PR’s patron saint

Posted on: May 20, 2011

Did you know that public relations has a patron saint and May 20 is his feast day? He is St Bernardino of Siena.

Bernardino (also known as Bernardine), a Franciscan preacher, was born in 1380. Orphaned early, he was sent to school in Siena where he excelled in classical studies. During the Plague of 1400 he spent four months ministering to the stricken at the hospital of Santa Maria della Scala. His career in the Order of Friars Minor was outstanding, particularly in the areas of recruitment, eloquent preaching and the writing of homiletics. He was a successful evangelist and propagandist who travelled throughout Italy for 30 years. Following his death at Aquila in 1444, a basilica was built in the town and his body remains on display there.

But how did he become the saint for PR, which is a modern profession? According to the Acta Apostolicae Sedis, issued by the Sacred Congregation for the Causes of Saints in the Vatican, a petition was brought by Cardinal Lecaro of Bologna in 1956, successfully seeking the nomination of Bernardino as Patron Saint of public relations practitioners in Italy. In 1960, Cardinal Feltin, Archbishop of Paris, sought and obtained a similar designation of Bernardino as Patron Saint of PR professionals in France. Since then, the Italian preacher-writer has become the universal Patron Saint of PR.

Bernardino is, however, not only the PR’s saintly minder, but he also stands for debtors and gamblers, Aquila, California, advertisers and communication people and chest problems.

(With acknowledgement to John M. Reed).


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Tom Watson

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