this in mind he visited the biblical schools mentioned above. At the Studium Biblicum Franciscanum he certainly met with the director Fr. Donato Baldi and Fr. Bellarmino Bagatti with whom he then kept in contact, as is testified by a group of letters still conserved and various articles published in Liber Annuus, the annual publication of the institute, regarding the life and work of the Studium Biblicum Franciscanum in China from 1953 to 1975. Fr. Gabriele had nursed for all his life, the dream of founding a Chinese Studium Biblicum as a center of teaching in the models of the Studium and the Ecole of Jerusalem.

In 1954 Fr. Gabriele and his collaborators having completed the translation of the Old Testament in Chinese, thought of spending time to study in the Holyland at the Flagellation. On April 28th 1954, Fr. Allegra wrote to Fr. Baldi: "They will live like the other students, and follow the courses like the rest, and if possible I too will gladly follow the same courses since in this field, one is always a disciple". In his autobiography, he recalls fully the stay that covered the academic year 1954-1955 that forged a strong link between the two institutes which still exists. His arrival to Jerusalem was preceded by his fame of having achieved the undertaking of the translation. He was welcomed with esteem and cordiality and invited to teach a course on biblical theology. In the chronicles of the Flagellation from Nov. 29th to Dec. 7th, Fr. Baldi noted: "This evening began the retreat that was preached in Latin by Fr. Allegra. He preached fluently in Latin regarding spiritual matters and excellent ideas [¡K] The retreat ended with the great satisfaction of everyone present with the great spirituality of Fr. Allegra".

In the autobiography, Fr. Allegra recalled how he was approached to undertake this retreat, and it is interesting to note that despite having past 30 years, he still remembered even the psychological details. "On the day we arrived at Jerusalem from Cairo [...] a fierce storm enveloped Jerusalem and during the tempest, the rector Fr. Baldi came to my room to speak with me. He told me that he wished to make pleasant and peaceful the stay of the Chinese fathers in the Holyland, hence they should turn to him directly or through me, so that he may do his best to satisfy them. And he told me many other things that appeared to hide what was truly on his mind. I thought, if I was not mistaken, that he wanted to tell me something serious; initially I felt he had wanted to give me perhaps some directives regarding discipline or finances that was embarrassing¡K Finally he disclosed his thoughts: "Fr. Gabriele, I know that you have preached many retreats; and see, we are beginning to celebrate the feast of the Immaculate and our preacher is missing¡K.. can you do me the favour of substituting him ¡K and don't tell me 'no' ".

The little group of 4 chinese friars gathered around Fr. Allegra could not be passed unobserved in Jerusalem. The magazine La Terra Santa (May 1954) recounts that the curious children of Jerusalem called them "khuri giapan" (Japanese priests) and the director published an ample interview with Fr. Allegra. Concluding the interview, he said: "I would like to thank from the bottom of my heart the fraternal hospitality of the Custody and the Fathers of the Studium Biblicum Franciscnaum of the Flagellation. I can affirm that the Custody and the Studium deserve well for preaching the Gospel to the Chinese".

There are two other instances when Fr. Allegra was in Jerusalem. In 1960, while returning to Hong Kong after being in Europe for the Eucharistic Congress in Munich (Bavaria) and when he was received by Pope John XXIII in an audience where he gave the pope a copy of the Gospels in Chinese, Fr. Allegra stopped at the Flagellation from Nov. 9th to 15th. Then in 1966 he stopped again in the Holyland from Nov. 27th to Dec. 5th, visiting Jerusalem. Bethlehem, Emmaus and Nazareth.

