Pope Leo XIII
(Gioacchino Vincenzo Pecci)
Born Carpineto, near Anagni, Italy, 1810; died Rome.
He studied under the Jesuits at Viterbo and at the Roman College, acquiring that classical facility in Latin and Italian, later justly admired in his official writings and poems.
He entered the Academy of Noble Ecclesiastics and the University of Sapienza, and was ordained in 1837.
As civil governor of Benevento he stamped out brigandage and reformed the system of taxation.
As governor of Perugia, he reformed the educational system and established a savings bank and loan system to help the workers.
A month after he was appointed nuncio at Brussels, 1843, he was consecrated titular Archbishop of Damietta.
He promoted union among the Belgian Catholics and inspired the foundation of the Belgian College, Rome, 1844.
Appointed Bishop of Perugia, retaining, however, the title of archbishop, he inspired his clergy with increased zeal for learning, catechizing, preaching, and missionary work.
He defended the temporal power, and protested against state interference in ecclesiastical affairs when Piedmont had unjustly annexed Perugia and Umbria.
He was made a cardinal, 1853.
As pope he evinced marked administrative and executive ability.
He found the church in a difficult position with respect to civil power, yet by his tact he improved relations everywhere.
He called on French Catholics to accept the Republic loyally, and inspired the Franco-Russian alliance.
He secured an amelioration of the laws against Catholics in Russia, Prussia, Switzerland, and renewed diplomatic relations with Germany, finally bringing that country into accord with the papacy.
French jealousy respecting the Eastern missions prevented the establishment of relations with China.
In regard to Italian affairs, Leo remained a prisoner in the Vatican, like his predecessor.
In 1885 he acted as arbitrator between Spain and Germany regarding the Caroline Islands.
The hierarchy was restored in Scotland and India; Anglican Orders were definitely declared invalid.
In the United States his action regarding the Knights of Labor met with approval and an Apostolic delegation was established at Washington, 1892.
Six years later the erroneous tendencies of "Americanism" evinced by the Catholic clergy were condemned in an Apostolic letter.
A letter to the Brazilian bishops pointed out the evils of slavery.
The missionary field was enlarged and strengthened and new sees (248) and vicariates Apostolic (49) established.
The Uniat Armenian schism was ended, the Basilian Order reformed, and ecclesiastical colleges were established for Ruthenians, Armenians and Bohemians at Rome, and for Chaldeans at Mossul.
The study of scholastic philosophy was urged, and a Biblical commission established in 1902.
Most of the Vatican archives were thrown open to scholars, 1883.
Among Leo's great encyclicals are those dealing with socialism, capital and labor, Christian marriage, Freemasonry, the Christian basis of political life, and the true idea of liberty.
His reign may be fittingly entitled the "Era of Peace."
New Catholic Dictionary