1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Antonelli, Giacomo

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ANTONELLI, GIACOMO (1806–1876), Italian cardinal, was born at Sonnino on the 2nd of April 1806. He was educated for the priesthood, but, after taking minor orders, gave up the idea of becoming a priest, and chose an administrative career. Created secular prelate, he was sent as apostolic delegate to Viterbo, where he early manifested his reactionary tendencies in an attempt to stamp out Liberalism. Recalled to Rome in 1841, he entered the office of the papal secretary of state, but four years later was appointed pontifical treasurer-general. Created cardinal (11th June 1847), he was chosen by Pius IX. to preside over the council of state entrusted with the drafting of the constitution. On the 10th of March 1848 Antonelli became premier of the first constitutional ministry of Pius IX., a capacity in which he displayed consummate duplicity. Upon the fall of his cabinet Antonelli created for himself the governorship of the sacred palaces in order to retain constant access to and influence over the pope. After the assassination of Pellegrino Rossi (15th November 1848) he arranged the flight of Pius IX. to Gaeta, where he was appointed secretary of state. Notwithstanding promises to the powers, he restored absolute government upon returning to Rome (12th April 1850) and violated the conditions of the surrender by wholesale imprisonment of Liberals. In 1855 he narrowly escaped assassination. As ally of the Bourbons of Naples, from whom he had received an annual subsidy, he attempted, after 1860, to facilitate their restoration by fomenting brigandage on the Neapolitan frontier. To the overtures of Ricasoli in 1861, Pius IX., at Antonelli’s suggestion, replied with the famous “Non possumus,” but subsequently (1867) accepted, too late, Ricasoli’s proposal concerning ecclesiastical property. After the September Convention (1864) Antonelli organized the Legion of Antibes to replace French troops in Rome, and in 1867 secured French aid against Garibaldi’s invasion of papal territory. Upon the reoccupation of Rome by the French after Mentana, Antonelli again ruled supreme, but upon the entry of the Italians in 1870 was obliged to restrict his activity to the management of foreign relations. He wrote, with papal approval, the letter requesting the Italians to occupy the Leonine city, and obtained from the Italians payment of the Peter’s pence (5,000,000 lire) remaining in the papal exchequer, as well as 50,000 scudi—the first and only instalment of the Italian allowance (subsequently fixed by the Law of Guarantees, March 21, 1871) ever accepted by the Holy See. At Antonelli’s death the Vatican finances were found to be in disorder, with a deficit of 45,000,000 lire. His personal fortune, accumulated during office, was considerable, and was bequeathed almost entirely to members of his family. To the Church he left little and to the pope only a trifling souvenir. From 1850 until his death he interfered little in affairs of dogma and church discipline, although he addressed to the powers circulars enclosing the Syllabus (1864) and the acts of the Vatican Council (1870). His activity was devoted almost exclusively to the struggle between the papacy and the Italian Risorgimento, the history of which is comprehensible only when the influence exercised by his unscrupulous, grasping and sinister personality is fully taken into account. He died on the 6th of November 1876.