A new sojourn of Fr. Allegra to the Studium Biblicum, but this time for several months, was occasioned by Fr. Bagatti. He knew that in 1973 Fr. Allegra was in Italy without a precise work, so he invited him "to teach a course and offer him a rightful continuation of his studies". Fr. Allegra accepted the invitation and was welcomed as "a gift from God". The superior of the fraternity at the Flagellation, Fr. Teofilo Gori (? 2005), noted in the chronicle dated Feb. 12th 1974: "The keenly awaited Fr. Gabriele Allegra arrived to teach a course to the students, but also with the prospect of having him on the permanent staff. His moral and intellectual personality contrasts profoundly with his physical appearance. But men should not be judged by height and appearances are unfortunately deceiving". From February to May he taught an exegetical course on the Gospel of John that was much appreciated; and wrote several entries for the Chinese Bible Dictionary that was in preparation, an article for Liber Annuus and collaborated in other activities of the Studium. This period remained in the heart and mind of Fr. Allegra who recalled in his autobiography a list of conferences and series of talks that he held at various religious communities. We cite one passage: "The last task, or better the last talk held in the Holyland was a spiritual retreat at the sisters' "Ephatha" Institute for the deaf-mute in Bethlehem. This institute is a gift from His Holiness Paul VI to remember his visit in 1964 to the Holyland. The institute is in the care of the Sisters of St. Bertilla Boscardin, the same sisters who take care of the kitchen of the Studium Biblicum of the Flagellation. I stayed for 8 days in a peace that is truly of Bethlehem, among the olive trees, the flowers and the joyous, incessant twittering of the birds. Another sweet memory is of my second sojourn in Nazareth".

The correspondance between Fr. Allegra and the Studium Biblicum Jerusalem ended with two letters written some months before his death. It is surprising to see how he still remembered everyone, from superiors to professors, from the students to the sisters, even the porter! This affection was intensely reciprocated by all those in Jerusalem who knew him and esteemed him for his wisdom and goodness. In 1983 the Custody, the Union of Religious in the Holyland and the Studium Biblicum wrote postulatory letters to the Pope asking that the holiness of Fr. Allegra be recognised and officially proclaimed. In the letter by the Studium Biblicum one can read among other things : "He left us an image of a religious truly dedicated to the Lord and a excellent teacher. His affable and modest attitude, always consistent, always ready to see the will of God in the decisions of his superiors, revealed distinctly an extensive training in the spiritual life. The priestly duties carried out readily and generously left a deep impression on everyone. He fulfilled his academic activities; at school, in conferences and scientific publications, always with modesty in order to give God the glory for the gifts he had received".

G. Claudio Bottini ofm
Studium Biblicum Franciscanum, Gerusalemme
Published in Terrasanta. Periodical of CTS, Nov.-Dec. 2007, p.52-54.


Jan. l7, 2006
Eucaristia il dono piu grande che Gesu poteva darci

Dagli scritti e soprattutto dall'esempio e dalla pratica religiosa si puo comprendere quanto intenso fosse l'anelito del ven. Gabriele M. Allegra verso il Verbo incarnato e l'Eucaristia. Quando ne parlava s'intuiva subito che tutta la sua vita era orientata verso Gesu che si dona a noi alla mensa eucaristica.

Del Verbo incarnato desiderava avere una conoscenza intima, amorosa, soprannaturale, e non puramente storica, intellettuale, che lascia il cuore arido e da del Cristo una immagine alterata e distolta.

Egli afferma: "Se la teologia diventa sapienza umana, cioe una serie di sillogismi dedotti, essa logicamente respinge il miracolo, il mistero, l'azione soprannaturale di Dio, il suo intervento; ma allora che altro e essa, se non una sapienza terrestre, carnale, diabolica".

Essendo pienamente convinto che la conoscenza soprannaturale del Cristo si ottiene con la preghiera, la chiedeva intensamente e ardentemente al Signore. Negli esercizi spirituali del 13-21 luglio 1944, fatti a Pechino, egli rivolgeva al Signore questa preghiera:

"Sto alla porta e picchio. Vorrei l'intelligenza del mistero di Cristo, vorrei comprendere, per quanto e possibile ad un povero peccatore pentito, le ininvestigabili ricchezze del Cuore di Gesu, l'eminete scienza della sua carita, la sua regalita assoluta. Giacche Tu lo volesti come glorificatore e adoratore perfetto della SS. Trinita, Rex universitatis, come dice il tuo servo, il beato Francesco, vorrei che egli mi parlasse di Te, e della gloria che ebbe presso di Te, prima che il mondo fosse, e della grandezza insondabile della Madre sua, la piena di grazia. Vorrei comprendere la storia, la filosofia e le scienze, come una propedeutica a Cristo, come un'aspirazione a lui, giacche egli e il Re dei secoli, il primum volitum inter omnia creata volita, e quindi il superamento, la spiegazione delle antitesi del tempo e dello spazio, dell'essere e del divenire, del passato e del futuro, del relativo e dell'assoluto, del contingente e del necessario.

