Born in Caltagirone, Sturzo was a priest, public official, and political organizer who founded a party that was a forerunner of the Italian Christian Democrat movement.
Sturzo studied at the seminary of Caltagirone, where he was ordained in 1894. He received a Doctorate in Divinity from the Gregorian University in Rome and an equivalent diploma in Thomism from the Academy of Thomist Philosophy. Moved by the harsh repression of Sicilian sulfur miners and peasants in the 1890s, he returned to Caltagirone where he founded the newspaper “La Croce di Constantino” and resisted government actions to disband Catholic and Socialist workers’ associations. He served as mayor of Caltagirone (1905–20), building community housing and other public works. He also taught at the local seminary and served as provincial councilor for Catania.
In 1919 Sturzo founded the Partito Popolare Italiano (Italian Popular Party) and became its political secretary. The formation of the PPI, with the permission of Pope Benedict XV, represented a tacit and reluctant reversal of the Vatican’s policy of non-participation in Italian politics. In the elections of November 1919 the new party captured 101 of 508 seats in the Chamber of Deputies. Though he did not accept a post himself, Sturzo became a force in the composition of later cabinets. Having refused support to the Fascist regime of Benito Mussolini, Sturzo retired to a monastery in July 1923, and went into exile first in London (and later New York). During his exile, Sturzo published over 400 articles (published posthumously) critical of fascism, and later the post-war Christian Democrats in Italy.
Beginning in 1941, he cooperated with agents from the British Security Co-ordination, the Office of Strategic Services, and the Office of War Information, providing them with his assessments of the political forces with the Italian resistance movement and radio broadcasts to Italy. Sturzo returned to Italy on the Vulcania in August 1946 (after the June Referendum had abolished the monarchy), but did not play a dominant role in Italian politics, retiring to the outskirts of Rome after landing in Naples. He was, however, made Senator in 1952 and Senator for life in 1953 by President Luigi Einaudi. Sturzo died in Rome in 1959 at the age of 87.
Sturzo was the author of several major works of Christian social philosophy, including Church and State (1939), The True Life (1943), The Inner Laws of Society (1944), Spiritual Problems of Our Times (1945), and Italy and the Coming World (1945).