DON LUIGI STURZO, born in Caltagirone, Sicily, first became interested in social and political questions when, as a recently ordained priest, he blessed the slums of Rome on Holy Saturday. "For several days I felt sick and did not eat," he said afterwards describing the deep impression made on him by the poverty and squalor which he had seen.
In Sicily he founded a Catholic Diocesan Committee and in the course of teaching in the diocesan seminary he studied social questions, devoting all his spare time to the Catholic social movement.
Influenced by Giuseppe Toniolo, he strove to promote the ideal of Christian Democracy.
Soon he had founded a weekly paper and had helped to establish the Palermo daily, 11 Sole. In 1905 he was elected mayor of Caltagirone, though as a priest he had to take the title of " vicemayor ".
Church-State relations in Italy made the problem of establishing a Christian-Democratic movement difficult, since social questions had to be kept separate from political ones. Leo XIII had to stress the distinction in an Encyclical which Don Sturzo supported.
It was only in 1919, after the end of the first world war, that it became possible for Don Sturm to found the political "Popular Party " which at once won 99 seats out of 508. This party, support for which came from the northern industrial areas of Italy rather than the south, was not a clerical party and had to be carefully distinguished from the Church's support for social changes in the spirit of the Papal encycl icals.
With the threat of Fascism the " Popular Party " increased its parliamentary numbers, obtaining Cabinet seats. Don Sturzo was officially its Political Secretary.
Fear of Marxism in Italy played into the hands of the Fascists, and Don Sturzo felt obliged to resign his Political Secretaryship to avoid committing the Church, and after the murder of Mateotti and the strengthened position of Mussolini, Don Sturzo went into voluntary exile in 1924.
From abroad Don Sturzo, while writing important books on ecclesiastical, political and social questions, devoted himself to the cause of international Christian Democracy and founded the international secretariat of the movement. He was a tireless fighter against the dictatorships of Left and Right.
He returned to Italy in 1946 to see his life's ideal of a Christian Democratic party safely established in Italy under De Gasperi.
In his later years, Don Sturzo's political views moderated and he showed a marked dislike for the increasing power of the State and officialdom in democracy and industrial enterprise. His views were spread in Italy through journalistic articles. In 1952 he was appointed one of Italy's five life-Senators.
In exile in London, Don Sturm was a focus for the cause of Christian Democracy and opposition to all forms of authoritarianism, clerical or otherwise.
His writings include "Church and State ", " Politics and Morality ", "Spiritual Problems of our Times " and " Man in History and Society".