The Beatification of Don Bonifacio,
one of the Istrian priests killed by Tito’s partisans
He is, for the Catholic Church, the first foiba victim to be beatified. Don Francesco Bonifacio, born in Pirano in 1912 and slain by a band of communist partisans on September 11th, 1946 in Istria, near Villa Gardossi, was beatified on Saturday, October 4th in Trieste, in a solemn ceremony in the Cathedral of Saint Giusto. The celebrant was Mons. Angelo Amato, the Prefect of the Congregation for Sainthood; Eugenio Ravignani, Bishop of Trieste, and twelve other prelates were present. The turnout of citizens was enormous, and all the associations of exiles of Istria, Fiume and Dalmatia were well-represented.
The young priest, on that September night, well after the end of the war, was stopped by a group of Yugoslav popular guards. No trace of him was ever found after that, but according to reliable witnesses he was murdered and thrown into a foiba. “By taking Don Bonifacio, a man of goodness and peace, they wanted to take a spiritual leader, as they recognized the great pull he had among the local population,” said mons. Ravignani, “and they realized that he was an intolerable obstacle to the spreading of communist ideals. With courage he defended the faith of his people against the atheism that the regime was trying to impose.”
Don Bonifacio was one of the 39 priests thrown into the foibe. Thirty-six were Italian, and the remaining three Slovenian and Croatian. Among the latter was don Miro Bulesic, from the Parenzo-Pola diocese, who was murdered by throat-cutting in 1947 by Tito’s forces. “There was nothing, absolutely nothing, in Don Bonifacio’s life, “stated Bishop Ravignani, wanting to avoid dangerous exploitation, “that might have shown that he was hostile to a nationality other than his own. Rather, his was, and is, an example of how people who speak different languages can live together.”
At the end of September, the Association of Istrian Communities, with its headquarters in Trieste, dedicated an evening to Don Bonifacio, with civil and religious authorities present, along with Dario Locchi, president of the Association of Giuliani around the World, and honorary president, Dario Rinaldi, as well as Renzo Codarin, president of the Federation of Associations of Istrian, Fiume and Dalmatian Exiles. Don Bonifacio’s brother, Giovanni, shared a touching testimony . And Sergio Galimberti, author of “Priests of the Exile: Don Bonifacio, Servant of God” spoke of his reconstruction of the long and complex road to beatification by the diocesan Tribunal.
There will be a more detailed description of these events in the December issue of the “Difesa”.
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