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His Eminence 
Giuseppe Siri
Cardinal Archbishop Emeritus of Genoa
See Genoa (Emeritus)
Enthroned May 29, 1946
Reign ended July 6, 1987
Predecessor Pietro Boetto
Successor Giovanni Canestri
Ordination September 22, 1928
Consecration May 7, 1944
Created Cardinal January 12, 1953
Rank Cardinal Priest of Santa Maria della Vittoria
Other Auxiliary Bishop of Genoa (1944-46)
Personal details
Born May 20, 1906(1906-05-20)
Genoa, Italy
Died May 2, 1989 (aged 82)
Genoa, Italy

Giuseppe Siri (May 20, 1906—May 2, 1989) was an Italian Cardinal of the Roman Catholic Church who served as Archbishop of Genoa from 1946 to 1987, and was elevated to the cardinalate in 1953 by Pope Pius XII.


Early life and ministry

Giuseppe Siri was born in Genoa to Nicolò and Giulia (née Bellavista) Siri; his father was a stevedore. He entered the minor seminary of Genoa on October 16, 1916, and attended the major seminary from 1917 to 1926. Siri then studied at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome, and was ordained to the priesthood by Archbishop Carlo Minoretti on September 22, 1928. Finishing his studies at the Gregorian, he earned his doctorate in theology summa cum laude and also did pastoral work in Rome until autumn 1929.

Upon returning to Genoa, he served as a chaplain until he became a professor of dogmatic theology at the major seminary in 1930, also teaching fundamental theology for a year. In addition to his academic duties, Siri was a preacher, conferencist, and professor of religion at the lyceums Andrea D'Oria and Giuseppe Mazzini from 1931 to 1936. He was named prosynodal examiner in the archdiocesan curia in 1936 and rector of Collegio Teologico S. Tommaso d'Aquino in 1937.

Episcopal career

On March 14, 1944, Siri was appointed Auxiliary Bishop of Genoa and Titular Bishop of Livias by Pope Pius XII. He received his episcopal consecration on the following May 7 from Cardinal Pietro Boetto, SJ, at the St. Lawrence Cathedral. He became vicar general for the Archdiocese on September 8, 1944. During his tenure as an auxiliary, he was a member of the Italian resistance movement in World War II. He negotiated with the Nazi forces surrounding Genoa and met secretly with partisan leaders, eventually arranging a Nazi surrender that avoided further bombardment of the city.

Following the death of Cardinal Boetto, Siri was named Archbishop of Genoa on May 14, 1946, and installed on May 29 of that year. Pius XII created him Cardinal Priest of Santa Maria della Vittoria in the consistory of January 12, 1953. At the time of his elevation, he was the youngest member of the College of Cardinals. He became known as the "minestrone cardinal" for his relief work in soup kitchens.

Siri was noted for his staunchly conservative views. At the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965), he sat on its Board of Presidency and, alongside Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre and Cardinals Alfredo Ottaviani and Thomas Cooray, he was part of the association of traditionalist Council fathers named Coetus Internationalis Patrum. However, Siri once said, "I would describe myself as an independent, a man who walks alone and is not a member of any group."[1] He was also opposed to collegiality.[2] and innovation[3]

Pope John XXIII named Siri the first President of the Italian Episcopal Conference on October 12, 1959. He remained in that post until 1965. Siri, who had voted in the conclaves of 1958 and 1963, was also one of the cardinal electors in the August and October 1978 conclaves. He was a strong candidate for the papacy, or papabile, in all four conclaves, in which his support lay mostly with Curialists and other conservative cardinals.[4] Media reports[5] [6] suggested that Siri in fact topped the first count of votes in the August 1978 conclave but ultimately was beaten by Albino Luciani, who became Pope John Paul I. Following John Paul I's death, Siri was the leading conservative candidate in opposition to Cardinal Giovanni Benelli, the Archbishop of Florence and leading liberal candidate. Vaticanologists suggested that the eventual winner, Cardinal Karol Wojtyła, who became Pope John Paul II, was chosen as a compromise candidate between the two. Shortly afterwards, Siri implied that he disapproved of Wojtyła's election.[7]

In a biography of the Cardinal, Nicla Buonasorte reports that Siri was a friend of Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, but disapproved of what the newspaper report on the book called his schismatic undertakings. Up to the last minute he begged him ("on his knees", the Cardinal wrote) not to break from Rome, but finally accepted that excommunication of the dissident bishop was unavoidable. Buonasorte commented: "In all probability, it is due to Siri that Lefebvre had no significant following in Italy" [8]

The same book recalls how Siri seems to have turned a blind eye to the assistance given by one or two of his clergy to members of the German National Socialist Party, including Adolf Eichmann, fleeing to South America after the Second World War. It stresses, however, that this was out of compassion for people in difficulties, and quite unconnected with his well-known conservative views, in spite of which he conducted a personal "Ostpolitik" of contacts with the Soviet embassy in favour of the Church in Eastern Europe, without informing Pius XII of these contacts. Cardinal Siri during the war had supported Christian-Democrat Italian resistance financially and morally. He also aided and sheltered some of his priests who tried to help rescue threatened Jews to safe and neutral Spain.

