On March 27, 1933, Father Giuseppe Alloatti CM, a missionary among Bulgarians of the Byzantine-Slavic rite in present-day Bulgaria and Macedonia, died in the House of Peace in Chieri, where he was receiving medical treatment. He was 76 years old. He died completely blind and deaf, exhausted by his missionary fatigue. It was as if this condition had prepared him to detach himself from everything in order to be exclusively for that Christ who is living in the Eucharist, whom he had loved in a special way.

The Family

His family lived in Villastellone, on the outskirts of Turin, and were deeply Christian. His father, Pietro, married Caterina Chicco in 1856, from whom six children were born between 1857 and 1868, the eldest being Joseph, born on July 20, 1857. Two years younger than Joseph was Eurosia, his sister who would follow him to his mission in Bulgaria and would co-found the Eucharistine Sisters. The third son, Melchor, also entered the Congregation of the Mission. Cristina, the fourth born, was also consecrated to God among the Sacramentine Sisters. These vocations of consecration show the deep piety that reigned in the house of Caterina and Pietro.

Joseph was put to the test from birth. The delivery was difficult and his midwife was clumsy in using the instruments, seriously damaging his left eye. After finishing elementary school, Joseph went to grammar school, but in 1872, the worsening pain in his eye forced him to abandon his studies. Therefore, his grandfather brought him to work in his cloth factory. He worked there for two years, but his youthful restlessness kept him from having peace. He wanted to resume his studies with the goal of becoming a priest. However, how could he overcome his visual impairment?

Consecration to God as a missionary

At that time there was much talk about the miraculous cures of Lourdes. He took a small bottle of water from the Grotto of Massabielle and began a novena to the Virgin Mary. Every day he washed his eye with that water. Towards the end of the novena, on June 23, 1873, it seemed to him that something had happened to the diseased eye. He covered his good eye and, to his surprise, discovered that he had acquired sight in his sick eye. The miraculous event opened the door to his desire and in the fall of the following year, 1874, at the age of 17, he entered the College of Scarnafigi, in the province of Cuneo. During his three years there, he developed a desire to become a missionary to win souls for God: he was particularly fascinated by China. On September 27, 1877, at the age of twenty, he entered the Congregation of the Mission and began the Internal Seminary at the House of Peace in Chieri. Here he deepened his bond with Christ with a simple and precise motto: “To love, suffer and do everything for God that is my only will: it is my desire!” Two years later, on October 29, 1879, he made his vows and, after four years of theology, he was ordained a priest on September 24, 1882. At the beginning of October, Father General, Father Antonio Fiat, called him to Paris and gave him his missionary destiny, which was not the Far East, but the Middle East, specifically Thessaloniki, the capital of Macedonia. Back in Turin, he received the blessing of his mother, who was prostrate in her bed, and on October 19, he left for Thessaloniki. He arrived on October 30 with very light luggage, consisting of some clothes and three books: the Breviary, the Imitation of Christ, and Dante’s Divine Comedy.

In Macedonia, among the Bulgarian population

At that time, the region of Macedonia, the ancient northern land of classical Greece, was disputed between various ethnic groups (Bulgarians, Serbs and Greeks) and for many centuries was under the Turkish domination of the Ottomans. In particular, the region around Thessaloniki was a territory that looked towards Bulgaria due to its geographical proximity. In any case, the region was multicultural, with a Slavic background and a large number of Bulgarians, and, religiously speaking, was dominated by the Eastern Greek rite.

Father Alloatti immediately realized that, in order to truly serve the Bulgarian population and overcome the mistrust aroused by the priests of the Latin rite, he had to identify with this population. For this, as soon as he arrived, he began to study the Bulgarian language and to learn Old Slavonic in order to celebrate the Divine Liturgy in the Byzantine-Slavic rite. He learned the Bulgarian language so thoroughly that it was as familiar to him as his mother tongue.

After mastering the liturgy and the language, he passed through many Macedonian villages on his missionary tours for about fifteen years. He traveled on horseback. And he adapted to the extreme poverty of the population. He was welcomed by the inhabitants and lived like them. They had no beds and he lay down on a mat in the same room as his host family, often including donkeys and oxen, nor were there tables and chairs, and he ate lying on a cushion and from the same plate as his host family . Following the Eastern rite of strict fasting for about 180 days a year, during which no meat, dairy products, eggs, fish, or olive oil could be eaten, he led a life of extreme austerity. This way of life must have cost him a lot at first, coming from a family of a higher social level, but he submitted to it without showing the burden of it and he adapted happily to win these people to the Gospel. This immersive learning in the midst of the Bulgarian people made him realize the religious abandonment of the churches. He wrote to Father General: “Unfortunately, they are not churches, but the stables of Bethlehem …” And what most caught his attention was the abandonment of the Blessed Sacrament. He found that it was often kept in a tin box wrapped in dirty yellowish paper. He wrote again to Father General on February 10, 1885: “I see under the altar two or three burned books, whose pages, stained with wax, have become illegible. In the middle of them, I observe a small tin box, already used for the coffee. What was my dismay, Father, when I opened the can and saw the consecrated Bread wrapped in a dirty and greasy sheet of paper. I fell to my knees and could not hold back the tears. ”

