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This year 2018 marks 110 years since the birth and 50 years since the death of Giovannino Guareschi who also bears the name Giuseppe in the baptismal register.

When, at the age of 60, God decided to untie the moorings that tied him to the earth, which he had loved and served, Giovannino left in silence. When Guareschi died, less than twenty years had passed since the events were reported in fortnightly episodes in various newspapers. The year he died, in that year '68, this "little ancient world" experienced a radical change, we entered a new era. And this not only because in that year we had three popes, but social life changed its face, lifestyle and perspectives. In this fiftieth anniversary of Giovanni Guareschi's passage to eternal life, it seems necessary to underline an elective affinity with Jesus, so much so as to lend him wise words to rectify those pastoral errors on which the zealous care of the "good shepherd" limped. 

The famous Tuscan journalist, Indro Montanelli, wrote in his time that "you cannot understand post-war Italy without reading its books" in which there is a cultural and customary tension. 

Giovannino Guareschi made the river of post-war history flow by narrating the events of a small village in the Po Valley on the banks of the Po. In that microcosm of Brescello the passions that characterized the political tensions for the drafting of our Constitution, the party struggles for the 48 elections, in that "triangle of death" in the Emilian region; that period was bloodily marked by a wave of crimes perpetrated in the post-war years. 

Guareschi, in those years, entertained his readers in fortnightly installments with 346 stories, written in various magazines, and from these stories of village events flourished the tasty stagings condensed into 6 films whose protagonists were Gino Cervi, Peppone, in the role of the communist mayor and Don Camillo, a character with a horse-like face, played by the French actor Fernandel, in the role of the parish priest.

Perhaps that particular political climate alone is not enough to explain the success of the events experienced in that strip of land between Piacenza and Guastalla, «with its long and straight streets, its small houses painted red, yellow and ultramarine blue, lost in among the rows of vines." In that piece of Italy Guareschi staged a human comedy with universal tones.

The stories of these two protagonists always see them in constant contrast, in a constant tug of war, always experienced and supported by a constant background of goodness. The actors were distinct: Peppone is the head of the "people's revolution", Don Camillo, a pastor passionate for the salvation of the people. A revolutionary and a reactionary set off on an exciting adventure for the good of the people.

The "curate" (i.e. the one who takes care of the flock) has the duty not to abandon anyone: he must also take spiritual care of the Bolsheviks, the godless. Don Camillo, however, is always at the center of the life of his people. The Po river overflows, invades the houses, the streets, Don Camillo remains to guard the town. The farmers on strike for the milking of cows, Don Camillo acts as an intermediary between the owners and the workers. Conflicts arise between families, between young people from opposing factions and Don Camillo is in the families to make peace. If two engaged couples decide to drown themselves in the river because their parents don't want them to get married, it is he, Don Camillo, who mobilizes the section of the communist party and the parish to go and save them. If the son of the communist Peppone is dying it is always him, Don Camillo, who goes to borrow money to buy the largest candles that can be found and brings them before his Lord to ask him on his knees to prevent the greatest injustice , which is the death of a child.

When excess zeal, sometimes disguised as love, seems to fade away to give way to pride, here is the voice of the Lord that scales down unevangelical intentions and puts Don Camillo back on the path of good for his people. 

Guareschi writes, leaving paradoxes in the shadows which, with the freshness of a spring flower, reveal the perspicacity of an apparently reactionary priest who was ahead of his time.

During the V Conference of the Italian Church held in Florence in 2015, Pope Francis, among the thousands of Italian priests whom he could have cited and indicated as a model of pastors of souls, mentioned only one name: "Don Camillo", a priest who is not on the list of future saints, but a priest of notable human depth and witness to the spiritual dimension of life.

On that occasion it was written that Pope Francis, as a good Jesuit, knows how to be "learned with the learned and popular with the people"; from his long experience as an educator and bishop he was well aware that the greatest lack in today's Church is good shepherds of souls with big hearts, truly "curates" with the experience of "curators".

This was Don Camillo, because this was Guareschi; and above all because this was, and still is, his "little ancient world" thirsty for spiritual dimensions. Not much has changed, in that ancient world of yesterday and in ours today.  

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