Alfredo Ildefonso Schuster, who was a Benedictine monk and served as Cardinal and Archbishop of Milan during World War II, was born on this day in 1880 in Rome.
Towards the end of the war, Schuster attempted to arrange a truce between Mussolini and the partisans, but failed because Mussolini refused to accept the demands for total surrender made by the partisan delegates.
More than 40 years after his death, Cardinal Schuster was beatified on 12 May 1996 by Pope John Paul II.
Schuster was the son of a Bavarian tailor who had moved to live in Rome and he served as an altar boy at a German Church near St Peter’s Basilica.
In 1898 he joined the Order of Saint Benedict and took the name Ildefonso before entering the monastic community of Saint Paul Outside the Walls.
He studied while he was a monk and graduated as a Doctor of Philosophy in 1903, later receiving a Doctorate in Theology.
Schuster was ordained as a priest in Rome in 1904 and then returned to his community of Saint Paul Outside the Walls where he became Master of Novices.
He held various pontifical offices between 1914 and 1928 and toured the country visiting Catholic seminaries.
After being elected Archbishop of Milan in 1929 he took the oath of loyalty to the Italian state in front of King Victor Emmanuel III of Italy, the first Italian bishop to be required to do so by the Laeran Treaty.
He was created Cardinal Priest by Pope Pius XI in 1929, receiving the Church of Santi Silvestro e Martino ai Monti. He was consecrated in the Sistine Chapel by Pope Pius XI personally.
Despite claims during the process for Schuster’s beatification that he had been sympathetic to Italian Fascism, he had in fact denounced the anti-Christian element of Fascism. He is reported to have refused to participate in any ceremonies involving Mussolini and to have condemned racist legislation during the period.
He had supported the Italian invasion of Ethiopia in 1935 by asking God to protect the Italian troops, ‘as they opened the door of Ethiopia to the Catholic faith’.
But in 1938, after the annexation of Austria by Nazi Germany, Schuster’s views changed sharply.
During the unsuccessful meeting between Mussolini and the partisans in the Archbishop’s Palace in Milan, Schuster is reported to have made an attempt to preach humility to the Fascist leader.
After the war, Cardinal Schuster frequently emphasized the danger of totalitarianism, whether inspired by fascism or communism.
Schuster died in 1954 at Venegono Inferiore near Milan. Cardinal Angelo Roncalli, the future Pope John XXIII, celebrated his funeral and afterwards Schuster was buried in the Cathedral of Milan.