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Marist College of Rome, San Leone Magno, “House of Life”

19/05/2019: Italy - Photo gallery

On May 14th 2019, the plaque was unveiled identifying  the Institute of San Leone Magno  as a "House of Life", a tribute from the International Foundation of Raoul Wallenberg. A recognition which honours the actions carried out by the Marist School in Rome during the Second World War, when they hid many children and Jewish adults pursued by the Nazis and Fascists. In that period, it was director Brother Alessandro Di Pietro, who was honoured in 2001, with the title "Just among the Nations."  

Brothers Ernesto Sánchez, Superior General, and Luis Carlos Gutiérrez, Vicar General, took part in the event, together with the Marist community of the School. Also included were Dorian Anna (author), Livia Ottolenghi (Jewish community of Rome) and Elena Colitto Castelli, member of the Wallenberg foundation which awarded the prize.  

In his speech, Brother Ernesto pointed out that " Brother Alessandro and the community of San Leone Magno are effective witnesses responding to emerging needs and fomenting a culture of coming together". And he added: "They encourage us to be beacons of hope."  

During the war Brother Alessandro Di Pietro, was managing the school and was Superior of the Marist community. In 1943 he welcomed 24 students, children of Jews, and 12 mature Jews.  

On the 16th of July 2001, the Commission for the appointment of "Fairness among the Nations" granted by Yad Vashem (which rescued the memory of the heroes and martyrs of the Holocaust) bestowed that title on Brother Alessandro. He acknowledged the title conferred by the State of Israel, saying: "I thank you and I accept this recognition, but it is  not directed  only to me, but as the representative of all the Brothers of the Institute, San Leone Magno which makes up the community. In fact, it was a shared decision to open the doors to the twenty-four Jewish boys and the  dozen adults. All the members of the community helped, some in one way and others in another, even knowing that we ran a great risk."  

The President of the Republic, Sergio Mattarella, former student of the Marist School, sent a message to those present at the ceremony. In the message he underlined the expression of Brother Alessandro: " He never boasted to anyone about the valuable work of safeguarding human lives, because he saw it as part of his mission as a man and as a religious". The president of Italy concluded his message expressing a desire: "to put into daily life the spirit of service and solidarity that inspired Brother  Alessandro."  

According to the assigned title of "House of Life", The Wallenberg foundation has as its objective to show that, in one of humanity's more disastrous periods, during the Holocaust, many people were opposed to this terrible evil. To define a place as "House of Life" is to recognize the anger of silent heroes; a tribute  to the "fine citizens" who  honour  the good, combat the bad.   

Photos | News in the Site of the International Raoul Wallenberg Foundation

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