Count Vincenzo Pecci (Leo XIII) elected Pope
Pope Leo XIII (2 March 1810 - 20 July 1903), born Count Vincenzo Gioacchino Raffaele Luigi Pecci, was the 257th Pope of the Roman Catholic Church, reigning from 1878 to 1903 in succession to Pope Pius IX. Reigning until the age of 93, he was the oldest pope, and had the third longest pontificate, behind Pius IX and John Paul II. He is known for intellectualism, the development of social teachings with his encyclical Rerum Novarum and his attempts to define the position of the Church with regard to modern thinking.
As soon as he was elected to the papacy, Leo XIII worked to encourage understanding between the Church and the modern world. When he firmly re-asserted the scholastic doctrine that science and religion co-exist, he required the study of Thomas Aquinas and opened the Vatican Secret Archives to qualified researchers, among whom was the noted historian of the Papacy Ludwig von Pastor.
Leo XIII was the first Pope to come out strongly in favour of the French Republic, upsetting many French monarchists. In his relations with the Italian state, Leo XIII continued the Papacy's self-imposed incarceration in the Vatican stance, and continued to insist that Italian Catholics should not vote in Italian elections or hold elected office. In his first consistory in 1879 he elevated his older brother Giuseppe a cardinal.
Leo XIII was the first Pope of whom a sound recording was made. The recording can be found on a compact disc of Alessandro Moreschi's singing; a recording of his performance of the Ave Maria is available on the web. He was also the first Pope to be filmed on the motion picture camera. He was filmed by its inventor, W. K. Dickson, and blessed the camera afterward.
Leo XIII brought normalcy back to the Church after the tumultuous years of Pius IX. Leo's intellectual and diplomatic skills helped regain much of the prestige lost with the fall of the Papal States. He tried to reconcile the Church with the working class, particularly by dealing with the social changes that were sweeping Europe. The new economic order had resulted in the growth of an impoverished working class, with increasing anti-clerical and socialist sympathies. Leo helped reverse this trend.
Under Otto von Bismarck, the anti-Catholic kulturkampf in Germany led to massive reprisals against the Church. Under Leo, the anti-Catholic measures subsided. The Centre Party in Germany was largely a Catholic creation and was a positive force for social change. It was encouraged by Leo's support for social welfare legislation and the rights of working people. Leo's forward-looking approach encouraged Catholic Action in other European countries where the social teachings of the Church were incorporated into the agenda of Catholic parties, particularly the Christian Democratic Parties, which became an acceptable alternative to socialist parties. Leo's social teachings were reiterated throughout the 20th century by his successors.
While Leo was no radical in either theology or politics, his papacy did move the Church back to the mainstream of European life. Considered a great diplomat, he managed to improve relations with Russia, Prussia, Germany, France, England and other countries. However, in light of a hostile anti-Catholic climate in Italy, he continued the policies of Pius IX towards Italy, without major modifications. He had to defend the freedom of the Church against Italian persecutions and attacks in the area of education, expropriation and violation of Catholic Churches, legal measures against the Church and brutal attacks, culminating in anticlerical groups attempting to throw the body of the deceased Pope Pius IX into the Tiber river on 13 July 1881. The Pope even considered moving his residence to Trieste or Salzburg, two cities in Austria, an idea which the Austrian monarch Franz Josef I gently rejected.
During the Fifth cholera pandemic in 1891 he ordered the construction of a hospice inside the Vatican. That building would be torn down in 1996 to make way for construction of the Domus Sanctae Marthae.
His favorite poets were Virgil and Dante.
Born 2 March, 1810, at Carpineto; elected pope 20 February, 1878; died 20 July, 1903, at Rome. Gioacchino Vincenzo Raffaele Luigi was the sixth of the seven sons of Count Lodovico Pecci and his wife Anna Prosperi-Buzi. There was some doubt as to the nobility of the Pecci family, and when the young Gioacchino sought admission to the Accademia dei Nobili in Rome he met with a certain opposition, whereupon he wrote the history of his family, showing that the Pecci of Carpineto were a branch of the Pecci of Siena, obliged to emigrate to the Papal States in the first half of the sixteenth century, under Clement VII, because they had sided with the Medici.
In August, 1877, on the death of Cardinal de Angelis, Pius IX appointed him camerlengo, so that he was obliged to reside in Rome. Pope Pius died 7 February, 1878, and during his closing years the Liberal press had often insinuated that the Italian Government should take a hand in the conclave and occupy the Vatican. However the Russo-Turkish War and the sudden death of Victor Emmanuel II (9 January, 1878) distracted the attention of the Government, the conclave proceeded as usual, and after the three scrutinies Cardinal Pecci was elected by forty-four votes out of sixty-one