Ottaviani, Alfredo

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Cardinal; b. in the Trastevere sector of Rome, Oct. 29, 1890; d. at the Vatican, Aug. 3, 1979. Ottaviani came from a poor family of six children. He was ordained a priest March 18, 1916, and studied at the Athaneum of St. Apollinaris (now the Pontifical Lateran University) where he completed doctorates in philosophy, theology, and canon and Roman law ("utriusque iuris"). He taught public ecclesiastical law there and, at the same time, philosophy at the Athaneum of the Sacred Congregation of the "Propaganda Fide" (now the Pontifical Urban University). He also worked in the same dicastery as a "minutante." While teaching at St. Apollinaris he collaborated with his colleagues (later Cardinals) Cicognani, Roberti and Larraona and founded the canon law journal "Apollinaris."

In 1926 Ottaviani became rector of the Pontifical Bohemian College (Nepomucene) and two years later he was appointed Under Secretary of the Sacred Congregation of Extraordinary Affairs (currently the Council for Public Affairs of the Church). As Under Secretary he collaborated in the preparation of numerous concordats (e.g., with Romania and Poland) and the Lateran Treaty of 1929. When he became the "Sostituto" of the Secretariat of State in 1929, it was necessary to resign his teaching positions.

His work at the Supreme Sacred Congregation of the Holy Office (now called the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith) began in 1935 when he was named Assessor. Later, he became Secretary of the Congregation and then its Prefect. Eventually, because of age, he became Prefect Emeritus, though he continued to participate in the work of the congregation and its commissions until his death. He was created a cardinal in the Consistory of Jan. 12, 1953, by Pope Pius XII. Almost ten years later he was nominated archbishop to the titular see of Berea and consecrated bishop on April 19, 1962. In his capacity as Secretary of the Holy Office, he was named President of the Preparatory and then Conciliar Commission for Theology at the Second Vatican Council. This commission was responsible for drafting the conciliar decrees on the church, Lumen gentium, and on divine revelation, Dei Verbum.

His writings include: Institutiones Iuris Publici Ecclesiastici (2 v.), used as a standard text for many years at the Pontifical Lateran Athaneum; Compendium Iuris Publici Ecclesiastici, used as a text for students of theology; Il Baluardo (1961), a collection of talks and writings; Arma Veritatis (1947), an introduction to an edition of the encyclicals "Immortale Dei" of Leo XIII and "Divini Redemptoris" of Pius XI; Luce di Roma Cristiana nel Diritto; Doveri dello Stato cattolico verso la Chiesa ; and Un seminarista esemplare.

In his activities as a professor and member of the Roman Curia, Ottaviani never failed to maintain an active priestly ministry, especially for youth at the Oratorio San Pietro. In his daily ministry to these youths, "Don Alfredo" was always organizing a wide variety of activities in which he was an active participant. For these children each Sunday from 1928 to 1952, he was "l'ignorante" in a catechsis dramatically presented through the medium of comic theater with Cardinal Borgongini, who played the educated Catholic who responded to questions about the faith proposed by the "ignorant" Catholic. During WWII, there were always six to eight children whom he sheltered in his own home. The "Oasis of Saint Rita" in Frascati, near Rome, was founded by him as a home for orphans and abandoned children. He would visit them frequently, helping with schoolwork and enlisting the interest and active participation of his friends and associates.

[j. e. fox]