Gregorio Giovanni Gaspare Barbarigo was an Italian cardinal and bishop who is revered as a saint by the Catholic Church.
He was born in a rich and influential Venetian family. His mother, Chiara Lion, died of a plague when Gregory was only two years old. His father, Giovanni Francesco Barbarigo, was a senator of the Venetian Republic and a fervent Catholic. His father began his education in the sciences and natural sciences and had him complete a course of diplomacy.
In 1643 he accompanied the Venetian ambassador Alvise Contarini to Münster in Germany for negotiations in preparation for the Peace of Westphalia which ended the Thirty Years War. In Münster he met the archbishop Fabio Chigi, apostolic nuncio to Germany and future pope Alexander VII, who participated in the negotiations. After three years, in 1646, he returned to Venice, and continued his studies in Padua.
At the University of Padua he studied Greek, mathematics, history, philosophy, and obtained a doctorate in utroque iure on 25 September 1655. In his projects, he wanted to become religious, but his spiritual director advised him to take the path to become a diocesan priest, because he saw in him the gifts of the parish priest. He was ordained priest on December 21st, 1655 at the age of thirty.
Pope Alexander VII called him a short time later in Rome in 1656. He conferred on him the task of "domestic prelate of his holiness" and entrusted him with other duties including the leadership of the Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura.
When the plague epidemic broke out in Rome in May 1656, the pope placed him in charge of the special commission that had the task of bringing relief to the plague victims. Barbarigo devoted himself diligently to this mission by personally visiting the sick, carefully organizing the burial of the deceased, and especially helping the widows and the orphans.
When the plague epidemic ended in August 1657, the Pope offered him the bishopric of the important diocese of Bergamo. Before consenting, Gregorio Barbarigo asked that a Mass be allowed to be celebrated in which to ask God to reveal to him what he had to do. During this Mass he felt that the Lord invited him to accept the new assignment. He was elected bishop on 9 July and ordained on 29 July 1657.
When he arrived in Bergamo he asked that what was spent on the reception of his reception be given to the poor. He later sold all his belongings and distributed them to the needy. His desire was to imitate St. Charles Borromeo throughout the great archbishop of Milan.
He gave instructions to increase the spread of the religious press among the people and especially recommended the writings of St. Francis de Sales. In his missionary visits, he stayed in a poor home and ate with them, adapting himself to an austere and discreet style. During the day he devoted himself to teaching catechism, and at night he spent long hours in prayer. This order was given to the porter of the bishop's palace to wake him up at any hour of the night if there were any sick people to visit. To the doctor who advised him not to waste himself by visiting the sick he replied: "It is my duty, and I can not do otherwise!"
Pope Alexander VII created him cardinal on 5 April 1660 with the title of Saint Thomas in Parione (he opts for the title of San Marco on 13 September 1677).
On March 24, 1664, the Pope sent him as bishop to Padua, a diocese that would lead for thirty-three years until his death.
He personally dedicated himself to organizing catechism lessons and inviting everyone to Mass. He visited the 320 parishes of the diocese, including the most distant and difficult to reach. He organized the parish priests and formed the catechists.
He increased the number of religious book printing houses, and was particularly interested in making future priests well-formed. His seminar came to be considered one of the best in Europe. As Registrar of the Padua Studio, in 1678 he refused to give a degree in theology to Elena Lucrezia Cornaro, stating that it would be "a disproportion to doctor a woman" and would have meant "making us ridiculous to the whole world".
As a cardinal he participated in the conclaves of 1667, 1676, 1689 and 1691, but not that of 1669-70. Pope Innocent XI, elected in 1676, held him in Rome for three and a half years as his advisor, and entrusted him with the supervision of Catholic teaching in the city.
He died on 17 June 1697 and was exhibited and buried in the cathedral of Padua.