Annibale Genga (Leo XII) elected Pope

Pope Leo XII (22 August 1760 – 10 February 1829), born Annibale Francesco Clemente Melchiore Girolamo Nicola della Genga, was Pope from 1823 to 1829.

In the conclave of 1823, he was the candidate of the zelanti and in spite of the active opposition of France, he was elected Pope by the Cardinals on the 28th of September, taking the name of Leo XII. His election had been facilitated because he was thought to be at death's door; but he unexpectedly rallied.

Three years later, on 20 August, Pius VII died; and on 2 September the conclave opened at the Quirinal. It lasted for twenty-six days. At first the most prominent candidates were Cardinal Severoli, the representative of the Zelanti, and Cardinal Castiglioni (afterwards Pius VIII), the representative of the moderate party. Castiglioni was the candidate most desired by the great Catholic powers, but, in spite of their wishes Severoli's influence grew daily and by the morning of 21 September, he had received as many as twenty-six votes. As this meant that he would probably be elected at the next scrutiny, Cardinal Albani, who represented Austria at the conclave, informed his colleagues that the election of Cardinal Severoli would not be acceptable to the emperor and pronounced a formal veto. The Zelanti were furious, but, at Severoli's suggestion, transferred their support to Della Genga, and before the powers realized what was happening, triumphantly elected him by thirty-four votes on the morning of 28 September. At first, however, the pope-elect was unwilling to accept the office. With tears he reminded the cardinals of his ill-health. "You are electing a dead man", he said, but, when they insisted that it was his duty to accept, he gave way and gracefully assuring Cardinal Castiglioni that he some day was to be Pius VIII, announced his own intention of taking the style of Leo XII.

Immediately after his election he appointed Della Somaglia, an octogenarian, Secretary of State, an act significant of the policy of the new reign. Leo was crowned on 5 October. His first measures were some not very successful attempts to repress the brigandage and license then prevalent in Maritima and the Campagna, and the publication of an ordinance that confined again to their Ghettoes the Jews, who had moved into the city during the period of the Revolution. These measures are typical of the temper and policy of Leo XII. There is something pathetic in the contrast between the intelligence and masterly energy displayed by him as ruler of the Church and the inefficiency of his policy as ruler of the Papal States. In face of the new social and political order, he undertook the defence of ancient custom and accepted institutions; he had little insight into the hopes and visions of those who were then pioneers of the greater liberty that had become inevitable. Stern attempts were made to purify the Curia and to control the crowd of inefficient and venal officials that composed its staff. Indifferentism and the Protestant proselytism of the period were combated; the devotion of the Catholic world was estimated by the jubilee of 1825, in spite of the opposition of timid and reactionary prelates or sovereigns; the persecution of the Catholics in the Netherlands was met and overcome, and the movement for the emancipation of the Catholics in the British Isles was managed and encouraged till success was assured. Popular discontent with the government of the Papal States was met by the severities of Cardinal Rivarola.