Siri resigned from his post in Genoa on July 6, 1987, after 41 years of service. He died in Villa Campostano, Genoa, at age 82, and was buried at San Lorenzo metropolitan cathedral in Genoa.

Conclave speculation

According to the supporters of the Siri Thesis Cardinal Siri received the majority vote in a papal conclave twice: in 1958 and 1963 (even announcing after his acception that he wished to be known as Pope Gregory XVII). Given that the conduct of conclaves is strictly confidential and that any cardinal revealing such details would face automatic excommunication, no documentary evidence has ever substantiated or disproved the widely claimed rumour. Other rumours maintain that Cardinal Grégoire-Pierre Agagianian, a prominent Armenian rite cardinal, was also elected to pope in 1958. Rumors and speculation about the 1958 and 1963 conclaves may have received added attention because it under the Popes who were then elected that the Second Vatican Council was held and its decrees were implemented.

Although claimed by one sedevacantist group that he had actually been elected to the papacy in 1958 and 1963, only to be displaced by Angelo Roncalli (Pope John XXIII) and then Giovanni Battista Montini (Pope Paul VI)[9], Siri entirely submitted to the authority of the official popes and remained in full communion with the Church, refusing to support any sedevacantist organization. One small sedevacantist group, centered in Houston, Texas still claims him to have been the actual pope, despite Siri's own silence as to this claim. This small group, known as "Sirianists", have yet to offer any reasonable explanation[10] for the fact that Siri failed to support the Traditionalist Catholic movement, that he recognized John XXIII, Paul VI, John Paul I and John Paul II as legitimate popes, that despite his conservatism he used the Mass according to the reformed 1970 Roman Missal and the other revised sacraments, and that he signed all of the documents of the Second Vatican Council. The Cardinal even somewhat defended the Council, as long as it was interpreted in the light of Tradition, though he did remark that, "If the Church were not divine, this Council would have buried it".[11]. To explain Siri's silence as to what happened in the conclaves, supporters of the Siri Thesis have suggested that Siri was silenced by the conspirators' use of the Seal of the Confessional,[12] a method of silencing prelates suggested in other literature.


  1. ^ New York Times. Giuseppe Cardinal Siri Of Genoa Is Dead at 82 May 3, 1989
  2. ^ Time Magazine. A "Foreign" Pope October 30, 1978
  3. ^ Time Magazine. The Princes of the Church March 30, 1962
  4. ^ Ibid.
  5. ^ National Catholic Reporter. How a Pope is Elected 2005
  6. ^ Time Magazine. How Pope John Paul I Won September 11, 1978
  7. ^ Time Magazine. A "Foreign" Pope October 30, 1978
  8. ^ Siri, il cardinale dell'Ostpolitik segreta in Corriere della Sera, 13 December 2006. Quote: "fu amico fraterno di monsignor Marcel Lefebvre, ma disapprovò le sue iniziative scismatiche e lo scongiurò fino all'ultimo («in ginocchio», gli scrisse) di non staccarsi da Roma. Infine ammise che non c' erano alternative alla scomunica del vescovo dissidente. «A Siri - osserva la sua biografa - si deve, con tutta probabilità, la mancanza di un seguito significativo di Lefebvre in Italia»."
  9. ^ The Pope in Red. The Siri Thesis
  10. ^ Inside the Vatican. The "Siri Thesis" Unravels
  11. ^ Statement, apud Lucio Brunelli, 30 Days. Sep. 1993: p. 50
  12. ^ Eclipse Cardinal Siri Asks God For Forgiveness

See also


  • Spiazzi, Raimondo (1990). Il Cardinale Giuseppe Siri. Bologna: Edizioni Studio Dominicani.  
  • Buonasorte, Nicla (2006). Siri. Tradizione e Novecento. Il Mulino.  
  • Siri, Giuseppe (1980). Getsemani: Riflessioni sul movimento teologico contemporaneo. Rome: Rostampa.  
  • Lai, Benny (1993). Il Papa non eletto: Giuseppe Siri, cardinale di Santa Romana Chiesa. Rome: LLaterza.  

External links

Catholic Church titles
Preceded by
Pietro Boetto
Archbishop of Genoa
1946 - 1987
Succeeded by
Giovanni Canestri
Preceded by
Maurilio Fossati
President of the Italian Episcopal Conference
1959 - 1965
Succeeded by
Collective Presidency of Giovanni Colombo, Ermenegildo Florit and Giovanni Urbani


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