Dammi pure, o Padre, di leggere nel gran libro della natura la tua divina virtu, e nella storia la tua adorabile Provvidenza.

Vorrei soprattutto coordinare tutte le cognizioni in un solo principio teologico: in principio era il Verbo, e il Verbo era presso Dio e il Verbo era Dio e il Verbo si e fatto carne. Dammi te ne supplico, o Padre, l'intelligenza della Scrittura. Fammi comprendere per essa la pedagogia divina, con la quale tu conduci non solo un popolo, ma l'umanita intera a te e al tuo Cristo. Dammi qualche lume sul mistero dei misteri, quello dell'unita della tua natura nella trinita delle Persone; dammi l'umilta e la purezza di cuore, giacche tu hai detto: i puri di cuore vedranno Dio!

Fa che io, come san Bonaventura e il mio caro fratello, il beato Giovanni Duns Scoto, sappia mutare lo studio in continua preghiera, e studi soltanto per diventare un discepolo della divina Sapienza, cioe per conoscerti meglio e per amarti di piu!"

L'intenso amore, che il p. Allegra aveva per il Verbo incarnato, appare evidente nei suoi scritti e nelle sue pratiche devozionali che attingevano ai singoli misteri cristologici.

Al centro dei suoi affetti e dei suoi pensieri vi era anzitutto l'Eucaristia. Con quanto ardore ne parlava: "Nessuna grazia - egli scrive - nessun dono poteva farci il Signore piu grande di questo¡K Quando egli era su questa terra, come figlio di Dio fatto uomo, viveva sostanto in una determinata regione della terra, in un determinato luogo di questa regione, ma ora mediante l'Eucaristia vive in tutti I tavernacoli del mondo ed e per tutti gli uomini fonte infinita di grazie, di tutte le grazie: e l'Eucaristia la buona grazia. Pertanto la terra e divenuta il Tabernacolo dell'Altissimo. Siano piu grandi, piu tremendamente grandi e tra le magnifiche altre stelle, che illuminano il nostro firmamento, il nostro umile pianeta, la terra, essa sola e divenuta il Tabernacolo dell'Altissimo, perche in essa si fece carne, in essa il Verbo continuo ad abitare in mezzo agli uomini sotto gli umili veli eucaristici."

"Gesu assommo, completo nell'Eucaristia tutte le meraviglie: l'onnipotente liberalita della creazione, la sublime sapienza dell'Incarnazione, l'infinita tenerezza, l'immensa misericordia della Redenzione¡K Quanti prodigi non opera Gesu, pur di rimanere sotto le umili specie sacramentali. Pronunciate le parole della consacrazione, la sostanza del pane e del vino non c'e piu, quantunque il tatto, il gusto, l'odore siano quelli del pane e del vino. C'e realmente Gesu".

P. Allegra ribadisce la grandiosita del mistero eucaristico con quest'altra considerazione teologica: "La SS. Eucaristia e un mistero forse ancora piu misterioso di quello dell'Incarnazione e della Redenzione: In Cruce latevat sola Deitas, at hic latet simul et humanitas (sulla Croce nascondeva solo la Divinita, ma qui nasconde insieme l'umanita). Nell'Eucaristia Gesu si dona in cibo, egli perpetua misticamente il suo sacrificio della Croce, rinnova continuamente, offre continuamente al Padre il suo amore per Lui e per noi. Chi crede fermamente nell'Eucaristia, crede perfettamente in Dio, crede che Lui e Amore, e che ha chiamato tutti nel Figlio dilett a un'ineffabile unione di amore".