The founding of the Eucharistine Sisters

In his missionary activity, he realized the importance of a local religious presence, so, with the help of his sister Eurosia, who joined him in Bulgaria, he founded a congregation of native sisters, which he gave the name of Eucharistine Sisters. That was in 1889. From then forward, Father Alloatti spent a lot of time training them. He prepared the Regulations for them. He made strict obedience the axis of unity among the sisters, as a historical and consistent sign of the Eucharistic Presence they adored. The sisters began to spread throughout Macedonia in small groups in the various communities that soon began to form. The first six communities “were so close that they seemed to be one with the mother community,” noted a witness.

From many villages came the request for the presence of the sisters to maintain order in the churches, educate children and catechize adults. The parishes in which the sisters worked changed rapidly. For the small number of Bulgarian Catholics in Macedonia (only a few thousand), it would have been an illusion to expect a great development of the institute: however, in two decades, until the eve of the Great War, there were 31 sisters in 6 houses. In Paliurtsi, where the novitiate was, they had an orphanage with 36 girls.

The sociopolitical situation was not stable. The years 1912-1913 witnessed the awakening of the national spirit in Macedonia among Bulgarians, Serbs and Greeks who rebelled against Turkish rule (Balkan Wars). The rebellion led to a period of bloody fighting. When World War I broke out in 1914 and the armies of the Entente crossed the Dardanelles into Macedonia, the territory was trapped between two fires. The sisters were forced to flee north of Macedonia, to Skopje. With the end of the war, the sisters’ stay in Skopje became untenable. Sister Eurosia had died of hardship in 1919. Serbian authorities occupied her home. In this context of great insecurity, Father Joseph, encouraged by Pope Benedict XV, moved the small rest of the community to Sofia, the capital of Bulgaria, in 1920. Here the community soon began a new life, especially when in 1925 Monsignor Roncalli, the future Pope John XXIII, arrived in Bulgaria as an apostolic delegate and took charge of helping the community. However, in the meantime, Father Alloatti fell ill.

Last days

In 1927, he returned to Turin for treatment. Soon after, Father General asked him not to return to Bulgaria. Obedient as he was, he accepted, suffering separation from the land he had loved and from the sisters who loved him. In Turin, his body weakened and he was transferred to Chieri. It was the last purification for him. He entered into a long silence and spent his time in adoration before the Blessed Sacrament. On March 24, 1933, the eve of the Feast of the Annunciation, he felt very ill. Towards night, Brother Melchor administered the sacraments to him and three days later, on March 27, he passed away.

His figure and his spiritual personality

“He was a missionary”, writes Father E. Cazot in Annales, ”in the true sense of the word. For many years, on his mission to the Macedonian villages, he found himself living his apostolic activity in a way that it is necessary to have been there to know what he represented in terms of suffering and self-denial. I don’t know if another missionary has led a more heroic life than his. He was extraordinarily mortified … his piety matched his mortification. And although he practiced an austere lifestyle, Father Alloatti always remained an affable and endearing brother.” As a true Vincentian, he had a desire of absolute abandonment to Providence. The center of his interior life was the Eucharist. Father Alloatti was a hard worker. He worked a lot and wrote a lot.

Beginning of the cause of beatification

“Having verified that Father Alloatti – said Archbishop Cesare Nosiglia, Archbishop of Turin, on June 16, 2021, opening the process of beatification – has had and has more and more acquired a great reputation for holiness, recognizing how he can be a luminous model for the Vincentian Family and for the whole Church, and wanting to accept the request of the postulator, Father Giuseppe Guerra, steps were taken to request the nulla osta from the Congregation for the Cause of Saints, which granted it on February 26, 2019. Likewise, a favorable opinion was obtained from the Piedmontese Episcopal Conference on March 2, 2021 “.

On Monday, July 12, 2021, with the second and third Sessions, the Diocesan Investigation of his Cause continued. The sessions were held at the House of the Daughters of Charity of San Salvario, where Archbishop Cesare Nosiglia established the seat of the Tribunal. Therefore, the witness hearings began in San Salvario. However, before the witnesses began, the members of the Historical Commission appointed by the archbishop (Father Luigi Mezzadri, Father Luigi Nuovo and Sister Maximiliana Nikolova Proykova) had taken an oath to fulfill their task with fidelity and rectitude.

Fr.  Erminio ANTONELLO C.M.