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Biography - Pope Clement XI - The Papal Library

by Catherine Frakas 17 Mar 2021

Clement XI1740-1758 Giovanni Francesco Albani born 1649 Clement XI, prior to his elevation Giovanni Francesco Albani, was born at Pesaro on the 22nd of July,1649. His father was Charles Albani, and his grandfather, Horatio Albani, had received from Urban VIII the high dignity of senator of the city of Rome. At eleven Giovanni Francesco was taken to the Eternal City. On the very evening of that day a swarm of bees alighted with great buzzing on his window. That event, which moreover had happened on another occasion, was regarded as a happy omen. Placed in the Roman College to pursue his studies, Giovanni Francesco translated into Latin a part of the Menology of the Greeks, composed by order of the Emperor Basilius Porphyrogenitus, and found in the monastery of the Greek monks of Grottaferrata. He also translated into Latin a eulogium on Saint Mark, by Procopius, a Greek deacon. At the same time he translated from the Greek into the Latin a homily of Saint Sophronius, Bishop of Jerusalem, upon the holy apostles Peter and Paul. An evident proof of the literary ability of Albani is to be found in the fact that the learned De Luca, afterwards cardinal, who had been his master, submitted his works to him for examination, and would not publish them until Albani had approved them. Joseph Mary Suarez, Bishop of Vaison, gives great praise to Albani even telling the Romans that that young man, by his rare science, would raise himself to the highest human greatness, as he actually did. Queen Christina insisted upon his becoming a member of her academy, into which none were admitted but the distinguished distinguished of the learned who were in Rome. There each could only be heard in his turn; but it was determined that Albani should be heard as often as possible, without regard to the general rule. Laffiteau, who wrote the history of Clement XI, says that the young academician was always unanimously applauded. He received the doctorate at Urbino, whither his compatriots had summoned him to receive their felicitations upon the happy manner in which he had commenced his career. On returning to Rome at the age of twenty-one he was made canon of Saint Laurence in Damaso; and at twenty-eight he entered the prelacy. Innocent XI appointed him referendary of both signatures, and consulter of the consistorial congregation. Shortly afterwards he was sent as governor to Rieti, then into the Sabina, and at length to Orvieto. He returned to Rome, and on the 22nd of May, 1688, he was made vicar of the Vatican Basilica. On the 13th of February,1690, Alexander VIII created him cardinal. The entrance of Albani into the Sacred College was a glorious one. Three days before the consistory in which Alexander had resolved to confer twelve hats, he ordered Albani to draw up the discourse which was to be pronounced, and which was to contain the names of the new cardinals. After commanding the most perfect secrecy, the pope commenced dictating the names. Having mentioned ten, and then, quite fluently, the eleventh, he walked up and down as though striving to call to mind the twelfth. Then, as though astonished that his amanuensis did not proceed, he said: Go on and write the twelfth name! And what is that? asked Albani. What! said Alexander, You do not know how to write your own name? Albani then threw himself at the pontiff's feet and begged that His Holiness would name some worthier subject, and the pope replied: We have repeatedly made alterations in our list of those whom we intend to raise to the purple, but have never for an instant thought of erasing yours. Albani therefore had to submit; and as cardinal he resided in the palace, that Innocent XII might at any hour be able to consult him on important business. Charles II, King of Spain, wrote to Innocent XII to ask his opinion upon the proposal of the Spanish cabinet to call the grandson of Louis XIV to the succession to the Spanish throne. Innocent consulted Albani, who agreed with the statesmen of Madrid. The advice of Albani was adopted by the rest of the cardinals, and the pope communicated it as his decision to Charles II. After the funeral of Innocent XII, fifty-eight cardinals entered into conclave. At first the electors favored the aged Cardinal Galeas Mariscotti, but the French were prejudiced against him and opposed that nomination. Some of the cardinals put forward Cardinal Panciatici; others Colloredo; and others Spinola-the last having only ten votes. In the meantime news was received of the death of King Charles II. Cardinal Radolvich, a man distinguished for both wisdom and goodness, spoke out in a considerable assemblage of the cardinals, and maintained the necessity of a prompt election of a common Father, on account of the multitude of pilgrims who would flock to Rome to celebrate the jubilee; and the need of electing a pontiff capable, under the existing circumstances, of preventing or remedying the evils which threatened to afflict Italy, placed in a state of uncertainty between the pretensions of France, supported by the will of the last king, and those of Austria, maintained by the right