Philip Romolo Neri (Italian: Filippo de Neri, also known as Apostle of Rome, July 22, 1515 – May 25, 1595) was an Italian priest noted for founding a society of secular priests called the “Congregation of the Oratory.” He was born in Florence and carefully brought up, receiving his early teaching from the friars at San Marco, the famous Dominican monastery in Florence. At the age of 18, Philip was sent to his father’s childless brother, Romolo, a wealthy merchant in the Neapolitan town of San Germano, to assist him in his business. He gained Romolo’s confidence and affection, but soon after coming to San Germano Philip had a conversion. He no longer cared for things of the world and chose to relocate to Rome in 1523. There, he began to pursue his own studies under the guidance of the Augustinians. His labors among the sick and poor and ministering to the prostitutes of the city gained him in later life the title of “Apostle of Rome.” In 1538 he entered on the home mission work for which he became famous; he traveled throughout the city, seeking opportunities of entering into conversation with people and leading them to consider the topics he desired to set before them. In 1548 he founded the confraternity of the Santissima Trinita de’ Pellegrini e de’ Convalescenti, whose primary object was to minister to the needs of the thousands of poor pilgrims who flocked to Rome and to relieve the patients discharged from hospitals but who were still very weak. In 1551 he passed through all the minor orders and was ordained deacon and finally priest (on May 23). In 1556 he tentatively began the institute with which his name is more especially connected–that of the Oratory. Neri formally organized, under permission of a papal bull dated July 15, 1575, a community of secular priests called the Congregation of the Oratory. Philip died on Corpus Christi in 1595, after having spent the day hearing confessions and receiving visitors. He was beatified by Paul V in 1615 and canonized by Gregory XV in 1622. His memorial is celebrated May 26 and his body is in the Chiesa Nuova.
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