Mons. Carmine Rocco

Mons. Carmine Rocco was born in Camigliano, in the Caserta province on April 9th 1912. The second youngest of Vincenzo Rocco and Clementina Giusti's seven children, he was sent to seminary when he was 12 in the Diocesano di Calvi e Teano Seminary, where he started his vocation and course of study. After this first formative phase was concluded, he moved in 1930 to the Posillipo Seminary of Campania, held by Jesuit Fathers who steered him towards a missionary idea of the Church. The Missionary circle of Posillipo, of which Mons. Rocco became president, was awarded by His Majesty Prince Umberto, future King of Italy, for a study published about the condition of the Church and Christians in India. He always remained tied to that Posillipo, returning whenever he was in Italy to visit seminary attendees and teachers, becoming the role model for many young attendees of the Seminary thanks to his own life experiences. On July the 26th 1936 mons. Rocco was ordained Minister in the Cathedral Church of Teano, by His Eminence Giuseppe Marcozzi, Bishop of the Diocese. Mons. Rocco continued his religious education in Rome, where he graduated in the Pontifical Gregorian University. He was then accepted to the Academy of Nobles of Rome, which to this day, prepares young members of the clergy to serve the Holy See all over the world. This institute, later renamed Pontifical Ecclesiastical Academy by Pope Pius XI, has seen amongst its students various pontiffs, last of which was Giovanni Battista Montini, future Pope Paul VI. In 1939, once this formative path had been completed, he started working at the Segreteria di Stato in Rome. A few short months after this, he was sent to the French Apostolic Nunciature, in Paris, by mons. Giovan Battista Montini and on March the 12th 1940, at just 28 years old, he was ordained Monsignor. World War II was just after starting and with the Nazi Invasion of France, part of the French government and the Nunciature with it, was forced to find shelter in Vichy, where they witnessed the whole conflict. The Nuncio in France was mons. Valerio Valeri who maintained a close rapport with Marshal Petain, head of the French government at the time. Mons. Rocco kept a diary of those years, a valuable historic testimonial which provides an authentic and unedited portrayal of events experienced first-hand, although he always described his experiences on a global scale, outlining the impact on the people both allied and opposing. In some passages the subtle Neapolitan irony comes to light. No feelings of hardship are to be found however, in spite of the considerable deprivations imposed by the war. With the war coming to an end and France being liberated, the Nunciature returned to Paris where General de Gaulle refused to meet the Nuncio Valeri, who in his opinion was a collaborator of the previous Filo-Nazi French government. The Holy See therefore nominated a new Nuncio in Paris, Angelo Roncalli, who arrived to the capital on December 30th 1944 and presented his credentials to General de Gaulle. The years in Paris saw a beautiful friendship flourish between Roncalli and Rocco, born out of esteem, respect and even fondness as testified by the numerous letters they wrote each other throughout the years, epistles of Saint John XXIII. Together they faced delicate matters as the French State was eager to purge some Bishops, who were alleged to be Nazi collaborators and the State also wanted to remove funding from catholic schools. France wanted to thank mons. Rocco and just before he left the Country on May the 18th 1946 they bestowed upon him the title of Knight of the Legion d'onore. Mons. Rocco had been sent to Argentina, to the Nunciature under the direction of mons. Fietta. Prior to his departure, the Nuncio Roncalli wanted to gift the young secretary his episcopal ring, with the following dedication:

“My dearest mons. Rocco, on the eve of from the Paris Nunciature and my company, I know not what would be better nor more precious to offer but this episcopal ring made of gold, platinum, rubies and amethyst. It is the one I wore and favoured for many years. Please keep it as a token of my gratitude, respect and affection. Remember I will not cease to be fond of you or pray for you.”

