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Pino Arpioni

 

 


At a very young age he was an active member of the “Gioventù Italiana di Azione Cattolica” in Empoli, his place of birth, later becoming Diocesan President and Regional Delegate. Together with the central Presidents of the GIAC Carlo Caretto and Mario Rossi, he was committed to a new educational role for Catholic Action until disputes with the national President, Luigi Gedda, forced him to resign the position. In the early years of his activity in Catholic Action he came to meet Giorgio La Pira who, at the request of Cardinal Della Costa, was carrying out his mission especially in the district of Empoli, considered by the Church to be “difficult”.

During the tragic period of the Nazi concentration camps he came to the decision to devote the rest of his life exclusively to the religious and civil education of young people as the only concrete way to prevent the repetition of the atrocities of war and extermination camps. To this end, in the early 1950s he founded the Opera Villaggi per la Gioventù (now renamed Opera per la Gioventù Giorgio La Pira) and created the Villages at Castiglion della Pescaia and Pian degli Ontani, as well as the Casa Alpina in Val d’Aosta, where each year hundreds of young people spend holidays in which recreation is combined with educational activities, study, prayer, and working together. At the same time, in Florence, he founded the “Casa Gioventù”, providing accommodation for university students who could not afford to pay for lodgings.

In 1951 he took part in the difficult campaign for the administrative elections in Florence, standing for the Christian Democrat list headed by La Pira, and was elected to the Municipal Council. La Pira, elected Mayor, entrusted him with one of the most critical sectors at that moment, that of organizing the “Cantieri di Lavoro” for the unemployed. In this job Arpioni revealed his great talent for organization and accomplishment, as well as his sensibility regarding the underprivileged.

Elected to the Council four times, always in strict alignment with the La Pira’s political principles, he was councillor for Labour and Councillor for Personnel. His collaboration with La Pira continued even when the latter was no longer Mayor. It was the “Casa Gioventù” which from 1970 on became home to La Pira himself, who spent the last years of his life there, sharing both hopes and sufferings with Pino and his “boys”. After the death of La Pira, by means of the Opera per la Gioventù (which even in the early 1960s was already giving hospitality to students from abroad, starting with the Middle East), Arpioni continued the former’s policy of religious and political dialogue: ecumenical meetings with Anglicans and Greek Orthodox representatives, missions abroad, international camps etc. the soundness of Pino Arpioni’s intuitions and achievements is shown by the vitality of the Opera per la Gioventù even after his death in 2003. His was a life entirely illuminated by his Christian faith, his commitment to the welfare of young people and his love for the Church.