Bob Santamaria was not a name familiar to most Americans. But when he died in Melbourne, Australia, on February 25, 1998, he was mourned within his country and beyond as one of the greatest Australians of the century and as one of the world's leading champions of freedom.
Born in 1915, the son of Italian immigrants, Bartholomew Augustine Santamaria grew up during the Depression and the rise of totalitarian ideologies and empires. At the state funeral accorded him in St. Patrick's Cathedral in Melbourne, Archbishop George Pell focused on the influence of the Spanish Civil War in the young Santamaria's life. With admiration, he cited Santamaria's words at the end of an historic 1937 debate on the war at Melbourne University: "When the bullets of the atheists struck the statue of Christ outside the cathedral in Madrid, for some that was just lead striking brass, but for me those bullets were piercing the heart of Christ my King."
This young man soon became the protege of Melbourne's famed Irish archbishop. Dr. Daniel Mannix. In Santamaria, Mannix found the kind of lay leader who could mobilize people in the struggle against totalitarianism, not only with a clear mind, but through deep faith. This combination of faith and intellect later influenced the spiritual journey of friends such as Malcolm Muggendge.
In an era when being Italian was not the way to "get on" in Australian...