Bicentenary of the birth of Cardinal Guglielmo Massaja

Bicentenary of the birth of Cardinal Guglielmo Massaja  

Gugliemo Massaja was born in 1809 in Piovà d’Asti, today called Piovà Massaja. After attending school as a seminarian at the Collegio Reale di Asti, he became a Capuchin friar in 1826. Later he was appointed chaplain of the Mauriziano hospital in Turin where he also studied medicine and surgery. This knowledge helped him in his 35 years of missionary service in Africa where he battled illnesses such as malaria, yellow fever, syphilis, leprosy, and especially smallpox, which gave him the nickname «Padre del Fantatà» (the smallpox father). Massaja met the future St. Giuseppe Cottolengo and became his confessor. He was spiritual father of young Vittorio Emanuele II and patriotic writer Silvio Pellico. A Massaja’s good friend was Fr. Daniele Comboni, founder of the Comboni Missionaries. Pope Leo XIII named Massaja a Cardinal in 1884. Cardinal Massaja died in 1889 in S. Giorgio a Cremano. His body was brought to Rome for the funeral and he was buried in the chapel of the Congregation of “Propaganda Fide” at the Verano cemetery. In respect of his final wishes, his body was transferred to its definitive resting place in the Capuchin Church of Frascati on 11 June 1890. The stamp sketch was based on work by renowned Italian artist Corrado Mezzana who in 1952 produced the first and only Italian stamp on Guglielmo Massaja. He also designed numerous stamps for Vatican City between the 1930s and 1950s.