Tschiderer zu Gleifheim, Johann Neopmuk, Bl.

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Also known as John von (zu) Gleifheim or Giovanni Nepomuceno Tschiderer, bishop of Trent (Italy); b. April 15, 1777, Bolzano, South Tyrol, Italy; d. Dec. 3, 1860, Trent, Italy.

Tschiderer's family immigrated from the Grisons to the Tyrol in 1529 and was given a patent of nobility in 1620. He completed his secondary education under the Franciscans (1792), and then he rejoined his parents, Josef Joachim and Caterina de Giovanelli. They had moved to Innsbruck, Austria, where he studied philosophy and theology.

On July 27, 1800 he was ordained a priest by Emmanuel Count von Thun, bishop of Trent. After spending two years ministering in mountain parishes, he went for further training to Rome, where he was appointed Apostolic notary.

Upon his return north he took up pastoral work again in the German part of the Diocese of Trent, and from 1807 was professor of moral and pastoral theology at the seminary at Trent. In 1810 he was appointed pastor at Sarnthal (Sarentino) and in 1819 at Meran (Merano), where he was also school inspector. In 1827 he was appointed as a canon of the Cathedral of St. Vigilius, Trent, and pro-vicar of the diocese. Wherever he went he gained a lasting reputation for zeal and charity.

On May 20, 1832, he was consecrated bishop of Heliopolis and auxiliary bishop of Bressanone and took up residence at Feldkirch. Two years later Emperor Francis I nominated him prince-bishop of Trent to replace Francis Xavier Luschin, who had been transferred to Lemberg (now Lviv, Ukraine) and named him as successor.

From May 1835 until his death, Tschiderer governed his diocese with the same apostolic zeal and charity he had demonstrated in earlier endeavors. He devoted a considerable part of his revenues and personal wealth for the building or restoration of more than 60 churches, and the purchasing of good books for parish rectories. He provided for the continuous formation of priests, Christian education for youth, and the generous care of the poor and sick. He used the third centenary of the opening of the Council of Trent (154563) to promote a religious revival through popular missions and other pastoral activities.

He intervened promptly and decisively to prevent the March 20, 1848 uprising from becoming a blood-bath; when his petition to the Austrians for clemency for 21 young members of the Franco-Italian forces was refused, he saw to their preparation for execution and Christian burial.

Bishop von Tschiderer lived in deep communion with God through long periods of prayer, the celebration of Mass, and meditation on Scripture, Magisterial teachings, and the rosary. During his 25-year episcopacy he was distinguished for the exercise of virtue and charity, and for intense zeal in the fulfillment of the duties of his episcopal office. He was exceedingly simple and abstinent in his personal habits. His charity to the poor and sick was carried so far that he was often left without a penny, because he had given away everything he had. Twice (1836 and 1855) cholera raged in his diocese and on these occasions he set a shining example of Christian courage before his clergy.

He left his property to the institution for the deaf and dumb at Trent and to the seminary that he had founded, which was named after him the Joanneum. Directly after his death he was honored, and the process for his beatification was initiated by his successor, Benedict Riccabona, in 1873. His body now lies in the north transept of Trent's cathedral.

Pope John Paul II beatified von Tschiderer during a pastoral visit to Trent (April 30, 1995), praising him as "a man who transcended borders. [He] was able tobridge the gap between various social classes, different languages and diverse mentalities, and bring them together. The new blessed indeed worked in the heart of Europe and was able to preserve these identities in the shining example of his person, while promoting a sense of community."

Feast: Dec. 4.

Bibliography: Acta Apostolicae Sedis, 61 (1969) 121125. Mitteilungen über das Leben des J. N. Tschiderer (Bolzano 1876). L'Osservatore Romano, English edition, nos. 18 and 19 (1995). m. a. buol and v. berenberg, Johann Nepomuk von Tschiderer und seine Zeit (1934). a. costa, I Vescovi di Trento (1977) 238248. j. mayr, Bischof Johann Nepomuk von Tschiderer (Bozen 1998). a. tait, Vita del Venerabile Servo di Dio Giovanni Nepomuceno di Tschiderer, Principe vescovo di Trento, 2 v. (Venice 1904).

[k. i. rabenstein]