Benedict XIV, Pope, 1675-1758

Alternative names
Birth 1675-05-13
Death 1758-05-03
Latin, Italian

Biographical notes:

Prospero Lambertini.

From the description of Autograph letter signed : Rome, 1699 Nov. 11. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 270905827

From the description of Autograph signature to petition from François de Rochefort, 1743 Oct. 16. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 270905829

From the description of Autograph letter signed : to Card. Bentivoglio, 1731 Feb. 23. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 270905830

From the description of Autograph letter signed : Rome, to Paulo Lignoli(?), 1699 Nov. 11. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 270905828

Prospero Lorenzo Lambertini was born in Bologna on March 31, 1675, of a noble but impoverished family. He received his early education from private tutors but at the age of thirteen (1688) was sent to the Collegium Clementinum in Rome. There he studied for four years concentrating on law and theology, making himself thoroughly familiar with the church fathers, the decrees of the councils, and the pronouncements of the popes. In 1694 he received a doctorate in law and theology from the University of Rome.

He began his public career as an assistant to an auditor of the Rota. He subsequently held the offices of consistorial advocate (1701), promoter of the faith (1708), and assessor at the Congregation of Rites (1712). In 1718 he became secretary of the Congregation of the Council. Named titular bishop of Theodosia in 1725, he was appointed to the archbishopric of Ancona in 1727. Named a cardinal in 1728 (reserved in petto from Dec. 9, 1726), he was transferred to the see of Bologna (1731) and elected to the papacy in 1740.

Benedict's previous experience had prepared him for the task he then assumed. He was a man of broad theological, legal, and medical learning and was experienced in church government and administration. Not satisfied with mere condemnation of error, he began in the first years of his pontificate to issue encyclical letters in order to apply the doctrine of the church to the problems of his age, fully aware of the need to integrate the divergent cultures of scientific and religious thought.

Shortly after assuming office he established a curial congregation to select worthy bishops, reminded ordinaries of their duties, emphasized the importance of the formation of priests, improved living conditions in the papal states, and restored major and minor churches. In matters unconcerned with dogma he was known to be extremely conciliatory. This is evident in his handling of several issues including: the negotiations with the monarchs of Europe, the crisis between the French bishops and the Parlement, the difficult question of mixed marriages, and the legislation relating to the Index of Prohibited Books.

His De servorum Dei beatificatione et beatorum canonizatione (1734-1738) grew out of his practical experience as promoter of the faith and is still the classic reference on beatifications and canonizations although there have been a few moderate revisions in recent years. His extensive work on diocesan synods, De synodo dioecesana, was based on his experience in Ancona and Bologna. He carried on a correspondence with scholars throughout the world. More than 760 of his letters are extant.

To encourage historical studies he founded a number of academies in Rome, enlarged the Vatican Library, and initiated the compilation of a detailed catalog of its manuscripts. He gave his wholehearted approval for the appointment of two women as professors at the University of Bologna and established chairs of chemistry, mathematics, and experimental physics at the Sapienza.

A few weeks before his death (May 3, 1758), he appointed Cardinal Saldanha to investigate the charges made against the Jesuits in Portugal. Saldanha did not receive the brief until after Benedict's death. Nevertheless, exceeding the powers conveyed to him, he pronounced judgment on the Jesuits before the elevation of Benedict's successor, thus leaving a major problem for the latter.

From the description of Fondo Benedetto XIV : bolle e costitutiones, 1598-1758 (bulk 1750-1758). (University of Michigan). WorldCat record id: 145567493


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