La passione eucaristica del p. Allegra non era soltanto dottrinale, la viveva con amorosa sollecitudine. Era ammirevole, eccezionale la sua devozione. Non solo quando passava davanti ad una chiesa, ma anche quando scorgeva da lontano un campanile, gli dava l'occasione di pensare a Gesu vivente nei nostri tabernacoli e adorarlo.

Soleva recitare il divino Ufficio e fare la lettura spirituale davanti al Tavernacolo. Nei momenti di maggiore stanchezza si recava "in chiesa a visitare il Sacramento". "In mezzo a mille preoccupazioni e mormorii interni", trovava la forza, la pace davanti a Gesu eucaristico. Scriveva ai genitori: "Quando sono stanco, vado in chiesa a visitare il SS.mo Sacramento, a a leggere qualche libro sulla Madonna: mi passa subito la stanchezza".

Voleva che la cappella dello Studium fosse sempre pulita: era il primo a spazzarla, a spolverarla. "Sull'altare non mancavano mai i fiori freschi. Ordinariamente era il p. Allegra a procurarli".

Piu di un teste dichiara che, durante il giorno, frequentemente visitava il SS.mo Sacramento. "Appena aveva un momento di tempo attesta sr. Bernadetta Ng si recava in chiesa per venerare il Santissimo, per stare vicino a Gesu, per riparare alle offese commesse contro la presenza del Santissimo".

"Quando veniva alla Procura di Kowloon asserisce p. Pieraccini la prima visita era sempre al SS.mo Sacramento". Egli si era proposto: "Ora che la S. Scrittura nella sua edizione manuale mi lascia un po' di respiro, sto pensando di darmi di piu alla preghiera e di passare piu tempo davanti al SS.mo Sacramento". "Celebrava, poi, la S. Messa con quella riverenza, a cui san Francesco esortava i suoi frati".

"Nella celebrazione del S. Sacrificio - ribadisce sr. Bernadetta - teneva un tale portamento da impressionare. Si vedeva che egli credeva profondamente nel mistero espresso dalla preghira eucaristica. Egli sapeva che nella Chiesa vi erano alcuni sacerdoti e teologi, i quali ritengono che, finita la S. Messa, Gesu non e sacramentalmente presente sotto le sacre specie, e che certi cristiani non venerano piu il SS. Sacramento, e simili cose: e ne soffriva grandemente". Raccomandava la comunione frequente e la devozione all'Eucaristia, come mezzo efficacissimo di santificazione e di rifiorimento nella Chiesa.

"Un'anima eucaristica diceva e un'anima votata alla santita, anzi ad una specie di santita, che si rassomiglia tanto a quella della Madre celeste, nostra Madre. Al bellezza, la santita di Maria, e tutta interiore, cosi e dell'anima eucaristica. Le virtu della Madonna, che piu mi commuovono, sono: l'umilta, il silenzio, la modestia, in una parola, la vita nascosta con Gesu Cristo in Dio".

A un suo confratello scriveva: "Se non torna a fiorire la devozione alla Madonna e alla Santissima Eucaristia, non so come tanti sacerdoti e tanti vescovi, per riflesso, potranno superare la tremenda crisi di oggi, che e piu grave del modernismo al principio del secolo" e affermava "che la rinnovazione della Chiesa, auspicata dal Concilio, cosi come avvenne nel secolo XVI, non si fara, se non mediante una vigorosa ripresa della pieta eucaristica e della devozione alla Madonna" (cfr. "Il Cuore Immacolato di Maria, via a Dio", pp. 23-24). Il S. Padre auspica che "l'Anno dell'Eucaristia sia per tutti occasione preziosa per una rinnovata consapevolezza del tesoro incomparabile che Cristo ha affidato alla sua Chiesa" (Mane nobiscum Domine - resta con noi, Signore).

