Vatican Corner 06-21-2020

The vast majority of police officers are honorable men and women who risk their lives every day to protect our communities. With police brutality currently in focus, a welcomed remembrance might be that of an extraordinary policeman who someday could be declared a saint. His name is Salvo D-Acquisto, an Italian policeman who gave his life to save 22 civilians. He was born in Naples in a very religious family. He was the oldest of eight children, of who 3 died as infants, and one died as a child. His father worked in a chemical factory. The young Salvo displayed his kind nature by one time giving his shoes away to a barefoot child he frequently saw. Another time he saved a child who was about to end up under a train. He left school at age 14 which was the usual age for working-class boys. In 1939 he joined the Carabinieri which is a combination of the Italian police and a branch of the Armed Forces. He considered his membership service for his countrymen. He was sent to Libya a few months before the start of World War II and was wounded in the leg there. He remained with his division until he caught malaria and returned to Italy. In 1942 he attended officer school graduated as a vice-sergeant and was assigned to an outpost in a little rural center close to Rome. In July 1943 the Italian leader Benito Mussolini, who had joined Italy with Nazi German in a military alliance was overthrown. The new Italian government negotiated secretly with the allies to switch sides and an end of Italian fighting was announced on September 8th. A German Parachute Division was detached to coastal defense duties and while inspecting boxes of abandoned munitions, there was an explosion and two German soldiers died and two others were wounded. The German commander blamed the explosion on “unnamed locals” and demanded cooperation from the local Carabinieri post of which Salvo D’Acquisto was in temporary command. Salvo gathered some information and then tried to explain in vain to the Germans that the explosion was an accident. The Germans insisted it was caused by the locals and they arrested 22 residents making them prisoners and interrogated them. All said they were innocent and D’Acquisto obtained no names of the persons responsible to give to the Germans, so the Germans ridiculed him, beat him, and tore his uniform. The 22 prisoners were given shovels and forced to dig their own mass grave for burial after execution. When the digging was completed and it was obvious that execution was to begin, Salvo D’Acquisto then “confessed” to the alleged crime, declaring that he alone was responsible for the murders and that the civilians were innocent and demanded that they are released. Acquisto at the age of 22 was executed by a German firing squad and his remains are preserved at the Church of St. Clara in Naples. He saved the lives of the 22 civilians and is considered to be a Roman Catholic martyr and has been proposed for beatification by the Vatican. Pope John Paul II in his address to the Italian Carabinieri stated, “The history of the Italian Carabinieri shows that the height of holiness can be reached in the faithful and generous fulfillment of the duties of one’s state. I am thinking here of your colleague, Sergeant Salvo D’Acquisto, awarded a gold medal of military valor (posthumously), whose cause of beatification is underway.” In Italy, it is said that devotion to Salvo D’Acquisto is everywhere, so much so that some even say that there is no need to make him a saint, given that they already consider him a blessed servant of God. There are monuments, a postage stamp, a movie, and a TV mini-series all honoring D’Acquisto.