On the morning of Saturday, January 9, Don Ennio Innocenti, a Roman priest, as he liked to call himself, passed away. He was born in 1932, in Pistoia and lived through the pains of war, culminating in the killing of his father in 1944. The young Ennio began to show signs of a vocation to the priesthood, encouraged by the priests close to him, so he studied in Rome, at Capranica College, at the Gregorian and Lateran universities. He was ordained a priest in 1957 and carried out pastoral duties in various Roman parishes. He was also a teacher of religion in some Roman high schools and a teacher of fundamental theology and ecumenism. In the meantime, he also dealt with matrimonial causes and canonizations.
In the 1960s he met the Jesuit Virginio Rotondi, popular for being the voice of a popular radio program (Ascolta, si fa sera) and founder of the Oasi movement. Don Ennio became a spiritual assistant of the movement and had among his pupils the future police commissioner Luigi Calabresi (assassinated by an extreme left movement and for which Don Ennio wanted to introduce the cause for canonization) and the future father Giovanni d’Ercole (also very active in the media and today a bishop). Don Ennio also began to collaborate with the radio program Listen, Ascolta, si fa sera, a task that he continued for many years and whose reflections he then collected in various books. The apostolate of the good press was the mission of his entire long life, a life in which he published more than 100 volumes, on topics such as exegesis, philosophy, theology, aesthetics, history and so on. During one of our meetings in his Roman home, he told me that the research for which he wanted to be remembered was that of gnosis. As he explained: “Often people, at some of my conferences, ask me to explain what gnosis is and in those places I explain, both how I came to evaluate the phenomenon and how it developed in history. In reality, all Christians have known for themselves the essence of gnosis (presumption of high knowledge) since the time of the first catechism. In fact, the first teacher of gnosis is the devil who suggests to Adam to cross the red line that God had marked; that is, he suggests to Adam that he be like God, himself, an arbiter of what is good and what is evil, forgetting his limitation as a creature, forgetting that he is not the original being, that he has received the being and therefore of not being the master of what being is at all.”(from the site dedicated to him, held by some collaborators) He distinguished a bad gnosis (called “spuria”) and a good gnosis. Don Ennio dedicated years and years of study and thousands of pages to this theme. In the speech given on the 60th anniversary of his priesthood on January 20, 2017, in the Roman Church of San Giovanni dei Fiorentini, among other things he said: “I hope, by now, that God does not delay his desired call, so that, in his definitive embrace, I may find the embrace of all those who helped me climb the altar, including the affectionate Padre Pio of Pietrelcina who knew me personally and blessed my access to the priesthood and all those who protected and supported me in these decades of book apostolate.” The Eternal Father did not take long, and made him atone already here on earth with a not short illness that preceded his death.
He had a strong character, Don Ennio, sometimes harsh. But it was a character that allowed him to be always focused on his mission as a servant of the Church, a mission that did not spare him suffering even within the Church itself but that made him reach the extreme act with the Pauline awareness of having finished the race by fighting the good fight and keeping the faith. (Photo: https://www.donennioinnocenti.it/biografia/)