Virgilio Canio Corbo ofm (1918 - 1991)
On December 6, 1991, Fr. Virgilio Canio Corbo died, only five months after a terrible disease was discovered that struck his vigor. He was 73. He came very young to Palestine as a pupil of the Franciscan Custody of the Holy Land. He celebrated his 50th anniversary of his stay in the Holy Land in 1988. Soon after graduating in Rome in Christian Oriental studies, he undertook a long teaching career in the Franciscan Seminary and in the Franciscan Biblical School in Jerusalem. He will be remembered for excavating many important holy places: the Shepherds' field near Bethlehem (1946-54), the place of the Ascension on the Mt. of Olives (1959), the fortress of Herod the Great called the "Herodion" near Bethlehem (1962-1967), another Herodian fortress across the river Jordan called Machaerus (1967-1981), a Byzantine basilica and Monastery on Mt. Nebo in Jordan (in the sixties), the ancient city of Magdala (in the seventies). The results of these excavations were published in specialized books and articles.
His name will be especially tied to two sacred places: the Holy Sepulcher and Capharnaum, the city of Jesus. In Capharnaum Fr. Corbo spent the last 23 years of his life together with his fellow Franciscan Fr. Stanislao Loffreda. Together they excavated the village and the synagogue. Traces of the synagogue of the time of Jesus were found under the magnificent synagogue which is visible today. Most important, the house of St Peter was discovered where Jesus lived as a member of the family. That house became the first and most venerable `house church' for local Christian of a Jewish stock. Quite recently, a Memorial has been build upon the `house church' for the use of the pilgrims. This was a major achievement of Fr. Corbo work and perseverance.
There he has been put to rest, under the Memorial near the venerated house, on December 7. Various authorities, both Christian and Jewish, were present at his funeral Mass concelebrated in the Memorial by some eighty priests. Many people from Galilee and from Judea attended the service in a magnificent day of sunshine after a whole week of heavy rain.
"Il padre Virgilio Corbo a dieci anni dalla morte", p. Stanislao Loffreda
Conferenza tenuta ad Avigliano, il venerdì 21 dicembre 2001.