of descent. On the very day when the news arrived from Spain, the electors in the course of four hours unanimously chose Cardinal Albani, recognizing in him, although but fifty-one, all the qualities for governing skillfully under the embarrassing circumstances. It was well known that the court abounded with relatives of Cardinal Albani, but it was also known that it was he who, under Innocent XII, drew up the bull against nepotism. Cardinal del Giudice was appointed to impart to the general consent in his favor. The surprise was so great that it instantly threw him into a violent fever. When he had somewhat recovered, he employed his utmost eloquence to be excused. Three successive days he persisted in his refusal to accept the tiara. With the sincerest tears he implored the cardinals to choose some worthier man; and he accused them of actual cruelty in refusing to comply with his entreaty. He even went so far as to aver that at the last day they would be called before the divine tribunal for not giving Christendom a better pontiff. The Abbe de Tencin conclavist to Cardinal Camus, and subsequently a cardinal, trusting to the affection Albani had always manifested for him, went into Albani's cell with the Pastoral of Saint Gregory, and read aloud that passage in which the holy pontiff teaches that when from humility one refuses the highest of honors, one in reality ceases to be humble, especially when one is disobedient to the voice of God, manifested by the unanimity of votes. But Albani, still persisting in the small value that he set upon himself, replied: And yet it would be well that I had the necessary qualifications for that ministry. The constancy of Albani, such a constancy as had not been witnessed since the time of Saint Gregory the Great, would have triumphed had not four celebrated theologians, distinguished as well for their virtues as for their learning, convinced him that he would commit a serious fault should he maintain his opposition any longer. The four theologians who obtained such a victory over Albani's scruples were Anthony Massoulie, a Dominican; Charles Francis Varese, a Minor Observantine and penitentiary of Saint John Lateran; Joseph Mary Tommasi, a Theatine and subsequently a cardinal, who was beatified in the reign of Pius VII; and Joseph Altaro, a Jesuit and pontifical theologian. Those four theologians had been separately consulted by Olivieri, nephew and confidant of Albani. None of them knew that the others had been consulted, yet the answer of each was precisely the same as that of the others. At the end of the three days that had been granted Albani for reflection, the cardinals proceeded to the ballot. Of fifty-eight cardinals, fifty-seven cast their votes for Albani. According to immemorial custom on such an occasion, when everything was anticipatively settled, Albani should have given his own vote to Cardinal de Bouillon, dean of the Sacred College, but he preferred giving it to Cardinal Panciati. Bouillon testified some surprise. Albani simply replied that conscience was superior to all customs. Perceiving that all further resistance would be useless, Albani accepted the tiara on the 23rd of November, 1700; and in memory of Clement I, pope and martyr, he took the name Clement XI. He was consecrated bishop by Cardinal de Bouillon the day, and on the next he announced his accession by autograph letters. On the 8th of December he was crowned at the Vatican, and four months later, on the 10th of April, 1701, he took possession of Saint John Lateran. If ever the sacred electors had reason to felicitate themselves upon having chosen a universally acceptable pontiff, they undoubtedly could do so on the occasion of the election of Albani. He was a personage of rare integrity of morals, of lofty intellect, illustrious for his experience in public business, and distinguished for affability, courtesy, and many other of those qualities which render a man, and especially a sovereign, acceptable. Without mentioning the Catholic princes who were attached to the chair of Saint Peter, many Mussulman princes, as the pasha of Cairo, the pasha of Egypt, and the governor of Bithynia, expressed a wish to have been born subjects of Clement, whose virtues, talents, and glory they had heard praised by so many missionaries. The Protestants of Nuremberg struck gold and silver medals with learned inscriptions complimentary to this pope; and the senate of that city sent these medals to the theologian of the emperor, that he might present them to the apostolic nuncio residing at Vienna. The first cares of the pope were devoted to the clergy of Rome. He ordered a general visitation of all the churches, to the end that nothing should escape his notice in the administration of the chapters and the monasteries. Astonished at finding in Rome very many bishops who had long resided there, on pretext of business of their diocese, he ordered them all to quit Rome within twelve days and to repair to their several dioceses. The same order was given to all ecclesiastics who, as holders of benefices or of any local superiority, were thereby bound to residence. He next turned his attention to all that was necessary for celebrating the holy year, the care of which