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Bartolomeo Pacca was born at Benevento, the son of the nobleman Orazio Pacca, Marchese di Matrice, and Crispina Malaspina. He was educated by the Jesuits at Naples, by the Somaschans in the Clementine College at Rome, and at the Accademia de' Nobili Ecclesiastici.
In 1785, Pope Pius VI appointed him nuncio at Cologne, the centre of anti-Roman agitation. He was consecrated titular Archbishop of Damiata and arrived at Cologne in June, 1786. Archduke Maximilian of Austria, who had written a courteous letter to Pacca at Rome, told him he would not be recognized unless he formally promised not to exercise any act of jurisdiction in the archdiocese. The same attitude was taken by the Archbishops of Trier and Mainz, the other ecclesiastical Electors. Hostility to Rome, incited chiefly by the work of Febronius, was then at a high pitch on account of the establishment of the new nunciature of Munich; yet the other bishops and the magistrates of Cologne received Pacca with all due respect. Even Prussia made no difficulty, and its monarch, in recognition of his friendly attitude, was accorded at Rome the title of king, against which Pope Clement XI had protested in 1701, when the emperor would have granted it. On his journey through his dominions on the Rhine, Frederick William received the nuncio with great honour.
Pacca's position with respect to the three ecclesiastical electors was difficult. When the Archbishop of Cologne, in 1786, opened in his residential city the University of Bonn, that of Cologne being still loyal to the Holy See, the discourses given were a declaration of war against the Holy See. At Cologne, an attempt to support Febronian propositions was frustrated by the nuncio, against whom innumerable pamphlets were directed. But Pacca induced some prominent German writers to uphold the rights of the Holy See. He soon had a dispute with the Elector of Cologne. Conformably to the Punctuation of Ems, agreed on by the three archbishop-electors and the Archbishop of Salzburg in 1786, the Archbishop of Cologne protested against a matrimonial dispensation given by the nuncio in virtue of his faculties, and went so far as to grant dispensations not contained in his quinquennial faculties, instructing the pastors to have no further recourse to the nuncio for similar dispensations. The nuncio, in accordance with instructions from Rome, directed a circular to all the pastors in his jurisdiction apprising them of the invalidity of such dispensations. The four archbishops thereupon appealed to Emperor Joseph II to entirely abolish the jurisdiction of the nuncios, but the emperor referred the matter to the Diet of Ratisbon, where it was quashed.
Pacca also opposed freedom of worship for the Protestants of Cologne, but so tactfully that his intervention was not apparent, and did not offend the King of Prussia. In 1790 he went on a secret mission to the Diet of Frankfort to safeguard the interests of the Holy See, and prevented the adoption of a new concordat.
When the French invaded the Rhine provinces, he was ordered to leave Cologne, but he had the satisfaction of being finally recognized as nuncio by the Archbishop of Trier. In 1794 he was appointed nuncio in Portugal, but accomplished nothing of importance there. Of both nunciatures, he wrote memoirs, containing observations on the character of the countries and their governments. While still at Lisbon, he was created cardinal of the title of San Silvestro in Capite (23 February 1801), and assigned to various Roman Congregations.
In 1808 French troops were stationed in Rome. Yielding to the insistence of Napoleon Bonaparte, Pope Pius VII sacrificed Cardinal Consalvi, his faithful Secretary of State, and the pro-secretaries, Casoni, Doria and Gabrielli. The last-named was surprised in his apartments by the soldiers, placed under arrest, and ordered to leave papal territory. Two days later (18 June 1808) the pope appointed Pacca pro-secretary.
In his new position Pacca carefully avoided everything that might provoke the emperor's anger, even ignoring the excesses of the French soldiery in and about Rome. But in August he felt obliged to publish in every province a decree forbidding subjects of the Holy See to enlist in the new "Civic Guard" of Napoleon I and, in general, under any foreign command. The "Civic Guard" was a hotbed of turbulence that might easily produce a rebellion in the Pontifical States. But Miollis, the French commandant, was furious, and threatened Pacca with dismissal from Rome. The pro-secretary replied that he took orders from the pope alone. Realizing that the annexation of Rome was inevitable, Pacca took precautions to prevent a sudden attack on the Quirinal; at the same time advising calm and quiet. The Bull of excommunication against Napoleon had been prepared in 1806, to be published in the event of annexation. On 10 June 1809, when the change of government actually took place, the Bull was promulgated; on 6 July, the Quirinal was attacked, the pope arrested and taken to France and thence to Savona. Pacca was among those who accompanied him. As far as Florence, he tried to cheer Pius VII; at Florence he was torn from the pontiff's side, much to his sorrow, and saw him again only at Rivoli and Grenoble. From Grenoble he was conducted (6 August 1809) to Fenestrelle, where he was confined with great severity, and could hardly find opportunities for confession and communion. Later, however, this restriction was removed. During this period the captive minister found time to write those records which formed the substance of his "Memorie storiche del ministero" etc.
