Istituto Luigi Sturzo
The origins and the studies
Luigi Sturzo was born in Caltagirone (Catania) on November 26, 1871, into an aristocratic farming family. He was educated at the seminaries of Acireale and then Noto. The publication of Rerum novarum (1891), the first encyclical on the condition of the working classes, and the mass protests of peasants and Sicilian sulphur miners, led Sturzo to make social commitment a guiding theme of his philosophical studies.
While studying at the Gregorian University in Rome, he became caught up in the cultural fervour of young Catholics of the time and was an enthusiastic supporter of Pope Leo XIII, author of Rerum novarum. At the same time, he became a strong critic of the liberal state, of its centralism, e also condemned the absence of a policy for the South of Italy.
After graduating from the Gregorian University in 1898, Sturzo devoted himself entirely to political-organisational activities. Sturzo’s ideas tended towards administrative and financial decentralisation at regional level and a federation of regions; another idea that featured strongly was that of social struggle, meaning the organisation of peasant resistance and of agricultural credit through the creation of rural banks and cooperatives with a view to promoting an increase in small- and medium-scale agricultural property ownership, a trend that, he felt, should be accompanied by the development of small- and mediumsized industries.
The entry into politics and the birth of the Popular Party
In 1902 the Catholics of Caltagirone, led by Sturzo, emerged as a centrist party within the local administrative government and in 1905 Sturzo was appointed a provincial councillor; from 1905 to 1920 he also served as a deputy mayor.
Sturzo’s speech I problemi della vita nazionale dei cattolici, given in Caltagirone on 24 December 1905, outlined the characteristics of a future Catholic party, whose goals were, in 1919, better specified in his appeal A tutti gli uomini liberi e forti and in the programm of the Partito Popolare Italiano in 1919: complete independence from ecclesiastical authorities and avoidance, in the choice of party name, of the label Catholic, so as to set the alongside the other parties, firmly in the ambit of civil life.
His appeal to all free and strong men, which marked the birth of the PPI, was issued on 18 January 1919. At the first party congress (Bologna, 1919)