had been bequeathed to him by his predecessor. The Tiber had overflowed and flooded the road leading to Saint Paul without the walls. The pope decided that, instead of visiting Saint Paul, the pilgrims should visit Saint Mary in Trastevere, as was done in the reign of Urban VIII; and he ordered that under the bridge of Sant' Angelo boats should be kept constantly ready to rescue any who might fall into the river. His forecast proved judicious, for in consequence of the vast crowds, in vehicles and on foot, many persons had the misfortune to be precipitated into the Tiber. At his first appearance in public, Clement visited the four basilicas, Saint John Lateran, Saint Peter's, Saint Mary Major, and Saint Mary in Trastevere, temporarily substituted for Saint Paul without the walls. Afterwards he went to the hospital of the Trinity, where he washed the feet of twelve pilgrims. Accompanied by the Sacred College, he waited upon the pilgrims at table, and then he presented that pious establishment with a considerable alms. In that year that single hospital received forty-two thousand convalescents and two hundred and ninety-nine thousand six hundred and ninety-seven pilgrims. The other charitable hospitals received convalescents and pilgrims to the number of thirty-two thousand two hundred and ninety-three. Clement renewed the abolition of ambassadorial privileges, and he warned the ambassadors that none of them should oppose his determinations. A congregation called Del Sollievo, consisting of cardinals, prelates, and nobles, had orders to take all possible means to secure abundance in the city of Rome and throughout the Ecclesiastical States. This pope, who had been so variously employed in administration during the reigns of his predecessors, knew beforehand all the needs of the States which he was called upon to govern. Clement appreciating the importance to youth of an early application to their studies, in order the more easily to conquer the first difficulties, publicly announced his patronage of painting, sculpture, and architecture, which just at that time were not cultivated with sufficient zeal. To that end he instituted, at the Capitol, the Academy of Fine Arts. As regarded the antiquities with which Rome was daily enriched, he forbade their export without the express permission of the government. Rome was thus saved from being despoiled, without official knowledge, of mosaics, paintings, inscriptions, and marbles, precious either for the workmanship or the material, which were continually being found making excavations. Charles Maratta, a painter of that time, received encouragement, distinction, and reward. Clement was no less a patron of the sciences. He ordered Bianchini, one of the most celebrated mathematicians of that time, to trace that meridian which is still to be seen in the Carthusian church of Saint Mary of the Angels. That meridian, called the Clementine from the name of this pope, is two hundred feet in length, having, at certain intervals, slabs of marble in which are graven the signs of the zodiac and the various distances from the pole. This is an excellent work, which, serving to show the movements of the sun, moon, and stars in centuries to come, will indicate every year the precise time of Easter, according to the terms of the Council of Nice. It is so beautiful, so exact, so perfect, that it surpasses, alike in grandeur and in precision, all those which have been traced at Naples, at Venice, at Florence, at Bologna, and at Sienna. Notwithstanding his love for his relatives, the pope for a long time kept them aloof from him, and gave them neither benefice nor employment until he judged them worthy. He ordered Anthony and Hannibal, the eldest sons of his brother, to continue their studies in the Roman College, in order that they might some day deserve fitting advancement. He directed Horace Albani, his brother, as well as his sister-in-law, Bernardina Ondedei, a lady of Pesaro, to abstain from accepting any title of honor that had in times past been bestowed upon relatives of a pope. He also forbade them to introduce the princely coronet in their arms, or interfere in even the pettiest of governmental matters; and he exhorted them to be satisfied with the usual privileges of an ordinary noble. Finally, he made known to all who were connected with him by the ties of either relationship or alliance that he did not intend to make any change, however slight, in the bull of Innocent XII concerning nepotism. Clement preserved that feeling of wholesome austerity during his entire pontificate. In imitation of his predecessors, the pope ordered a jubilee in order to ask the special protection of God, and his blessing upon the regular administration of the things spiritual and temporal of the papacy. Philip V, the new King of Spain, earnestly entreated Clement to grant him the investiture of the Two Sicilies; and the Emperor Leopold made the same request, based on his claims to those fiefs of the Holy See. The pontiff, after submitting that important affair to various congregations, appeared inclined to remain completely neutral and to grant the investiture to neither of the two monarchs. Nevertheless, he took all proper precautions to avoid