St Robert Bellarmine

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Cardinal. Born during the Reformation at Montepulciano, Tuscany, in 1542, St Robert was a poet, musician and public speaker.

Bellarmine's systematic studies of theology began at Padua in 1567, where his teachers were adherents of Thomism. In 1569 he was sent to finish his studies at the University of Leuven in Flanders. There he was ordained, and obtained a reputation both as a professor and as a preacher. He was the first Jesuit to teach at the university, where the subject of his course was the Summa Theologica of Thomas Aquinas. He also wrote a Hebrew grammar during this time. In 1576 he was appointed professor of theology at the Roman College. His lectures were the basis of his famous Dissertation on the Controversies of the Christian Faith. This work was a complete defence of Catholic teaching and became very popular. It was banned by the British government. Robert completed many other projects.

In 1592 he became rector of the Roman college, he was made provincial of Naples in 1594 and cardinal in 1598.

Robert lead a very ascetic personal life, living on bread and garlic, giving everything he owned, even the curtains from his apartment to the poor. In 1602 he became archbishop of Capus and was very involved in pastoral and welfare work.

He resigned his see in 1605 to become prefect of the Vatican library and an active member of several congregations.

His moderate views on the temporal powers of the papacy lost him the favour of Pope Sixtus V. He was sympathetic to Galileo but urged him to be cautious as he propounded his theory that idea that the earth was not the centre of the universe.

As an old man he withdrew from public life, and wrote several devotional books. St Robert wasn't very tall but he had a huge intellect. He prayed every day for the Protestants but never made personal attacks on them. He died in 1621. In 1930 he was canonised and the next year he was named a Doctor of the Church.

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