Saint of the Day – 4 April – Blessed Giuseppe Cardinal Benedetto Dusmet OSB (1818-1894) aged 75 Cardinal Archbishop of Catania, Italy, professed Benedictine religious, Abbot, Professor, Apostle of the sick and the poor- born on 15 August 1818 at Palermo, Sicily and died on 4 April 1894 at Catania, Sicily of natural causes. Patronage – Archdiocese of Catania. Blessed Giuseppe served as the Archbishop of Catania from 1867 until his death. He became professed into the Order of Saint Benedict where he took “Benedetto” as his religious name. He studied under the Benedictines prior to joining them before serving as a professor, in addition to prior and abbot. His elevation to the episcopate saw him distinguish himself in cholera epidemics when he tended to the ill while also remaining a strong advocate for the poor of his archdiocese. He remained a Benedictine and was known to continue to don the Benedictine habit instead of the red cardinal’s regalia.
Giuseppe Dusmet was born in Palermo in 1818 as the first of six children to the nobles Luigi Dusmet and Maria dei Dragonetti. His lineage can be traced back to Flanders in Belgium. Dusmet was baptised just hours after his birth in the Archdiocesan Cathedral as “Giuseppe Maria Giacomo Filippo Lupo Domenico Antonio Rosolino Melchiorre Francesco di Paola Benedetto Gennaro”. He would be referred to as Melchiorre at home.
His two maternal uncles Vincenzo and Leopoldo Dragonetti were both monks of the Order of Saint Benedict.
Dusmet was educated at the San Martino delle Scales convent in Monreale from 1824. It was around this time that the Dusmet’s moved to Naples and his father made him return there in 1832, since he feared exposure in the convent, would mean his son would harbour the desire to follow a religious vocation. But Dusmet returned to the school in 1834 when his father realised that he could not change his son’s vocation. He would later teach philosophical and theological studies at Benedictine houses. He entered the Benedictines at Montecassino and chose the name “Benedetto” as his middle name after professing his formal vows on 15 August 1840. In preparation for his profession he went on a retreat where the preacher was the future cardinal Michelangelo Celesia who became his lifelong friend.
He received the subdiaconate from Archbishop Domenico Balsamo on 11 October 1840 in the Archiepiscopal palace and would later receive the diaconate from the same prelate in the same location on 15 November 1840. He was ordained to the priesthood on 18 September 1841 and had to receive a special dispensation to be ordained since he was under the canonical age requirement.
In 1845 he began serving as an aide to the abbot Carlo Antonio Buglio and travelled with him as the latter made visitation. The General Chapter in 1847 saw Buglio – and Dusmet accompanied him – moved to the San Flavio convent of Caltanissetta. Dusmet served as the prior convent in Naples from 12 June 1850 until May 1852 when he was named as the prior for the San Flavio convent in Caltanissetta. He held that position until 1858 when the General Chapter at Perugia named him as the abbot for the San Nicolò l’Arena convent. But he no longer could hold that position as of 15 October 1866 after the Italian kingdom was established with the state confiscating all religious properties.
He was appointed Archbishop of Catania in 1867 and he received his episcopal consecration on 10 March in the Basilica of St Paul’s Outside the Walls in Rome. Dusmet issued his first pastoral letter to the faithful on 14 March. He served as a Council Father at the First Vatican Council that Pope Pius IX had convoked. Dusmet could not assume formal possession of his episcopal see since the new political situation with the kingdom saw the government approve bishops prior to formal enthronement. The government did not grant Dusmet the approval until 1878 when he was then enthroned in Catania. Dusmet was later elevated to the Cardinalate in 1889 with Pope Leo XIII naming him as the Cardinal-Priest of Santa Pudenziana.
Dusmet was close friends with fellow Sicilian cardinal and Servant of God Giuseppe Guarino and he knew also the Servant of God Giuseppina Faro. He was awarded the Grand Cross of the Knights of the Order of the Holy Sepulchre and also received the Gold Medal for the Benefits of Public Health on 23 November 1889 in Rome due to his efforts in aiding the ill in cholera epidemics.
Bl Giuseppe died on 4 April 1894 at around 10:30 pm and was buried in the chapel of the Confraternita dei Bianci at a funeral on 6 April that started at 10:00am and ended with his burial at 4:30pm. He had fallen ill at the beginning of 1894 and on 2 April left instructions not to be embalmed and to have a simple funeral. On 4 April attempts at artificial respiration were stopped when doctors said that Dusmet’s death was imminent. His final words echoed that of Jesus Christ: “it is finished”. His relics were later translated to the Catania Cathedral in May 1904. Cardinal Alfredo Ildefonso Schuster – a future Blessed and a Benedictine himself – unveiled a monument dedicated to Dusmet in Catania in 1935.
St Pope John Paul II presided at Dusmet’s Beatification in Saint Peter’s Square on 25 September 1988.