Thank you my Friend

Written by  Franco Farina

Memories of Don Franco, priest and artist of warmth and humanity.

When I remember Don Franco it is a pleasure to think of him in Casa Cini, ready to get up from a desk overloaded with work to come towards me with his huge smile, testament to his kindness, friendliness and sociability. The spacious and rather chaotic room was his study, workshop, confessional, living room and more besides. Within these book-lined walls, he painted as well as hearing confessions and carrying out the many tasks of his ministry. He loved to drive, despite the fact he often mistook his route, and his open and honest outlook made him an excellent travelling companion. He loved all kinds of wordplay such as double meanings, letter changes and anagrams; from his observation of tiny details he would develop unexpected ideas. Despite having a placid appearance, partly due to his size, beneath it he was a sensitive and anxious person, with high ideals founded in his fervent and rigorous Christian beliefs. I remember his first works as an aspiring painter at the end of his time at the “Dosso Dossi” Institute of Art, which stimulated him to reflect on ever-fresh visual languages of both figurative and non-figurative art, and which came over time to include close attention to other media including photography, cinema and television. These were the interests he pursued and the events which he experienced, surpassed and interpreted to become a person who had steadily created for himself a highly prestigious cultural profile. Alongside all this, and by no means less important, was his own research and production in the field of art, as it was possible to discover and admire in the recent personal review of his work at the Padiglione d’Arte Contemporanea in Palazzo Massari, appropriately entitled “Percorsi” (Journeys). His important work for the culture page of L’Osservatore Romano, the Vatican newspaper, exemplified his interests. He reviewed important exhibitions, interviewed some of the most important individuals from the world of Italian culture, profiled important art galleries and their collections, and wrote on current affairs and trends. His Gospel commentaries, published in the Curia’s weekly La Voce and in Bologna’s paper Il Resto del Carlino were very highly regarded. He made similar contributions to the local TV station Telestense. Various publications deserve mention: assorted short accounts in paperback, fragments preserved in his memory and full of the nostalgia of happy times now long past. It should also be remembered that for almost twenty years he was the director of Casa Cini; or better, the Casa Cini Cultural Institute was embodied in Don Franco. Due his particular and perhaps unique qualities he was able to create an exhibition centre based on the exploration of innovation and research. These two fundamental elements for growth were not merely the result of social complexity but the fruit of a huge multiplicity of knowledge and perspectives which demanded to be discussed, understood, shared and made available.

Of course, these memories bring to mind that alongside his many qualities he had certain failings. Money ran through his hands like water, as has been noted by others, to the extent he barely understood what paper money actually represented. He believed very firmly in Divine Providence, to which all his economic hopes were entrusted. His true “Achilles heel” was a great weakness for food. Something of a gourmet, he was dedicated to the pleasures of the table and of convivial company for as long as he was able, so much that the enforced abstinence and restricted diet of his later years were a great sadness to him. Of one thing I remain absolutely certain: he was a good and charitable man, believing in the next world and generous in all his relations with this world. Nor was he mistaken in this outlook, founded as it was on a truly Christian perspective. So, dear Monsignor, I want to thank you for the gift of your friendship.