Giovanni Panico


Giovanni Panico (12 April 1895 – 7 July 1962) was an Italian cardinal of the Catholic Church. He served as nuncio to several countries during his career, and was created a cardinal in 1962.

Giovanni Panico
Cardinal-Priest of Santa Teresa d'Avila
SLNSW 15292 Papal delegate Dr Panicos garden party.jpg
Panico at a garden party in Sydney in 1936
Installed17 October 1935
Term ended19 March 1962
SuccessorAurelio Sabattani
Other post(s)Titular Archbishop of Justiniana Prima (1935–1962)
Ordination14 March 1919
by Cardinal Basilio Pompili
Consecration8 December 1935
by Cardinal Pietro Fumasoni Biondi
Created cardinal19 March 1962
RankCardinal Priest
Personal details
Santo Giovanni Panico

(1895-04-12)12 April 1895
Died12 July 1962(1962-07-12) (aged 67)
Tricase, Lecce, Italy
ParentsCarmine Panico & Marina Zocco
Alma materPontifical Gregorian University (1910–1915), Pontifical Roman Seminary (1915–1919) & Pontifical Lateran University (1919–1922)
MottoRespice stellam
Styles of
Giovanni Panico
Template-Cardinal (Bishop).svg
Reference styleHis Eminence
Spoken styleYour Eminence
Informal styleCardinal
SeeJustiniana Prima (titular see)


Early lifeEdit

Panico was born in Tricase, in the Province of Lecce, to Carmine Panico and his wife Marina Zocco, a farming family. The sixth of eleven children, he was given the baptismal name was Santo Giovanni. After studying under a private tutor, he attended the minor seminary in Ugento. He then went to Rome, where he lived in the Leonine College, a residence for students from southern Italy at the Gregorian University (1910–1915), then studied at the Pontifical Roman Seminary (1915–1919). An accomplished musician on both the organ and the piano, he was the official organist for the seminary during his time there.[1]

Panico was ordained to the priesthood by Cardinal Basilio Pompili on 14 March 1919, in the Lateran Basilica. That summer he founded a boys choir and a separate girls choir for the children of Rome. He then attended the Pontifical Lateran University until 1922, obtaining a doctorate in theology in 1919, and later a doctorate in canon and civil law in 1922.[1]


Panico then did pastoral work in his home town from 1922 to 1923, and was raised to the rank of Privy Chamberlain of His Holiness on 25 August 1923. Invited by the Cardinal Secretary of State to join the papal diplomatic service, he was appointed the auditor of the nunciature for Argentina (1926–1931) and for Czechoslovakia (1931–1932) before becoming the chargé d'affaires in Bavaria in 1932, and again in Czechoslovakia in 1933. During his time in Prague, he also contributed to the foundation of the University of Bratislava. He was created a Domestic Prelate of His Holiness on 20 August 1934, and later awarded the Legion of Honour by France.

On 17 October 1935, Panico was appointed Apostolic Delegate to Australia and New Zealand (a post he held until 1948) and Titular Archbishop of Justiniana Prima by Pope Pius XI. He received his consecration on the following 8 December from Cardinal Pietro Fumasoni Biondi, with Archbishops Bartolomeo Cattaneo and Domenico Spolvorini serving as co-consecrators, in Rome.

As Apostolic Delegate Panico believed that the time had arrived for the promotion of native-born priests as bishops for these countries, instead of Irish-born clergy. This was seen as a very controversial move in some quarters. Among supporters of the Irish Archbishop Daniel Mannix, Panico was known widely as "Panicky Jack".[2]

Panico officiated at the Eucharistic Congress of 1938 which was held in Newcastle, New South Wales. He also presided over similar events in 1939 in Wellington, New Zealand, to mark the centenary of the Catholic Church in New Zealand (1838), and of the nation itself (the Treaty of Waitangi, 1840).[3]

During World War II, Panico established charities for Italian, German, and Japanese prisoners of war in Australia and for the Australian and New Zealand prisoners in Italy.[1]

Panico in audience with Pope Pius XII

In 1948, Panico opened Holy Name Seminary in Christchurch, New Zealand. He traveled to New Zealand with Jesuit priests who were to staff it. Their arrival in New Zealand was dramatic as their ship, MS Wanganella, went aground on Barrett Reef at the entrance to Wellington Harbour, and they had to be rescued.[4] The Jesuits were playing poker in their cabin at the time the ship hit the reef. Panico rushed into the cabin in his nightshirt and asked what was happening. When one of the Jesuits informed him that they were going to sink, he apparently told them that he must die like a priest so he went and put on his biretta. This was further fuel to his nickname of "Panicky Jack".[5]

Panico was named nuncio to Peru on 28 September 1948, and Apostolic Delegate to Canada on 14 November 1953. Pope John XXIII appointed him nuncio to Portugal on 25 January 1959.[1]

Cardinal and last daysEdit

In March 1962, having suffered from poor health for several years, he was transferred to the Roman Curia and was promoted to the rank of cardinal priest in the consistory of 19 March 1962, with the Basilica of Santa Teresa d'Avila as his titular church.[6] He then founded the Cardinale Giovanni Panico Hospital in his native Tricase, where he soon died at age 67.[1]

Panico was originally buried in his family's plot in the town cemetery, but, in keeping with his request, his remains were later moved to the crypt of the Church of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the same town.[7] On 23 June 2012, his remains were transferred to a tomb in front of the altar of St. Charles Borromeo in the main body of the church.[1]


  1. ^ a b c d e f "Panico, Giovanni". Cardinals of the Holy Roman Church. Retrieved 9 January 2013.
  2. ^ Niall, Brenda (2015). Mannix. Melbourne: Text Publishing. p. 249. ISBN 9781925355185.
  3. ^ O'Meeghan, Michael, S.M. (2003). Steadfast in hope: The Story of the Catholic Archdiocese of Wellington 1850–2000. Palmerston North: Dunmore Press. pp. 234–237.
  4. ^ O'Brien, Bernard, S.J. (1970). A New Zealand Jesuit: A Personal Narrative. Christchurch: Pegasus. pp. 74–75.
  5. ^ Norris, Peter Joseph (1999). Southernmost Seminary: The Story of Holy Cross College, Mosgiel (1900–97). Auckland: Holy Cross Seminary. pp. 51–52.
  6. ^ "Giovanni Cardinal Panico". CatholicHierarchy. Retrieved 9 January 2013.
  7. ^ "Comune di Tricase". (in Italian). Retrieved 9 January 2013.