By Catholic News Agency's Vatican Observer, Andrea Gagliarducci

Cardinal Gualtiero Bassetti, Perugia’s first red hat in 160 years

Cardinal Gualtiero Bassetti at the Consistory at St Peter's Basilica on February 22, 2014. Credit: Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images News/Getty Images.
Cardinal Gualtiero Bassetti at the Consistory at St Peter's Basilica on February 22, 2014. Credit: Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images News/Getty Images.

.- Among the cardinals elevated by Pope Francis at the Feb. 22 consistory is Gualtiero Bassetti, Archbishop of Perugia-Citta della Pieve – a diocese which has not seen a cardinal since 1878.

That year, Archbishop Vincenzo Pecci of Perugia, who had been made a cardinal in 1853, was elected Pope Leo XIII.

Cardinal Bassetti was born in 1942 in Maraddi, little more than an hour outside of Florence. He was ordained a priest of the Florence archdiocese in 1966, at the age of 24, and served there in several capacities.

He was a parish priest, and then served as rector of both the minor and major seminaries of the archdiocese. Then beginning in 1990, he served as vicar general of the Archdiocese of Florence.

In 1994 he was consecrated Bishop of Massa Marittima-Piombino. While there, he showed his concern for workers – as had Leo XIII – when he supported a group of steelworkers in Piombino who were facing difficulties because of a company crisis.

Cardinal Bassetti was installed as Bishop of Arezzo-Cortono-Sansepolcro in 1999, and again showed himself to be in solidarity with laborers in his diocese.

He was in 2009 transferred to Perugia-Citta della Pieve, and was installed on the feast of St. Francis.

There, Cardinal Bassetti has continued his pastoral service, encouraging politicians to work toward improving the economy, and focusing on serving families. He has backed the “Youth Mission,” by which young people evangelize in places they frequent, such as universities.

He has sent numerous messages to the community of Perugia, discussing the problem of workplace deaths, the lack of employment opportunities, politics concerned with the common good, and justice in dealing with social plagues such as prostitution and addiction to alcohol, drugs, and gambling.

Cardinal Bassetti has visited several companies in crisis, and has encouraged Perugia-Citta della Pieve’s Caritas organization to support families in which one of the parents has lost their job.

He has begun this year a pastoral visit to the whole of his archdiocese of 733 square miles and nearly 230,000 Catholics, which he expects to last until 2017. He wtill visit laborers, immigrants, students, and hospital workers in the program of visits.

In 2012, Cardinal Bassetti was elected president of the Umbrian bishops’ conference, where he proposed an “educational pact” between the Church and schools to respond to the “educational emergency” identified by Benedict XVI.
He was recently appointed deputy president of the Italian bishops’ conference, and was made a member of the Congregation for Bishops.

He was one of 19 men elevated to the college of cardinals Feb. 22; he was appointed cardinal-priest of Santa Cecilia.

Shortly before the consistory, he told the Italian news agency ANSA that “I intend to continue to be that which I’ve always been. Faithful to my style of being bishop. To continue to work for communion in the Church.”

After his elevation to cardinal, he returned to Perugia to say a Mass of thanksgiving, and then went to Citta della Pieve March 2 to say Mass and to visit inmates and the infirm.