Saturday, July 15, 2006

A great desire well up inside him to sacrifice himself for the salvation of others (Salvo D'Acquisto)

In 1939, Salvo d’Acquisto’s generous-mindedness led him to enrol in the Carabinieri, the Italian Military Police Force. He soon distinguished himself by his conscientiousness and his respectful attitude towards everyone. He seemed to need “to help people, combining this expression of his love for God and his concern for his neighbour with the traditional qualities of the policeman: love for the fatherland, courage, a spirit of sacrifice and a sense of duty. In November 1940 he volunteered to go to Cyrenaica (Libya) and stayed there until 1942, experiencing, as his mother observed, “a great desire well up inside him to sacrifice himself for the salvation of others.” It was his life’s wish. He himself wrote to his mother, “We have to conform ourselves to God’s will whatever the cost in suffering or sacrifice.”

On September 22, 1943, the Nazi barracks in the village of Palidoro, Rome, was bombed by resistance fighters. One German soldier was killed and two others were wounded. The German soldiers went to the headquarters of the Carabinieri in Torrimpietra. They were received by Salvo, who was the only officer in the headquarters at that moment, since the Commanding Officer was absent. The Germans told Salvo to follow them and took him in their armoured car to Palidoro.

Since the Nazis could not find any more Carabinieri soldiers, they took 23 civilians from Palidoro as hostages. Salvo was ordered to identify among those they had rounded up the one responsible for the incident of the previous evening. But Salvo said no one was involved. Because of this, he was beaten by the police. “If we do not find the guilty one,” they shouted, “the whole lot will die!” The hostages and Salvo were loaded on a truck and brought to Torre di Palidoro.

The hostages were protesting their innocence. But they were given shovels to dig their own graves. The hostages found it hard to dig their own graves. Salvo tried to encourage the others, but their emotions were too great. Finally, out of love for his neighbour, Salvo told the Nazis that he alone was the one who was involved in the bombing the last night and asked that the innocent civilians be set free. Salvo was shot to death that afternoon, only two weeks before his twenty-third birthday. The soldiers buried Salvo in the grave. But the civilians of the village exhumed the body and gave it a Christian burial.

When the German Commandant heard of Salvo's offer to die for the others, “he was startled and paced nervously up and down for a time,” probably greatly disturbed himself and in admiration of the gesture, as we learn from witnesses.

On February 26, 2001, John Paul II in his Address to the Italian Carabinieri , stated, “The history of the Italian Carabinieri shows that the heights of holiness can be reached in the faithful and generous fulfillment of the duties of one's state. I am thinking here of your colleague, Sergeant Salvo d'Acquisto, awarded a gold medal for military valor, whose cause of beatification is under way.”


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