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The saint who helped fight loan sharks

Argentine Catholics carry images of St Cajetan, patron of the unemployed and job seekers (CNS)

St Cajetan, whose full name was Gaetano dei Conti di Tiene, was an Italian priest who helped to found the Theatines. He was born in October 1480, the son of Gaspar, lord of Thiene, and Mary Porta, members of Vicenza’s nobility.

St Cajetan lost his father when he was two. He studied law in Padua and received a doctorate in civil and canon law by the age of 24. Although he worked as a diplomat for Pope Julius II in 1506 he was not ordained a priest until 10 years later.

When his mother died he was recalled to Vicenza, where he founded a hospital for the incurably sick with a special interest in spirituality. He went on to join a confraternity in Rome called the Oratory of Divine Love.

In 1523 Pope Julius II died and St Cajetan withdrew from the papal court and returned again to Vicenza. He entered the confraternity of St Jerome which was smilar to the Oratory of Divine Love in Rome. But the confraternity of St Jerome was made up of men from the lowest stations of life, which embarrassed his friends. But Cajetan persisted, seeking out the poor and sick, and working in hospitals.

In 1524, Pope Clement VII erected a new congregation with the help of Giovanni Pietro Crafa, the Bishop of Chieti, who later became Pope Paul IV. From the name of the city Chieti (in Latin, Theate) arose the name of the order. It was through the order that Cajetan met Jerome Emiliani, whom he helped to establish the Congregation of Clerks Regular.

In 1533 he established a house in Naples dedicated to challenging the spread of Lutheranism. He also founded a bank to help the poor and offer an alternative to loan sharks. It became the Bank of Naples.

He died in Naples on August 5 1547. His relics are buried in the Church of San Paolo Maggiore in the southern Italian city.

St Cajetan was beatified on October 8 1629 by Pope Urban VII. He was canonised in 1671 along with Rose of Lima, Luis Beltrán, Francis Borgia and Felipe Benicio.