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Saint of the Day for 17 September: St Robert Bellarmine

Saint Robert Bellarmine: the saint who fought for truth


Robert Bellarmine


Bishop and Doctor of the Church


04 October 1542


17 September 1621


17 September


2004 edition


13 May 1923, Rome, Pope Pius XI


29 June 1930, Rome, Pope Pius XI


O glorious St. Robert, who with admirable fidelity spent your whole life, and all the exalted gifts of mind and heart bestowed by the Lord you consecrated for the triumph of the Catholic Church and for the defence of the Faith taught by her, obtain from God that we too may remain always firm in the Faith and always faithful to the teachings of Holy Mother Church, as you admirably summarised them in your Catechism and even more splendidly showed them put into practice in your luminous examples. So be it.

Protector of

Canon lawyers, catechists

Roman Martyrology

Saint Robert Bellarmine, bishop and Doctor of the Church, of the Society of Jesus, who brilliantly disputed the theological controversies of his time with skill and acumen. Appointed cardinal, he devoted himself with care to the pastoral ministry in the Church of Capua and, finally, in Rome he did much in defence of the Apostolic See and the doctrine of the faith.


The Saint and Mission

St. Robert Bellarmine, an eminent theologian and cardinal of the Catholic Church in the 16th and 17th century, played a central role in addressing the theological and doctrinal challenges of his time. His mission can be explored through various lenses, from his written works to his function as a spiritual guide.

One of Bellarmine’s main missions was to defend Catholic doctrine against criticism and attacks from the Protestant Reformation. With a profound knowledge of Scripture and theological acumen, he devoted much of his time to the apologia of the Catholic faith, composing works such as the Disputationes, a series of treatises in which he defended Catholic dogmas.

His mission also went beyond the field of theology. During his service as Archbishop of Capua, he showed great commitment to promoting the reform of the Church from within, focusing his efforts on the spiritual and moral formation of the clergy and on improving the lives of his faithful. This focus on justice and the good of the people can be seen as a practical manifestation of his profound theology, rooted in love of God and service to others.

Bellarmine also took a clear position in the debate between the Church and science, defending Galileo Galilei during his trial, demonstrating a balanced and rational view of the relationship between faith and reason. This aspect of his mission highlights an attempt to harmonise Church doctrine with the scientific discoveries of the time, showing a profoundly humanistic and reasoned view of faith.

At a time of intense division and conflict, St. Robert Bellarmine’s mission was clear: to defend the integrity of the Catholic faith, to promote reform and renewal within the Church, and to seek truth and understanding through dialogue with the wider world, including the emerging field of modern science.

Today, as we reflect on his mission, we see not only a defender of the faith but also a bridge between different worlds, a man who sought to unite rather than divide, offering a vision of the Church as a rational and compassionate community of faith. Saint Robert Bellarmine remains a model of theological erudition, openness to dialogue and deep commitment to service to the Gospel and the Church.

The Saint and Mercy

St. Robert Bellarmine, a 17th century Catholic theologian and bishop, remains a distinctive figure for his profound dedication to serving the Church with a mercy rooted in the Gospel. He was known not only for his theological erudition but also for his compassionate heart, which was focused on the spiritual and physical well-being of the people entrusted to his care.

One of the most obvious displays of mercy in Bellarmine’s life was his attitude towards those who disagreed with him. Although he was an ardent defender of Catholic doctrine during the turbulent times of the Counter-Reformation, he was known to approach others with a depth of understanding and a desire for dialogue. This merciful disposition manifested itself in his commitment to respectful and reasoned dialogue with Protestant Reformation figures, seeking points of convergence rather than sowing further discord.

Moreover, his service as archbishop of Capua saw him engaged in acts of corporal and spiritual mercy, offering comfort to the sick and afflicted and providing religious instruction to those seeking spiritual guidance. He was deeply invested in the welfare of his parishioners, showing a tangible mercy that went beyond words to manifest itself in concrete actions.

Bellarmine brought mercy into the field of education, encouraging a balanced and reasoned approach to theology that respected both faith and reason. This merciful perspective towards education showed his desire to cultivate a thoughtful and well-founded faith, one that could dialogue with the world in an intelligent and compassionate manner.

Central to Bellarmine’s spirituality was a deep devotion to the heart of Jesus, a symbol of divine love and infinite mercy. Promoting a spirituality centred on the merciful heart of Christ, Bellarmine invited others to experience the depth of God’s love and to respond with an equally merciful heart.

Reflecting on the legacy of St. Robert Bellarmine, we see a man who embodied divine mercy through his ministry, showing how doctrine and love can go hand in hand. He teaches us that at the core of the Christian life is a passionate call to mercy, to see the face of Christ in others, and to serve with an open and loving heart.


S. Robert Bellarmine was born in Montepulciano on 4 October 1542 to Cinzia Cervini, sister of Pope Marcellus II, and Vincenzo Bellarmine. Fond of the things of God, he had little love for childish amusements; he repeated the sermons he had heard to his little brothers and…


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