Leonardo Anastasi


April 29, 2005
Meeting on Fr Allegra OFM, Founder of the Studium Biblicum

On April 29th 2005, a talk was organized at the Franciscan Friary of Monza (Sanctuary of Our Lady of Graces) by the local Missionary Group on the topic - Fr Allegra, His work on the Chinese translation of the Bible and his great missionary work in China. The two speakers were Brother Luigino, for some years now a missionary in China and great admirer of Fr Allegra, and Brother Lorenzo Iacono, who spent some time at the Studium Biblicum Hong Kong.

Bro. Lorenzo is from the Sicilian Province of Franciscans of which Fr Allegra belonged. The Franciscan Minister Provincial of Lombardy was present for this event with some 60 other persons.

During the talk, a exhibit displaying the life and works of Fr Allegra was presented. Of note was the latest revised publication of the autobiography of Fr Allegra edited by Fr Oppes, and the CD of sacred Chinese music commissioned by Fr Allegra and produced by the Studium Biblicum Hong Kong.

Bro. Luigino presented a talk on the life and work of Fr Allegra, taking note of the most important events and contributions the Venerable Founder made. Bro. Lorenzo then recounted the celebration of January 28th - 29th in Sicily when the remains of Fr Allegra were transferred to a new chapel dedicated to him in Acireale (Sicily).

Bro. Lorenzo then reported on the progress of the beatification of Fr Allegra which was abruptly stopped several years ago.

The talk ended with a prayer to Fr Allegra after a question-answer session. Everyone was grateful for this event which a very important but little known person in the history of the Franciscan Order and the Universal Church.

This event was also an important occasion for the Studium Biblicum whose work in the past and present was explained to the participants. Everyone was interested in the development of the online course which the Studium is creating.

Bro. Luigino and Bro Lorenzo presenting their talk

Participants learn more about Fr Allegra and his work

Some of the works of Fr Allegra on display


February 28-29, 2005
Commemoration of Fr Gabriele Allegra

The Franciscan Province of Sicily commemorated the anniversary of Venerable Gabriele Allegra, founder of the Studium Biblicum Hong Kong with a two day celebration.

The highlight of the event was the transfer of the remains of Fr Allegra to a new chapel dedicated to him. Sr Paola fmm, sister of Fr Allegra and his nephew Fr Leone Murabito were among those present to honour the event.

Photos of the commemoration


January 26, 2003
27th Commemoration of Fr Gabriele Allegra OFM

A solemn commemoration of the 27th anniversary of the death of Fr Allegra was graced by the Minister General of the Franciscan Order, Fr Giacomo Bini, in Acireale, Sicily. Fr Allegra is buried in the Franciscan Church of San Biagio in Acireale where he once lived and studied as a seminarian.

The full day programme included a visit to the tomb of Fr Allegra in the Church of San Biagio, Holy Mass presided by the Minister General, a meeting of the Sicilian Franciscan family and ended with a concert by the Franciscan friars in the evening.

Joining this solemn occasion were the members of the Allegra family including the only living sister of Fr Allegra, Sister Paola, and a thousand Franciscan friars and sisters. Visits by Monsignor Pio Vigo, Bishop of Acireale and Monsignor Salvatore Gristina, Bishop of Catania, highlighted the importance of Fr Allegra in the history of the Sicilian Church.

Speeches by Fr Carmelo Finocchiaro, Provincial Minister of Sicily and various other speakers drew attention to aspects of the life, work and spirituality of Fr Allegra.


April 24, 2002 Roman Observer
Promulgation of the Decrees

On April 23, 2002, in the presence of the Holy Father, the following Decrees have been promulgated:

[...] a miracle, attributed to the intercession of GABRIELE MARIA ALLEGRA, the Venerable Servant of God, professed priest of the Order of the Friar Minors, born on December 25, 1907 at San Giovanni La Punta (Italy) and died on January 26, 1976 in Hong Kong; [...]

The Cardinals present were: Jose Saraiva Martins, Prefect of Dicastero, Undersecretary, Mons. Michele Di Ruberto, and Promoter of Faith, Mons. Sandro Corrandini[...]Mons. Salvatore Pristina, Bishop of Acireale.

