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Western Christians who are working for greater dialogue with Orthodox Christians may be reaping the fruits of Father Leopold’s prayers.
A native of Croatia, Leopold joined the Capuchin Franciscans and was ordained several years later in spite of several health problems. He could not speak loudly enough to preach publicly. For many years he also suffered from severe arthritis, poor eyesight, and a stomach ailment.
For several years Leopold taught patrology, the study of the Church Fathers, to the clerics of his province, but he is best known for his work in the confessional, where he sometimes spent 13-15 hours a day. Several bishops sought out his spiritual advice.
Leopold’s dream was to go to the Orthodox Christians and work for the reunion of Roman Catholicism and Orthodoxy. His health never permitted it. Leopold often renewed his vow to go to the Eastern Christians; the cause of unity was constantly in his prayers.
At a time when Pope Pius XII said that the greatest sin of our time is “to have lost all sense of sin,” Leopold had a profound sense of sin and an even firmer sense of God’s grace awaiting human cooperation.
Leopold, who lived most of his life in Padua, died on July 30, 1942, and was canonized in 1982. In the Roman liturgy his feast is celebrated on July 30.
Saint Francis advised his followers to “pursue what they must desire above all things, to have the Spirit of the Lord and His holy manner of working” (Rule of 1223, Chapter 10)—words that Leopold lived out. When the Capuchin minister general wrote his friars on the occasion of Leopold’s beatification, he said that this friar’s life showed “the priority of that which is essential.”