Antonio Petrilli

Turning each day into a masterpiece (2 July 1916 – 7 September 2001)

Thirty-three years of ease and comfort, studies and a rapidly successful career in architecture already under his belt. But within the span of only ten days, his whole world was turned upside down. It was 16 December 1949, the day he first met some focolarini in Rome. On the 25th of the same month, Antonio chose God forever by becoming a focolarino himself. From that moment on his life became an adventure of giving to every neighbor who came into his life, leaving signs of his love everywhere.

Antonio was a brilliant young social middle-classer. He had spent his childhood immersed in the beautiful natural surroundings of his own villa of Capodimonte in Naples. He later moved to Rome with his family and graduated in Architecture. He fought in the War as an officer and eventually established himself in his professional career during the post-war period. He contributed to founding the Order of Architects in Italy and soon became its secretary.

The turning point came for the brilliant young architect when he received a sudden telephone call from a former classmate whom he hadn’t seen in twenty-five years. Antonio recalls it in this way: “What Giulio (Marchesi, the first focolarino from Rome) said to me, almost stunned me. He told me about a Catholic movement begun by a young woman with some girls in Trent and he invited me to attend a gathering. It seemed so unusual and outside the box, I didn’t know what to say. Having to listen to a religious conference and, what’s more, one given by a girl!”

However, Antonio decided to attend the meeting and in spite of his skepticism and prejudice, “at one point I heard someone quoting Jesus words: “Unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven,” Antonio recalls. “I was struck by a young girl’s expression as she listened so attentively.” The young girl, he later discovered, was Renata Borlone. “She was listening so attentively and her attitude perfectly reflected those words of Jesus, and it seemed that only now I was understanding them for the first time.”

The second and decisive encounter happened the next day at the focolare in the popular neighbourhood of the Garbatella. This is where he met Chiara Lubich. “She spoke to me of God as a sun that shines for every person, and how each one of us is united to God as if by a ray of his love. And she told me that in life, each one of us should strive to walk along this ray which expresses the will of God for us. Perhaps because I was an architect, I needed such a three-dimensional image. In that moment, God in all his splendour, entered into my life.”

The decision to enter the focolare marked a new beginning. His experience in the first Roman focolare in piazza Lecce and then in Milan; the Mariapolises; the long holidays with the “pioneers” of the Focolare Movement in the Dolomite Mountains; his work as a journalist at Città Nuova; his priestly ordination.

With his sweet and tempered personality, his inner peace not devoid of humuor, he was often assigned with delicate tasks. He collaborated in drawing up the Statutes of the Focolare Movement and during the last years of his life he dedicated himself to the large group of Bishop Friends of the Movement from both Catholic and other churches.

The first signs of a serious illness appeared in March of 2001. It was the final trial in a life spent in living out that Gospel sentencewhich had always been his guide: “Love your neighbour as youself” (Mt. 19:19).

From among all the extraordinary spiritual gifts which he left us, one stands out – a small prayer which he recited each morning: “Most Holy Mary, help me to live with the Holy Spirit, to always listen to His voice, so that this day can be a masterpiece.”




  1. anna riva

    Ho conosciuto Antonio nel 1969, quando a Roma c’era la scuola delle volontarie, attraveso un colloquio privato,ho scoperto che personaggio,era tutto di Dio.Grazie don Antonio Petrilli.Anna Riva


Related News