The Theatine order became known as strong Catholic reformers even before the Protestant Reformation had fully taken hold.
“Saint Cajetan evangelized Rome, Venice, Naples, and he did so above all through the witness of life and the works of mercy, practicing the great ‘protocol’ that Jesus left us with the parable of the final judgment, Matthew 25,” Pope Francis said.
In 1527, the house of the Theatine order in Rome was sacked by troops of Emperor Charles V, and the members fled to Venice.
At the age of 42, Cajetan founded a hospital for "incurables" in Venice, and worked to comfort and heal the sick during times of plague.
In 1533, the pope sent Cajetan to Naples, where he founded another oratory. The corresponding church, San Paolo Maggiore, became an important hub of Catholic reformation.
While in Naples, Cajetan also founded a charitable nonprofit bank designed to protect the poor from usury - or lending money at exorbitant rates of interest. Eventually, the bank became the Bank of Naples.
Cajetan became dangerously sick and offered his sufferings for the conversion of the people of Naples. He died on August 6th 1547, the feast of the Transfiguration, and is buried in the San Paolo Maggiore Basilica in Naples.
Today the Theatines are present in Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, the United States, Mexico, Spain, and Italy. The order met with the pope at the Apostolic Palace as it conducts its 164th General Chapter.
“I encourage you to move forward ... with docility to the Holy Spirit, without rigid schemes … but firmly established in the essential things: prayer, adoration, common life, fraternal charity, poverty and service to the poor,” Pope Francis said.
“All this with an apostolic heart, with the good evangelical eagerness to seek first of all the Kingdom of God.”