Ever Affectionate in the Lord, Angelo Roncalli

Mons. Rocco reached Argentina by sea, setting sail from Bordeaux on September the 10th 1946 and reaching Buenos Aires on October 7th 1946. Juan Peron had recently ascended to power. Peron promised a series of reforms for the people which he had partly managed to implement but he also led the Country towards a dictatorial regime, focused on the worship of character split between himself and his wife, legendary Evita Peron who died July the 26th 1952 due to illness and whose funeral was attended by an enormous crowd flooding the streets of the capital. The Church was very active in Argentina, thanks to the work of the Jesuit Missionaries, testified by much of the architecture in Buenos Aires the historic heart which boasts the Cripta del Noviziato, the Compagnia del Gesù church, the University of Cordoba, and the Monserrat Boarding School alongside the famous Estancias Gesuitiche present in the Country. The work of the Salesians, aided by the important presence of Italian immigrants, invigorated considerably the work of the Nunciature. The important collaboration with the Nuncio of the time, mons. Fietta paved the way for the cooperation that he requested of mons. Rocco once the Nuncio was transferred to Rome, in the Segreteria di Stato. Between 1953 and 1956 mons. Rocco offered his services to the Segreteria di Stato. Between 1956 and 1959 mons. Rocco was sent to the Nunciature in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil alongside Nuncio Lombardi whom he had met at a seminary in Posillipo. After being elected Pope, nuncio Roncalli under the name of John XXIII nominated mons. Rocco as nuncio in Bolivia. He received the Episcopal Ordinance in the San Carlo Basilica, in Rome from Secretary of State Amleto Cicognani with Celebrating Bishops mons. Angelo dell'Acqua, Vice-Secretary of State and mons. Guido Perandeo, bishop of Calvi and Teano, a brother-like friend. Bolivia was not an easy post because, like many South American countries at that time, it was held by a strict dictatorial military regime with much of the population stricken by great poverty and a small number of families holding the majority of the wealth. Even in this difficult climate, mons. Rocco managed to accomplish something that, to this day, is testimony to his great vision and bravery in favour of the youth: the foundation of Università Cattolica Boliviana San Paolo. He worked on this project tirelessly, succeeding in his endeavour which still carries on collaborating with the most prestigious American universities and allowing the education of many youths of that country according to the teachings of the Catholic Church. He also built a new seminary, in Cochabamba, inspired by the seminary in Posillipo. John XXIII was succeeded by Paul VI who, on September 16th 1967, nominated mons. Rocco nuncio in the Philippines, the highest catholic populated country in Asia. This was too, a country torn by great conflicts, led by the dictator Fernand Marcos. The Philippines were plagued by Muslims that still continue to kidnap Catholics for profit. Once again he carried out his pastoral work with great balance, reaching and visiting the population scattered over 7000 islands. On November 27th 1970 mons. Rocco had the honour of being visited by Paul VI, and being with him for the attempt on his life where a madman tried to stab the Holy Father with a knife, to accompany the Pope in his three day pastoral visit in which Paul VI ordained 180 ministers, visited the poorest and sickest, inaugurated the first catholic radio broadcasting station, Radio Veritas, and was saluted by a multitude of people. Three years after that historical Visit, on May 23rd 1973, mons. Rocco was nominated by Paul VI as nuncio in Brazil, returning to that Latin America that he knew so well. They were years of profound social change that enveloped the whole continent and the Church itself. Brazil is an enormous country, in those years it was held under strict military dictatorial regime, with Death Squadrons operating sudden sweeps. Once again his great balance and wisdom allowed him to carry out outstanding work including the creation of 30 diocese and the ordainment of 122 Bishops. Even in the great social unrest of those days, affecting the Church also with new movements being born and accruing numerous participants like the Theology of Liberation, he managed not to create fractures but to carry on carefully listening to everyone. In 1980 he received a visit from John Paul II, successor of Paul VI. He remained in the country for 10 days, visiting the main locations of this huge nation, mons. Rocco escorted him for most of the way, even if his illness was starting to increasingly affect him. When the situation degenerated, he was called back to Rome by the Holy Father where he was admitted at the Gemelli hospital. There he died on May 12th 1982. The solemn funeral services were celebrated in St. Peter's Basilica, in the presence of cardinals, civil authorities and ambassadors from the countries which he served. According to his will and wishes, the big family house of Camigliano has been repurposed as a hospice for the elderly people of the town and was donated to the order of "Sant'Antonio Maria Claret". This order, founded by mons. Geraldo Fernandes and mother Leonia Milito had been watched and followed by mons. Rocco who wanted to give credit by means of this donation and show his appreciation for the work carried out by these religious women who operate in many countries in the world, following their motto "Kindness and Happiness" to tend to the less fortunate and the suffering. Two streets carry mons. Rocco's name, one in Sao Paulo in Brazil and the other in Camigliano, where the "Santi Vincenzo e Clemente" Hospice is located, named in commemoration of his parents. "L'osservatore Romano", a daily newspaper has dedicated a whole page to remembering mons. Rocco, through the words of mons. Alfonso D'Errico retracing his life and work. He lives on in the places he touched through the social work he so passionately pursued and in work that characterised his life, "Nella Chiesa e per la Chiesa" (in the church and for the church).