Finally, on 30 January 1813, he was told that in view of the concordat between the pope and Napoleon at Fontainebleau (25 January) he was free to join the pope. Napoleon had long objected to his liberation, declaring: "Pacca is my enemy". At Fontainebleau he and the other liberated cardinals insisted that Pius VII should retract the last concordat and refuse further negotiations until he was back in Rome with full freedom. Pacca also suggested the re-establishment of the Society of Jesus, although both the pope and he himself had been educated in prejudices against the society.
When Pius VII was conducted to Savona the second time, Pacca was deported to Uzès (January, 1814), leaving that place on 22 April. He joined the pope at Sinigaglia whence he accompanied him to Rome. Appointed Camerlengo of the Holy Roman Church in the same year, he exerted himself to re-establish the religious orders from the foundations not already sold.
During the absence of Consalvi at the Congress of Vienna, Pacca again became pro-secretary of State, the restoration of the pontifical Government thus devolving upon him. He was reproved by Consalvi, from Vienna, for his severity towards the supporters of the Napoleonic regime, and vainly tried to justify his conduct. When Joachim Murat, Napoleonic satellite King of Naples, sent his troops through the Pontifical States to meet the Austrians, Pacca advised Pius VII to seek temporary refuge at Genoa, fearing that Murat would attempt to ravage the domains of the Holy See. During the pope's absence, the provisional Government caused the arrest of Cardinal Maury on a charge of having secret intelligence with Murat, and his trial was continued even after the pope's return. But Consalvi, immediately on his arrival, stopped the proceedings.
The rest of Pacca's life was occupied in the affairs of the different congregations to which he was assigned, and in the administration of the suburbicarian sees. In 1818 he became Prefect of the Sacred Congregation of Bishops and Regulars (clergy who lived under a Rule]. At the Consistory of December 21, 1818, he was promoted to the rank of Cardinal-Bishop, with the suburbicarian See of Frascati; he exchanged this See for See of Porto and Santa Rufina on August 13, 1821. Upon the death of Pope Pius VII, as Cardinal Camerlengo he presided over the arrangements for the Conclave of 1823 Conclave of 1823. He resigned the office of Camerlengo in 1824, when Pope Leo XII appointed him pro-datary, he was the first to hold the post of cardinal legate of Velletri, and he was active against the Carbonari.
He participated in the Conclave of 1829, and presided as Dean of the Sacred College of Cardinals at the Conclave of 1830-1831, following the death of Pope Pius VIII Conclave of 1830-1831. He was himself a candidate for the Papacy, and enjoyed considerable support from the pro-Austrian faction of cardinals, led by Cardinal Giuseppe Albani. Pacca had indicated his own sympathies in a pre-Conclave meeting of Cardinals, at which he read a letter which had been given to him by Pius VIII shortly before his death. The letter revealed that, at the direction of the Pope, Cardinal Albani, the Secretary of State, had written to the Austrian general at Verona, inviting him to move his troops up to the borders of the Papal States to be prepared against revolutionary disorders. Nonetheless, Pacca was not elected pope, and Albani did not receive a continuation of his post as Secretary of State. A less inflammatory candidate, Mauro Cappellari, who was still agreeable to appointing a pro-Austrian Secretary of State (Cardinal Bernetti), was elected instead.
Under the new Pope, Gregory XVI, Pacca received the additional appointment of Secretary to the Sacred Congregation of the Holy Inquisition. He also became Archpriest of the Lateran Basilica.
He died at Rome on April 19, 1844, and was buried in the Church of Santa Maria in Portico.
Cardinal Pacca's house was frequented by the most illustrious scientists, men of letters and artists, both Roman and foreign. He had excavations made at Ostia at his own expense, and with the objects discovered formed a small museum in his vineyard on the Via Aurelia (Casino of Pius V).
- Memorie storiche della nunziatura di Colonia
- Dei grandi meriti verso la Chiesa Cattolica del clero dell' Universita e de' Magistrati di Colonia nel secolo XVI
- Notizie sul Portogallo e sulla nunziatura di Lisbona
- Memorie storiche per servire alla storia ecclesiastica del secolo XIX (1809-1814)
- Notizie storiche intorno alla vita e gli scritti di Mons. Franc. Pacca, arcivescovo di Benevento (1752-1775).
- Charles Berton, Dictionnaire des cardinaux (Paris 1857) 1305-1342.
- Eugenio Cipolletta, Memorie politiche sui conclavi da Pio VII a Pio IX, compilate su documenti diplomatici segreti (Milano: Legros e Marazzani 1863).
- Lucius Lector [pseudonym of Msgr. Joseph Guthlin], Le conclave (Paris 1894) (esp. 394-395).
|Catholic Church titles|
Giulio Maria della Somaglia
|Cardinal-bishop of Frascati|
1818 – 1821
| Succeeded by|
Francesco Saverio Castiglioni
Michele di Pietro
|Cardinal-bishop of Porto|
1821 – 1830)
| Succeeded by|
Pietro Francesco Galleffi
Leonardo Cardinal Antonelli
|Archpriest of the Basilica of St. John Lateran|
1830 – 1844
| Succeeded by|
Giulio Maria della Somaglia
|Cardinal-bishop of Ostia|
1830 – 1844
| Succeeded by|