VATICAN CITY - Cardinal Angelo Scola of Milan is a tweeting,
intellectual archbishop deeply concerned about the negative
impact modern culture is having on the faith lives of
He also is convinced that Christian values have the potential
to build societies that are more virtuous and more respectful
of the rights of all.
Almost any discussion about potential new popes includes the
71-year-old, who is the most prominent head of an Italian
diocese. Milan is the country's largest see and the
archdiocese led by both Popes Pius XI and Paul VI before they
were elected to the papacy.
Before being transferred to Milan in 2011, Cardinal Scola was
the patriarch of Venice, once the archdiocese of Blessed John
Cardinal Scola has made social and cultural involvement in
the civic life of both cities a key part of his pastoral
The son of a truck driver, he has tried to rebuild Italian
parishes in an attempt to restore their traditional role as a
spiritual and social meeting ground.
In an interview in 2005 with Catholic News Service, he said
the "crisis of Christianity today is that our communities are
fragile, and the sense of belonging is weak, because the
people are lost."
"Why are the people lost? Why is the community weak? Because
I think we have forgotten a little about the basic elements
of the human being - his emotions and desires, how he lives
concretely, how he experiences work, marriage, the family and
his neighborhood," he said.
Cardinal Scola has argued that if the church wants to reach
people where they live, it has to move out of the sacristy
and into all sectors of civil society. But the cardinal
recognizes Catholic involvement in social life is
increasingly unwelcome in the West.
In a December speech, Cardinal Scola said most modern
democracies have ended up hurting religious freedom in their
effort to be "neutral" toward their citizens' diverse
Under the guise of "objectivity" and respecting diversity,
many governments are really upholding and giving legitimacy
to a culture that is devoid of God and hostile to the
church's legitimate place in the public square, he said.
The cardinal has not claimed a privileged place for
Catholicism in the public sphere, but has advocated for the
right of all believers to engage in public debates, as long
as they do so with civility and respect.
In 2004, he founded Oasis, an international foundation that
acts as a forum for dialogue and a bridge of support for
Catholics in the Middle East. It publishes a journal and
hosts international conferences attended by experts on
While recognized as one of the church's deepest thinkers, he
also has a reputation as one of its wordiest speakers and one
who sometimes has difficulty making his thoughts accessible
to a broad audience.
People can find even his briefest remarks difficult to
penetrate. An Italian magazine and media company teamed up in
January to study the Twitter activity of Cardinal Scola and
seven other tweeting cardinals. They found that Cardinal
Scola's followers re-tweeted only 40 percent of his
140-character-maximum messages. By comparison, 100 percent of
the messages sent by Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York
are passed on to others by his followers.
Cardinal Scola's concerns about the role of faith in culture
have deep roots in his expertise on Catholic teaching about
anthropology, sexuality and family life. In 1982, he was
named professor of theological anthropology at the John Paul
II Institute for Studies on Marriage and the Family, based at
Rome's Pontifical Lateran University. He also taught
contemporary Christology at the university and has been a
visiting professor at the John Paul II Institute for Studies
on Marriage and the Family in Washington.
In an interview last year with Famiglia Cristiana, an Italian
Catholic magazine, he insisted it was inaccurate and even a
sign of a lack of faith to act as if the battle to save the
traditional family already had been lost.
What is true, he said, is that modern men and women face a
"Overcome by the rapid multiplication of phenomena like
globalization, the Internet civilization, progress in the
neurosciences and biotechnology and the mixing of cultures,
humanity is called to choose what it wants to be - and it
cannot avoid doing so. Does the person want to be 'one in
relationship' or, as some propose, a pure experience of the
self?" he said.
Cardinal Scola said people need help and support each other
in learning how to love and forgive one another, especially
in a culture that tells people it is fine to walk away if
they are not completely happy.
"To quickly bury a relationship, even though it may be
painful, is not a solid basis for building one's future," he
Born in Malgrate, Italy, Nov. 7, 1941, he attended high
school in Lecco and studied philosophy at Sacred Heart
University in Milan. After his ordination in 1970, he worked
with two famous theologians, Fathers Henri de Lubac and Hans
Urs von Balthasar, when they founded the international
Catholic theological review, Communio. He eventually
published book-length interviews with both theologians.
He became increasingly involved with Communion and
Liberation, a predominantly lay Italian church movement known
for its public impact and political combativeness. He has
credited the movement with shaping his vocation and helping
him live "a faith wide open to all the dimensions of the
At the University of Fribourg, Switzerland, he became an
assistant researcher in the philosophy department in 1979 and
later an assistant professor of moral theology.
In 1991, Blessed John Paul II named him bishop of Grosseto,
Italy, and four years later asked him to return to Rome to
serve as rector of Lateran University and president of the
John Paul II Institute. He was named patriarch of Venice Jan.
5, 2002, and was made a cardinal in 2003.