When Pope Francis selected Mario Delpini as the new archbishop of Milan, commentators began discussing whether Delpini was a so-called “Francis bishop .” But it was a misleading debate. The only question that matters is whether Delpini will be a sound archbishop—and better yet, a holy and courageous one. The new archbishop can take inspiration from one of his predecessors, St. Charles Borromeo, the greatest prelate ever to lead the archdiocese of Milan, and a man as holy as he was a genuine reformer.
Charles Borromeo lived only forty-six years, but he accomplished more during his brief life than most Catholics do who live to twice his age.
Born into nobility in 1538, Charles seemed destined for a life of luxury, but he stepped away early from those temptations. Granted an income from a wealthy Benedictine abbey, he made certain that any money beyond his basic needs was donated to the poor. Attending the University of Pavia, he was considered “slow” because of a slight speech impediment, but he confounded his critics by earning a double doctorate, in civil and canon law, and becoming an eloquent speaker. When his uncle, Cardinal Giovanni Angelo Medici, became Pope Pius IV in 1559, he invited Borromeo to Rome to employ his talents—a situation Borromeo could have exploited. But after his uncle made him a cardinal at the age of twenty-one, he turned his elevation to the Church’s advantage.
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