Luigi Frezza was born in Cività Lavinia in the diocese of Albano near Rome on May 27, 1783. He was ordained to the priesthood on June 11, 1808 after completing his studies at the seminary of Rome and the Greek college. Consecrated Archbishop of Terracina, Sezze and Piperno in 1826, he was appointed titular archbishop of Chalcedony and secretary of the Congregation for Extraordinary Ecclesiastical Affairs in 1828. Made a cardinal in 1836, he was already a cardinal in petto as of 1834.
It was especially with him that Fathers Tempier and de Mazenod had to deal in Rome in 1832 when the Founder was appointed bishop of Icosia (see article Icosia). Bishop Frezza was subsequently co-consecrator of Bishop de Mazenod in the church of Saint Sylvester on October 14, 1832. In 1832 and during the difficulties that arose in 1833-1835 with the French government because he was made bishop without the previous approval of Paris, the Founder wrote ten letters to Bishop Frezza to keep him abreast of events as they unfolded and to ask his advice.
Bishop de Mazenod was always grateful for his help and considered the Archbishop of Chalcedony his friend. On March 9, 1833, for example, he wrote: “Your many and important occupations have made you forget a friend and good servant who, for his part, will always remember your kindness, whose merits and virtues I will never cease to admire. I do not want to inconvenience your Excellency simply to offer you compliments. My heart and my gratitude find satisfaction in remembering you every day in the sacrifice of the Mass. But I would consider myself worthy of blame if I did not keep you informed of my thinking when this seems opportune for the good of the Church...” On January 18, 1837, he wrote him once again: “I will always consider you a friend because of the affection my heart is committed to bear you and my father because of the respect that I bear you. Each day in the holy sacrifice I remember you. As bishop, I was engendered by you!”
Cardinal Frezza died on October 14, 1837 at 55 years of age. Bishop de Mazenod highlighted this event in his diary entries of the 25, 26 and 27 October. On the 25, he wrote: “Today, I learned of the death of Cardinal Frezza, my co-consecrator, my friend, or rather, my father in God, even though he was one year younger than I in age. Through his ministry, I received the Holy Spirit with the fullness of the priesthood. To my way of thinking animated by faith which, thanks be to God, has guided me since then, I will consider him as well as the two other bishops who imposed their hands on me as my genuine fathers in Jesus Christ. During the holy sacrifice, not for a single day have I ceased praying for them as my fathers. The pontifical power that I possess poured forth from their souls. It came to me from them. Never was there ever a more intimate union. There is no fatherhood that resembles this one unless it is the fatherhood that a bishop has for the priest he ordains.”
About ten times in his diary and his letters from 1839 to 1860, Bishop de Mazenod mentions Cardinal Frezza whom he always calls his co-consecrator and his friend. He especially mentions on April 29, 1843 that Bishop Frezza offered him in 1833 to have him named assistant prelate to the pontifical throne. He refused on the grounds that he would have “felt that this was an innovation since he could not remember having ever seen a French bishop endowed with this title.”
Yvon Beaudoin, o.m.i.
Sources and Bibliography
Diary and correspondence of Bishop de Mazenod.
“Élévation du Serviteur de Dieu à l’épiscopat” in Missions OMI, 1968, p. 473-476 and the biographies of the Founder.
PASZTOR, L., “Le cardinal L. Frezza” in Dictionnaire d’histoire et de géographie ecclésiastiques, vol. 19, col. 26 and 27, Paris, 1981.