war. But the peaceful wishes of the pontiff were thwarted, and Lombardy became the first theatre of war between the two pretenders. Notwithstanding the promise of Leopold, who had declared that his armies should respect the pontifical territory, imperial troops invaded Ferrara. Then the Spaniards, joined with the French, earnestly entreated Clement to join their league, promising to present the Albani family with fiefs, governments, the order of the Golden Fleece, and all the honors that could be heaped upon grandees of Spain by a king of Spain. But Clement made no account of all those caresses; he, as the common father of the faithful, desired only the peace of Europe, and in a case so delicate, seeing on either hand only one of his sons, he would not declare in favor of either of the belligerent parties. However, the ministers of Spain and those of the empire on Saint Peter's eve offered the ordinary tribute for the Two Sicilies, including the palfrey. The Holy Father inflexibly refused the offering, and on Saint Peter's day declared that that refusal of the tribute of Naples, in consequence of the war between the emperor in league with England, Holland, and the Duke of Savoy, against Spain in league with France, in no wise prejudiced the supreme domain of the Roman Church over the Two Sicilies-that is to say, the island of Sicily and the whole kingdom of Naples. At the same time Leopold, the same whom we saw restored to Vienna by the brave Sobieski, granted to the Marquis of Brandenburg the title of King of Prussia, without the intervention of the Holy See. Moreover, that elevation contravened the ancient right acquired by the Teutonic military order over that province, in virtue of documents which the new king seemed to hold in contempt. Clement protested against that innovation, and by several briefs he desired the emperor and all the princes to withhold the title of king from the Marquis of Brandenburg. Notwithstanding that resistance, the marquis was recognized at the peace of Utrecht, concluded in 1713, by almost Europe excepting the Holy See. The difficulties raised by the court of Turin were no less vexatious to Clement than the war, which was prosecuted with its usual ravages. Already, under Innocent XII, disorder had arisen on the subject of ecclesiastical immunities. In Piedmont of 1697 had stipulated that the governors should not concede to any one the places to obtain the clerical habit or to be promoted to orders without a previous inquiry, made by the minister called the patrimonial-general, as to the number of priests already in the district in question, the quality of the person newly proposed, his capacity, and his place of birth. Innocent had endeavored, by a brief to the Archbishop of Turin, to obtain the repeal of that edict, but it was renewed in 1699, and a new provision was added to it. The parish churches were to have only a fixed number of clergy, and their possessions were not to exceed the amount fixed by the Council of Trent. The archbishop deemed it his duty to Declare the nullity of such an edict. Another was published, first at Ivry and then at Piedmont, and it provided that all ecclesiastical property, persons, communities, and colleges, which previously had been left exempt, should be subject to an annual tax, to be, at need, levied upon them by way of sequestration. The bishops opposed this edict, but the patrimonial then published a third edict, in which he affected to show the nullity of the opposition of the bishops. He forbade all disturbance of the rights of the ducal patrimony, and threatened all laymen who, on this question, should unite themselves to the priests. Innocent appointed a congregation to examine the whole affair, and confirmed its decree that the bishops should proceed according to the canon law against the ministers of the Duke of Savoy. The Archbishop of Turin published against them a monition, but they replied by an edict against the archbishop, justifying the treasury department which taxed the churches, and requiring the archbishop to withdraw his monition. New differences arose between the nuncio at Turin and the senate of Nice. These and other differences subsisted during the entire reign of Clement. Happily, concord appeared to be re-established under the reign of his successor, Innocent XIII, between the Holy See and the Duke of Savoy. Two other embarrassments disturbed the mind of Pope Clement: one concerned the rites permitted by the Jesuits in China; the other, the famous Case of Conscience invented in France. Five hundred and fifty years before the birth of Christ there lived in China a famous philosopher, named Confucius, who was deemed the wisest man in the whole nation. Subsequently it was the custom in that country that when a Chinese desired to be received into the number of the doctors, or the learned class that corresponds in China to the doctorate, the candidates assembled in a hall where the picture of the learned Confucius was set up; and when all the honors had been paid to that picture which disciples render to their living master, the presiding officer conferred the degree upon the candidate. In 1633 Father John Baptist Morales, a Spanish Dominican sent to China, condemned these