Joseph Cafasso

For the former Fox News consultant, see Joseph A. Cafasso.
St. Joseph Cafasso
Born (1811-01-15)January 15, 1811
Castelnuovo d'Asti, Asti, Kingdom of Sardinia
Died June 23, 1860(1860-06-23) (aged 49)
Turin, Kingdom of Sardinia
Venerated in Roman Catholic Church
(Ecclesiastical Province of Turin)
Beatified 1925 by Pope Pius XI
Canonized 1947 by Pope Pius XII
Major shrine Shrine of Our Lady of Consolation, Turin, Italy
Feast June 23
Patronage Italian prisons, prison chaplains, prisoners and those condemned to death

Joseph Cafasso (Italian: Giuseppe Cafasso; 15 January 1811 23 June 1860) was an Italian Catholic priest who was a significant social reformer in early 19th-century Turin. He was one of the so-called "Social Saints" of the city who emerged during that era.[lower-alpha 1][1]

Cafasso has been declared a saint by the Catholic Church.[1]


Cafasso was born to a peasant family in the town of Castelnuovo d'Asti (now called Castelnuovo Don Bosco in honor of another sainted native of the town), in the region of Piedmont. He was the third of his parents' four children. His sister Marianna was later to become the mother of the Blessed Joseph Allamano, founder of a missionary religious institute.[2]

As a youth, Cafasso felt called to become a priest and entered the archdiocesan seminary in Turin to undertake his studies for this. During this period he came to know another young native of the town, John Bosco, whom he would later encourage and support in the work of caring for the street boys of the city, giving them training in various trades.[lower-alpha 2] Cafasso was ordained to the priesthood in the cathedral of the city on 21 September 1833.[2]

After some further theological studies at the University of Turin, the following year Cafasso came to know Luigi Guala, a co-founder of the Ecclesiastical College of St. Francis of Assisi. This college was dedicated to the higher education of the local clergy, who were still recovering from the destruction of the Catholic Church's institutions under the Napoleonic invasion of the country a generation earlier. He would be connected to this institution for the rest of his life, advancing from student to lecturer to chaplain, and finally being named Guala's successor as the college's rector in 1848.[2]

Cafasso was a noted lecturer in moral theology, drawing on the teachings of the French school of spirituality, with its leading figures such as Pierre de Bérulle and St. Vincent de Paul. A major common element among these figures was the emphasis on the proper formation of the clergy.[2] He worked especially against the spirit of Jansenism, with its strong focus with sin and damnation, which he had found to be highly influential at his seminary. He used the teachings of St. Alphonsus Liguori and St. Francis de Sales to moderate the rigorism of the education there.[3]

Cafasso was also a noted confessor and spiritual director, who guided many men and women who would go on to found new religious institutions or congregations which would help the Catholic Church to meet the needs of both Italy and the whole world. Among them was John Bosco, the Servant of God Giulia Falletti di Barolo, who became noted for her advocacy of women prisoners,[4] and the Blessed Francesco Faà di Bruno.[2] Additionally, Cafasso was known for his extensive ministry in the local prisons and served as the comforter of those condemned to the death penalty, coming to be called "The Priest of the Gallows".[1]

Cafasso died in 1860. When the college he had headed until his death moved to the Shrine of Our Lady of Consolation in the center of the city in 1870, his remains were re-interred there.[2]


Cafasso was canonized by Pope Pius XII in 1947. The following year, that same pope declared him to be the patron saint of all Italian prisons and prisoners. In 1950 Pope Pius further offered him as an example to all priests involved as confessors and spiritual directors.[2]

A monument has been erected to his memory in Turin at the road crossing of Corso Regina Margherita, Corso Principe Eugenio and Corso Valdocco (called the Rondò della Forca, or the Gallows Roundabout).[1]


  1. The ‘Social Saints’ of Turin, at time of writing, are taken to be Giuseppe Benedetto Cottolengo, John Bosco, Maria Domenica Mazzarello, and Leonardo Murialdo., who took it as their responsibility to minister to the dispossessed, marginalized and often criminal elements of a city in the throes of industrialization. If the movement for her beatification proves successful, Giulia Falletti di Barolo, who focused particularly on women prisoners, may come to be added to their number.
  2. Bosco himself would later become a priest when he started this work. It has since spread worldwide through the religious congregation he founded, the Salesians of Don Bosco. He has also been declared a saint, and their hometown has been renamed in his honor.

See also


  1. 1 2 3 4 "St. Joseph Cafasso". Catholic Online.
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 "San Giuseppe Cafasso". Santi e Beati (in Italian).
  3. "St. Joseph Cafasso". American Catholic.
  4. "Giulia di Barolo" (PDF). Commune of Turin (in Italian).

External links

 This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Herbermann, Charles, ed. (1913). "article name needed". Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton. 

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