“We do not need to look too far to find people in need”

Luigi Colantuoni

The stretcher-bearer

Text by Andrew Howitt  /  Photos by Ben Beech

Lourdes, in the foothills of the Pyrenees in southwest France, is a small town of just 15,000 people, but it draws six million visitors annually. Since the mid-19th century — when a girl named Bernadette Soubirous saw numerous apparitions of the Virgin Mary — it has been a site of pilgrimage and miraculous healings.

Luigi Colantuoni, chief representative for Japan at French energy firm Total, took his first trip to Lourdes when he was 18.

“I will never forget it,” Colantuoni recalls. “I made this trip — a 24-hour train ride from the south of Italy — to be a stretcher-bearer for handicapped people. There were people of different degrees of disability, and it was the first time my eyes were really opened to the world of suffering.”

During the week he was in Lourdes, Colantuoni says that he learned the true meaning of solidarity, hope, faith, humanity and empathy. The experience transformed him.

“This was a lesson for life,” Colantuoni states. “I thought, ‘I cannot leave these values here. Once I get back into my daily routine, they need to continue to fuel all of my activities’.”

Originally from Naples, Colantuoni graduated from a postgraduate programme at the famed international business school, INSEAD, in France. While he was there, he fell in love with the French woman he would marry — someone who has been an outstanding partner to him in every area of his life.

Colantuoni got a job at a company that would later be acquired by Total. He was posted to Berlin — living there at the time the Berlin Wall fell — where he and his wife had their first two of four children, and subsequently to Yokohama, Vienna, Wilmington, and Paris, before taking on his current position in Tokyo.

Total, a leading international energy producer and provider, is the largest company in France by market value, with a workforce of nearly 100,000 people worldwide. It is committed to being a responsible energy firm, and aims to provide affordable, clean energy to as many people as possible.

“Total has made significant steps over the last couple of decades to align the strategy of the group to the growing environmental concerns around fossil fuels,” he explains. “For example, we have accelerated the development of gas projects — gas being the cleanest of all fossil fuels; invested in solar energy with the acquisition of a majority share of SunPower in 2011; divested from coal activities in 2015; and invested in energy storage with the acquisition of Saft in 2016.”


Colantuoni received the title of Officer of the Order of Merit from the French Republic for his years of loyalty to the French energy giant, and for helping to develop strong bilateral relationships with Japan. As an expert in the field of energy, he was involved in state visits to Japan by the French presidents Nicolas Sarkozy and François Hollande.

This year, Total is celebrating 60 years in Japan. As chief representative of the group here, Colantuoni’s role is to facilitate business expansion, help develop the abilities of the next generation, and prepare the company for continued success in the future.

He also remains dedicated, in all situations, to showing God’s love to others by helping them.

“We do not need to look too far to find people in need,” Colantuoni says. “We should try to find out the needs of the people we meet every day — relatives, coworkers, friends, acquaintances — and spare some time for them. Very often, what they need from us is not extraordinary actions, but just an encouraging word.”

He believes that people should think carefully about what they are doing with their lives, and if they are living for themselves or for others.

“You will leave something of yourself behind,” Colantuoni states. “But, we all have to be careful of what kind of legacy we leave behind.” 

“This was a lesson for life”