ceremonies as idolatrous, although the Jesuits had tolerated them as being purely civil. By order of the emperor, the Dominicans and Franciscans were banished from the empire. Morales left China in 1645, and proceeded to Rome to make his complaint to the pope, Innocent X. In the name of his mission, the Dominican proposed to the congregation of the Propaganda these two doubts: Is it permissible to prostrate one's self before the idol Chachinchiam? Is it permissible to sacrifice to Confucius? On the reply of the congregation, the pope issued a decree forbidding missionaries of any order or institute to do either of those things until the Holy See gave a contrary order. Some time after, there arrived in Rome the Jesuit Martini, who presented to Alexander VII and the above-mentioned congregation an account of that affair. In 1656 there appeared a decree from the pope declaring that Chinese Christians were permitted the use of those ceremonies esteemed purely civil and not at all religious, and as such approved by the brief which the same Alexander sent to the Chinese empress Helena, wife of the Emperor Yumlie. Clement IX, in a brief of 1669, approved the decree of his predecessor, as was subsequently done by Innocent XI in various briefs, and Innocent XII in a brief of the 2nd of September, 1691. The Dominican, Father Pace, rector of the University of Mechlin, in his replies to the doubts of the missionaries of Tonquin, and Fathers Legaud, Delapalme, and Pardo, provincials of the same order, several times recommended to their subordinates in China to adopt the custom of the Jesuits in relation to those ceremonies. Further, Father Sarpetri, another Dominican, in a certificate signed at Canton on the the 4th of August, 1688, protested that, having during eight years watched those customs with great care, he had found them not only free from sinfulness but very necessary and useful for the propagation of the Gospel in China. Notwithstanding these facts, the vicar apostolic, CharIes Maigrot, doctor of the Sorbonne and Bishop of Conon, attentively examined those ceremonies, and on the 26th of March, 1693, forbade them by a decree. The matter was again submitted to Rome, and Clement, who was deeply concerned to have these controversies terminated to the advantage of religion, determined to decide them with a perfect knowledge of the case, and on the 5th of December, 1701, he named as visitor apostolic and legate to China Monsignor Charles Thomas Maillard de Tournon, a Turinese noble, subsequently, in 1707, created cardinal-a man of great piety, and held in singular esteem by the Holy Father. That prelate was furnished with recommendations to the sovereigns who had possessions in the East Indies, and to many great personages and bishops in those countries; and he departed from Europe provided with ample powers, contained in a brief of the 2nd of July, 1702. He safely reached China, where he received the pontifical decree of the 20th of November, 1704, condemning both the Chinese and Malabar rites, already condemned by the legate in his decree of the 23rd of the preceding June. The Jesuits, supported by Monsignor Alvaro Benavente, Bishop of Ascolana and vicar apostolic in China, who considered that the use of those rites was useful to the diffusion of Christianity, represented to the Holy Father that the legate De Tournon had received information only from persons who were ignorant both of the principles and the language of China. But Clement, having examined the affair in 1710 and in 1712, confirmed all the decrees that had made against the ceremonies, as well as the edicts of Cardinal de Tournon, and on the 19th of March, 1715, he more rigorously condemned those rites; and he established the form of the oath which thenceforth was to be taken by every missionary in the Indies, promising that observance in their own names and in the name of their orders. Benedict XIII confirmed the decree of Cardinal de Tournon and the bull of Clement XI; and Clement XII also confirmed them both. Benedict XIV terminated the controversy, both as concerned China and Malabar, by two constitutions in which he detailed the progress of those controversies from their beginning. In the constitution Ex quo there are some words which many persons believe to be applicable to the Jesuits as having transgressed pontifical decrees upon that subject. Then the Bishop of Coimbra, Michael of the Annunciation, having complained to Benedict XIV, on the 20th of March, 1748, that pontiff addressed a brief to him on the 20th of the following June, in which he assured him that those words did not determinately apply to the Jesuits, but to all those who until then had disobeyed those decrees, whoever the disobedient might be, whether belonging to the Society of Jesus, the order of Saint Dominic or Saint Francis, or to the secular clergy. The second controversy related to the system of disturbances followed by the innovators in France. They proposed, on the 20th of July, 1701, a Case of Conscience. In the same year it was signed by forty doctors of the Sorbonne and printed at Liege. In that book, to evade the condemnation of Alexander VII and the following ponti

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