Making Theological Hope a Historical Hope: Cardinal Eduardo Pironio (1920-1998)

Diego Fares SJ

 Diego Fares SJ / Church Thought / 16 June 2021

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The parents of Eduardo Pironio arrived in Argentina in 1898. They came from Friuli and settled in the town of Nueve de Julio, in the middle of the Pampas. Giuseppe, his future father, was born in Percoto, a hamlet of Pavia di Udine, and was just over 20 years old when he married Enrichetta Buttazzoni from Camino, who was just 18. They decided to emigrate to South America, like many Italians of the time, and with other Friulians embarked from Genoa.

After giving birth to her first child, Enrichetta fell seriously ill. The doctors strongly advised her against any further pregnancies, but she was miraculously healed thanks to the intercession of the Virgin of Luján; so much so that she was able to have 21 more children! The last child was Eduardo himself, born on December 3, 1920.

Eduardo was 11 years old when he entered the San Jose minor seminary in La Plata, Argentina, on March 14, 1932. He proved to be an excellent student. His seminary classmates recalled his harmonious character, cheerful, friendly manner and great humanity. He was always approachable, transmitting hope to all. His days were marked and guided by prayer. In particular, from an early age he was intensely devoted to the Virgin, whom he venerated in the image of the Virgin of Luján, which his mother had taught him to love. “How many things I learned from Luján, under your maternal gaze, how many things!”[1] From the beginning he was attracted to biblical studies.

Eduardo received priestly ordination on December 5, 1943, when not yet 23 years old, along with seven other seminary classmates. The bishop entrusted him, as his first assignment, with the formation of future priests in the seminary of Mercedes, a new diocese, created during the years in which he was still studying. He responded by directing the best of his energies, studies and reflections to the task. Moved by pastoral charity and eager to be close to the people, he believed in a serious and well-rounded formation of seminarians, aimed at what he called “true wisdom”: that of the poor, of the cross, of the Holy Spirit; conforming to Christ the priest through the paschal cross.

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