“Founders are important in the Church, as they understand the signs of the time, the needs of the people. They are lighthouses for others. We are grateful for Msgr Nervo’s service to the poor and to the Church. May the Lord now give him a special place in the eternal service of love,” says Jorge Nuño Mayer, Secretary General of Caritas Europa.
It is with great sadness that the Caritas family has learned that Msgr. Giovanni Nervo passed away yesterday at the age of 94. For Caritas Europa and the 49 European Caritas organisations, Msgr. Nervo will be remembered as the man who lead the difficult work of setting up the structures of Caritas Italiana in the early 1970's.
Caritas Europa's Secretary General Jorge Nuño Mayer has sent a letter to Caritas Italiana to express the network's condolences; “On behalf of the President of Caritas Europa, in my own name and in the name of the whole Caritas Europa family, receive our sincere condolences."
Msgr Nervo and Caritas Italiana
On 2 July 1971, following to Pope Paul VI´s Ponficia Opera of Assistance, the Italian Bishops´ Conference decided to set up Caritas Italiana “to support the implementation of the Gospel precept of the Italian ecclesial community in forms that are appropriate to the times and needs, since the integral development of 'man, with special attention to people and communities in distress.”
To achieve this task the Bishops´ Conference appointed Msgr. Nervo as President of Caritas Italiana. A position he will honour until 1976. Msgr Nervo will then continue at the service of Caritas as Vice-president of the organisation until 1986, and from then on as a lifetime member of Caritas Italiana’s National Council.
Msgr. Nervo was known for applying the spirit of Caritas on every situation, as he said himself “"The reality has helped us to actually walk in the light of the principles of Caritas. The Friuli earthquake of 1976, for example, has helped us twinning life to a strong experience of ecclesial communion, and the issue of Vietnamese refugees (1980-81) helped us to live concretely the value of hospitality; the phenomenon of civil service of conscientious objectors has helped Caritas diocesan and church communities to live up to the value of peace."
A life serving those in distress
Born 13 December 1918, Giovanni Nervo entered the seminary of the diocese of Padua when he was 13. He became a priest in 1941. During World War II. Msgr. Nervo contributed to the Resistance as a relay.
He became a priest in 1941. During World War II. Msgr. Nervo contributed to the Resistance as a relay.
Video: Msgr. Nervo remembers his time in the Resistence
From 1945 to 1950 he was the Provincial assistant of the Italian Christian Workers Association (ACLI) in Padua, and from 1950 to 1963 chaplain to a factory within the frame of the National religious service and moral assistance to workers (ONARNO).
In 1964, he became the President of the Emanueal Zancan Center for Study, Research and Training in the field of Social Policies and Social and Health Services. A position he will hold until October 1997.
Msgr Nervo, received many awards during his life. Among others, in 1996 the University of Udine awarded him with a Honorary degree in Economics for his role in organising the volunteers movement during the earthquake of 1976 in Friuli (link). In 2003, the Univeristy of Padua awarded him with a Honorary Degree in Education.
Five years ago, 2008, the city of Padua honoured him with the International Award of St. Anthony, delivered to people who have spent their life at the service of humanity."
For further information
Visit Caritas Italiana´s dedicated webpage: Ciao don Giovanni
Board Member of Caritas Europa
Communication Officer Caritas Italiana
Communication officer | Caritas Europa