The Postulators of the Cases: Rev. Nuncio D'Elia, Fr. Romualdo Rodrigo, O.A.R.; Fr. Luca De Rosa, O.F.M.; [...];

Others present were: Fr. Carmelo Finocchiaro, O.F.M., Provincial Minister of Sicily, Fr. Leonardo Anastasi, O.F.M., Fr. Leone Murabito Allegra, O.F.M. and Fr. Pino Noto, O.F.M. [...].


April 23 2002
The canonic process of the missionary from La Punta concluded FR. GABRIELE ALLEGRA WILL BECOME BLESSED SOON in Vatican this morning

Acireale - the process of beatification of Fr. Gabriele Allegra has come to conclusion. Dr. Francesco Tomasello from Messina will proclaimed the miracle obtained through his intercession as authentic in Vatican this morning. The celebration is great at San Giovanni La Punta, his birthplace, and at Acireale, where his remains are received in the Convent of St. Biagio.

Fr. Allegra was indeed an exceptional figure that brought honor to Sicily and to the Franciscan Order. He was fragrant with God and his love for God. As teacher of doctrine and of holiness, he uses God's measure to measure everything. His interior pureness makes each gesture, each word of his a lesson of humility. His readiness without reservation, his vast culture and his innocent smile of a child, which is surprising and edifying, speaks and reflects for itself the perennial smile of his soul.

"His holiness - as the decree says, is recognized by - the greatness of his virtues which is extraordinarily ordinary like all others, but he lived them in an extraordinary way like few".

Mons. Luca Capozi, Archbishop of Taiwan, however, had anticipated it. In fact, he spoke of him in 1954: Fr. Allegra is the most gifted and the most holy missionary of the Far East. His work is admired and envied even by the Protestants". His "masterpiece" was the translation of the Bible into Chinese, a fundamental work for the fate of Christianity in that big country, an enterprise that was considered "impossible".

Caution should be taken, however, that Fr. Allegra would be beatified not because he translated the Bible. On the contrary, he translated the Bible because he perceived the need and the urgency of offering to the thousand million of persons the essential instrument for approaching the Holy Scriptures. He came forth as a saint and a man of faith rather than a Bible scholar, although the two aspects joins together and fully compliment each other.

Fr. Agostino Gemelli suddenly appeared on October 6, 1939 at San Giovanni la Punta. He came personally to offer him a teaching post at the Catholic University. He considered it an honor to have him among his university professors. Fr. Allegra felt flattered by the offer but he refused it with courtesy. His mind was somewhere else: in China. Nothing could dissuade him from this mission. This episode reminds us of his cultural richness: he knows eleven languages. He was an expert in theology, philosophy, sacred music and painting. However, when he returned to his country, out of humility and just to hide his talents, he used Sicilian dialect when he gave a speech in Acireale.

Graduated with an honorary degree in Theology (the first conferred by the Pontificio Ateneo Antoniano di Roma), he was repeatedly invited to Oxford and New York for cycles of conferences, spoken highly by famous friends, such as the great and controversial French Jesuit Theilard de Chardin, but his considerable amount of culture did not superimpose nor obscure the well-defined profile of a Franciscan. In him, science has become wisdom and holiness, the way of living his mission.

Small in stature, slim, almost fragile, he was gifted with an incredible determination. In a China that was disturbed by the Communist Revolution of Mao Tse Tung and the Japanese War, the Sicilian missionary knew how to win the esteem of everyone, since he treated everybody as brother and he has a word of peace and hope for everyone. They call him "the saint of Hong Kong". The lepers of Coloane (Macao) even toll the bells when he went to spend Easter and Christmas with them.

His name juxtaposed that of Matteo Ricci (1552-1601), who was considered to be a great teacher of Chinese culture for translating some of the Western literary works, starting with "De amicizia" by Cicerone. In his 45 years of missionary service, Fr. Allegra, has done far more, and much better. Other than the eleven volumes of the Bible, he has in fact published a Bible Dictionary and founded an Institute of Sociology in Singapore and a Center of Bible Studies in Beijing. China is truly much nearer to Catholicism that what one can think of. This is not something small.

