The little-known story of when the Masons tried to kill Don Bosco

St. John Bosco. / Credit: Public Domain

CNA Newsroom, Jan 31, 2024 / 04:00 am (CNA).

History notes how much the Freemasons hated St. John Bosco, the founder of the Salesians — whose feast the Church celebrates on Jan. 31 — but less known are their attempts to kill him.

The two assassination attempts ordered by Freemasons against Bosco can be found in “The Biographical Memoirs of Don Bosco” and was recounted in the June 1, 1980, issue of the Salesian Bulletin, the official publication of the Salesian Family.

According to these accounts, a former student of Bosco named Alessandro Dasso showed up at the gatehouse in late June 1880 asking to speak to the priest.

“His eyes were full of anguish,” the account related. “Don Bosco received him with his usual kindness,” but faced with the “growing agitation” of the young man, the founder of the Salesian family asked him: “What do you want from me? Speak! You know that Don Bosco loves you.”

At these words, Dasso “fell to his knees, burst into tears and sobs,” and revealed the truth.

According to the story, the young man was a Freemason and the group had sentenced Don Bosco to death. Twelve men’s names had been drawn, and they were to carry out the order.

Dasso told Don Bosco that “it was up to me to be the first, just me! And this is why I came! I will never do it. I will draw down upon myself the revenge of the others; revealing the secret is my death, I know I’m done for. But killing Don Bosco, never!”

After confessing what his mission was, the young man threw the weapon he was hiding on the floor.

Despite Bosco’s attempts to console him, the young man quickly left the house. On June 23, Dasso tried to take his life by throwing himself into the Po River but he was rescued in time by policemen.

Some time later, Bosco helped him escape from Italy and he lived in hiding “until the end of his days,” according to the Salesian account.

Months later, in December 1880, another young man came to visit.

The “sinister” gleam in the young man’s eyes caused the holy priest to have “very little trust,” the story goes. The young man expressed himself as “a high and mighty man” and as he spoke, “a small six-shooter slipped out of his pocket onto the sofa.”

Without the man noticing, the priest placed his hand on the weapon and slowly put it in his pocket. The young man tried to find the gun in his own pocket but to no avail and looked astonished.

“What are you looking for, sir?” Bosco reportedly asked him calmly. The confused young man replied: “I had something here in my pocket… But where did it go?”

According to the story, “Don Bosco, moving quickly toward the door and putting his left hand on the handle in order to get ready to open it, pointed the gun at him and, without getting angry, said: ‘This is the tool you were looking for, isn’t it?  At the sight of this, the scoundrel was stunned.” And he “tried to grab his revolver. But Don Bosco told him forcefully: ‘Go on, get out of here right away! And may God have mercy on you!’”

“Then he opened the door and asked some of those who were in the anteroom to accompany the man to the gatehouse. The assassin hesitated, but Don Bosco told him: ‘Get out and don’t come back!’” And the young man who wanted to end the priest’s life had to leave along with other companions who were waiting for him outside in a carriage.

This story was first published by ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.

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