'The trajectory of Cain is not at an end', wrote La Pira, 'there is the fascination of love that has Christ as its source and there is the fascination of hate that has Satan as its source. The first fruit of death: the only Christian dam that acted as a defence against two non-Christian worlds has also heroically fallen. If the murder of a man is the greatest of crimes, then this is even more the case with the murder of an entire nation. Balance is broken and from broken balance comes only war and ruination. Thus it remains to us only to reflect deeply on our Christianity...
There was one Pastor in harmony with La Pira, Pius XII with his cry that was not listened to: 'Nothing is lost with peace. Everything can be lost with war... May the strong listen to us so that they do not become weak in injustice... And this old Europe, which was the work of Christian faith and genius, is with us. The whole of humanity that expects justice, bread, and freedom, not iron that kills and destroys, is with us. That Christ who made brotherly love his first commandment is with us' (radio message of 24 August 1939).
As under-secretary at the Ministry of Labour, under his friend Fanfani who was Minister, at the time of the first De Gasperi administration, La Pira wrote two essays for the review Cronache Sociali: 'The Hopes of Poor People' and 'The Defence of Poor People', which stressed in a vigorous way the need to combat unemployment. This was in 1951, at the time of the Korean War, at the beginning of the conflict between the West and the East. 'We must take careful note', wrote La Pira, 'the real dichotomy in the world is the economic gap between the North and the South'. And it was specifically in 1951 that the decisive turning point took place.
However, La Pira, the Christian friend of 'poor people' supported by the most working-class sections of society, achieved a major electoral triumph. His first action was to put back on the faade of the municipality, the very old 'Palazzo della Signoria', the motto of Savonarola: 'Christus Rex regum et Dominus dominantium'. This was not a merely formal act. Indeed, the mayor scandalised the powerful by taking the side of the workers at the massive Fabbrica Pignone.
Threatened by dismissal, thee workers had occupied the factory. A harsh polemic was unleashed. A red fish in the holy font, a little communist from the sacristy! But the Cardinal Archbishop, Elia Dalla Costa, had a different opinion: 'how can one not be on the side of those who are troubled over the insecurity of their future?' A little Communist as the mayor? No, replied the Archbishop, La Pira is a copy of the living Gospel. The factory would later be saved through the intervention of the president of ENI, Enrico Mattei, who had been a friend of the mayor since the time of the opposition to Fascism. And it would be La Pira himself who would point out to Mattei the possibility of extending the petroleum market on the other side of the Mediterranean.
The message was clear. 'We would like all the treasures of history, of grace, of beauty, and of intelligence that Providence has accumulated in Florence to constitute a gigantic message of peace addressed to all the peoples of the earth: a message that calls them all, almost irresistibly, and despite every form of resistance and every opposition - spes contra spem - to begin a new history of a thousand years of civilisation and peace. A civilisation and a peace destined to refract fully onto the earth the loving light of the fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of men'.
Two subsequent follow-ups to these conferences organised by La Pira, namely the 'Conference of Mayors of Capital Cities' of 1955 and the Mediterranean Colloquiums of 1958-1964, indicated two areas in which the very special insights of La Pira were at work: the realistic space of the city that overcomes dominant ideological slaveries and the Mediterranean area as a neuralgic point of world peace. To mayors from all over the world who had come to Florence, including the amazed mayors of Moscow and Peking, he said: 'the crisis of our time is a crisis that is disproportionate and ill related to what is really human', and 'within the circle of city walls the problems of the present time take on a perfectly comprehensible human dimension.
Was this a utopia that La Pira was espousing? You are a poet, he was told by the most benevolent of his critics when his initiatives seemed too audacious. As a young man, he replied, I took a school diploma in accounting. However, do not forget that poets have insights.