The date of beatification has not yet been fixed. They say it will be held on October 20, in the Word Missionary Day. On June 16, Fr. Pio will be proclaimed as "Blessed". The Franciscan tree is greener than ever.

Passing Acireale where the Franciscan students in Theology have finished spending their weekend of fraternity with a performance of songs and dances in Piazza Duomo, Fr. Carnelo Finocchiaro, the Provincial, said, "Today the Province of Friar Minors of Sicily lives a moment of ineffable joy: one of his best sons is recognized and raised to the honor of the altar 26 years after returning to the [Heavenly] Father. The Blessed Allegra will become a great example for all those who dedicate themselves to the great cause of Ecumenism". (Giuseppe Contarino)


April 24 2002
the ceremony day by day

Gabriele Allegra is heading towards the glory of the altar. Yesterday, the miracle has been solemnly proclaimed as obtained through his intercession. By now, the canonical process has been completed. What lies ahead of us is only the ceremony of beatification, scheduled for the month of October. Fr. Allegra, has known how to decode and join together the fascination of the Far East with the intense perfumes of the orange blossom of Etna. He will be a universal "Blessed": being a Sicilian and Chinese at the same time, because he spent at least 45 years [of his life] in China. His holiness has been defined as "extraordinarily ordinary", that is, without glamour or exaggeration. Nothing would have been more welcomed, because the judgment reflects the essentiality, the sobriety and the authenticity that he clung to all throughout his life, hiding even from himself each and every charisma that he received.

His simplicity is accompanied by the truth, as well as the modesty of his knowledge. Living in simplicity and think great is the distinctive code of the privileged. Fr. Allegra scrupulously clung to this lifestyle, one that belongs to the perfect Franciscan.

Around the Pope was Cardinal Jose Saraiva Martins, Prefect of the Congregation for the Case of the Saints, others were: Mons Salvatore Pristin, Bishop of Acireale, Fr. Carmelo Finocchiaro, Provincial of the Friars Minors of Sicily, the Postulator General Luca de Rosa and the brothers, Bernardino and Leonardo Inastasi. Everyone was obviously moved.

He, in fact, being the vice postulator, is undertaking the great work of compiling witnesses all over the world, publishing different volumes and editing a precious Bulletin, which he investigate at length and in depth the complex and in certain directions, the mysterious personality of the Venerable.

Fr. Leonardo Inastasi has turned 86. "But I am happy and excited like a young boy - precisely - especially today when the dream of my life has come true. I can assure that the Convent of S. Biago will become one of the most important Franciscan Centers of Southern Italy, because this fellow countryman of ours is a giant". Brother Bernardino kept his tears with difficulty and agreed. "We really need to do things well - he added - because Fr. Allegra deserves it".

In reality, the superior of the Acese Convent, Fr. Cataldo Migliazzo, in agreement with Fr. Provincial Finocchiaro, have started the work of transforming the monastery into a reception center. "On January 1993," he told us, "the decision of turning the convent of S. Biagio into a House of Spiritual Formation dedicated to Fr. Allegra has been undertaken. It was there that he has received his first Franciscan formation and finished his high school studies. For him, the years that he spent at Acireale had been unforgettable. His last visit happened just a year before he passed away. He returned to our Convent at a span of eleven years in order to remain here forever. We have set up a library that collects everything concerning Fr. Allegra. We have already forwarded to the Superintendent the project of coming up with a Chapel next to the church. In the following weeks, in agreement with the bishop, an organizing committee for the festivities will be set up, in which S. Giovanni La Punta will be

well-represented. We will try out best so that the celebration of this event would have its proper grandiosity". (Giuseppe Contarino)


