Nicolò Rusca

by Saveria Masa

Nicolò Rusca in a painting by Antonio Caimi (1852).

Nicolò Rusca (1563-1618) was archpriest of Sondrio and parish priest of the Valmalenco in one of the most turbulent periods in the history of the Valtellina. He was tortured to death in 1618 in Thusis (Grigioni Canton).

Testimony of the Catholic faith in the era of the diffusion of Protestant ideas after the Valtellina had been subjected to the dominion of the Three Leagues (1512), his death was immediately seen as "martyrdom" in the defence of Catholic orthodoxy. His reputation as a “martyr for his faith”  and the people's devotion towards Nicolò Rusca grew over the centuries. In the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, it combined with the official initiatives of the diocesan bishops to honour him as a martyr, and subsequently request the beginning of the process of canonisation.

Among the main supporters of the process of beatification was Saint Luigi Guanella who, from 1907, promoted the Cause of beatification. The ordinary process began in 1934 and suffered numerous delays until, in 1995, a special investigation was begun into his fame as a martyr as new documents were acquired. The documentation sent to Rome in 2002 was submitted to the examination of the Congregation of saints which, in 2003, gave an initial positive opinion. It was subsequently given to a council of theologians who, in 2009, also gave a positive opinion. The final approval arrived on 19 December 2011, when Pope Benedict XVI issued the decree of recognisition of Nicolò Rusca's martyrdom.

The offical celebrations of beatification were held in Sondrio on 21 April 2012.