Wednesday, October 26, 2005

All in the Family

Thanks and tip to Zadok the Roman for this photo of my great-great-great uncle's monument.

Pietro Gasparri was probably the most consequential figure of modern Vatican history who wasn't himself a Pope. Called from the Institut Catholique du Paris in 1898 to receive episcopal consecration and serve as a nuncio in Latin America, he was summoned back to Rome in 1904 to take the post of Secretary for the Commission for the Codification of Canon Law, in which he spent the next 13 years in seclusion, digesting volumes of decrees and studies compiled over centuries to create the first definitive legal text in the history of Catholicism.

You know a man is a genius when the work he gets done in 13 years on his own takes a team of canonists 24 years to simply revise.

As if that wasn't enough on its own, Gasparri became the Master of San Damaso in 1914, serving as Secretary of State to two Popes and mentor to a third. His sixteen years remain the longest reign in office of a Cardinal-Nepos since the 1770s; however, the record will be tied by Angelo Sodano on December 1. The highlight of Gasparri's stewardship, of course, was the realization of the Lateran Pacts on 11 February 1929 which created the Vatican City-State and ended the self-imposed "prisoner" status of the Popes which began after the end of the Papal States in 1870.

I'm told that, around the time of Pietro's death in 1934, a cousin who had also sailed to the States received one of his rings. But as my grandmother got into a fight with this cousin, or vice versa, and the cousin then died, I never got to see it and its whereabouts are unknown.

There was also another Cardinal in the family: Pietro's nephew Enrico, who was elevated to the Sacred College at the tender age of 53 in 1925. Like his uncle, the junior Cardinal Gasparri had also worked his way up in the ranks of the diplomatic corps.

I can't help that my loyalties toward Stato were in the cards long before I got into this line of work. It's a blood thing -- I can't mess with that.