April 23, 2002
Feast for "Blessed" Allegra

San Giovanni La Punta. (afi) While waiting for Pope John Paul II to sign within these days the decree that will sanction the definitive beatification of Fr. Gabriele Allegra - the Missionary from S. Giovanni La Punta who dedicated his life for the diffusion of Christianity in China, San Giovanni La Punta was living these moments in profound reflection and prayer. In fact, from today onwards, it is foreseen that a series of appointments, organized by the parish citizens and the communal administration in close collaboration with the Friars Minors of Sicily will be held, culminating in "the Seventh Franciscan Youth Chapter of Sicily", that was to be held on April 25, the Feast of Liberation. The Franciscan Friars will have numerous meetings today and tomorrow with the families in La Punta and with the students. On Thursday, instead, it is foreseen that 4,000 youths coming from different parts of Sicily will arrive. They will pleasantly "invade" the center of the town and they will have their meeting in the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Ravanusa. Amidst songs and prayers, the joyous procession will then make for the communal amphitheatre where they will listen to the authentic witness of the life of the Missionary. The day will end with tbe Eucharistic celebration. The concelebtaion will be presided by Fr. Carmelo Finocchiaro, the Provincial Minister of the Friar Minors of Sicily.


April 24, 2002
Rome. Six Italians, three communist Bulgarian martyrs and two Jesuits Catechist among the new figures shown as models
Decrees on miracles and heroic virtues of twenty-two servants of God promulgated

Decrees on miracles and heroic virtues of twenty-two servants of God promulgated

Rome. If Auditel would tell a story on holiness of our times with the mini-series about Blessed Pope John XXIII even if it would bankrupt, Vatican would not stop the activity of highlighting the figures, especially those contemporary ones, who knew how to live Christianity in a totalitarian way. Yesterday, in fact, in the Pope's presence, decrees have been promulgated, regarding the miracles, the martyrdom and the heroic virtues of 22 servants of God (faithfuls who are in the course of the process of beatification are so-called) - cases of some are decisive - who fulfilled such an important step, towards the glory of the altars. [...]

Among the rest, particularly interesting was the human and spiritual adventure of Fr. Allegra, born on Christmas 1907 at San Giovanni La Punta, in Sicily. He entered the Franciscan Order and at an early age he left his country to stay in China where he remained until his death in 1976. "He has great merit," as Cardinal Jose Saraiva Martins, Prefect of the Congregation for the cases of the Saints, has emphasized, "in translating the Bible into the Chinese language and in giving witness to charity for the sick, the poor and the lepers in that country". [..] (Mimmo Muolo)


April 24, 2002

CITTA' DEL VATICANO - A friend of Matteo Ricci of the twentieth Centuary, but even greater, in a certain aspect, is Gabriele Allegra, the Sicilian Franciscan, the first Catholic translator of the whole Bible in Chinese, finished within forty years of hard work, from 1935 to 1975, back and forth from Beijing to Hong Kong after the coming of the communist. He will be beatified on October 20, on Missionary Day, two years from the canonization of 120 martyrs in China that was held on October 1, the anniversary of the Peoples Republic of China, creating a strong tension between Beijing and Vatican. The case of Fr. Allegra will be different. It will give to John Paul II the way to knock at the door of the "Forbidden City" in China. The premises were posted up yesterday. In fact, the decrees of 22 cases of the new "blessed" and Saints were read in the presence of the Pope, among which was the recognition of a miracle obtained through the intercession of Fr. Allegra, born on 1907 at S. Giovanni La Punta (Catania) and died in 1976 in Hong Kong. He lived in China for 45years as scholar, missionary and saint. From China to Russia, from a gesture of openness to another: yesterday, the Pope received the editors of the Russian Catholic Encyclopedia, headed by Kondrusiewicz, the archbishop of Moscow. Regarding the difficulties with the Orthodox and the expulsion of Mazur, the Catholic Bishop, the Pontiff has reaffirmed the "will" of the Church, "present on Russian grounds for many centuries", of "remaining right next to the great Russian culture" and hoped for the deepening of "the reciprocal recognition and esteem" among all the Russian Christians. (Orazio Petrosillo)


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