Cardinal, secretary of state to Pius IX; b. Sonnino, near Terracina (Latium), Italy, April 2, 1806; d. Rome, Nov. 6, 1876. His sharp mind, practical sense, and elegant manners favored his rapid progress in the papal administration, despite his lowly birth. After being attached to a tribunal from 1830 he became successively delegate to Orvieto (1835), Viterbo (1837), and Macerata (1839). He returned to Rome (December 1840) as assistant to Cardinal Mattei in the department of the interior (dicastero dell' interno ). At this time he received the diaconate; he never advanced to the priesthood. As head of the financial administration (1845), he proved very capable.
pius ix (1846–78) named him cardinal (June 11, 1847). During the first two years of this pontificate Antonelli pleased the moderate liberals by favoring a policy less reliant on alliance with Austria. He became president of the Consulta di Stato (November 1847) and played an important role in the elaboration of the new constitution (Statuto ). Antonelli's first term as secretary of state lasted from March 10 to May 3, 1848. At this time Pius IX placed him at the head of the first ministry charged with applying the new constitution. When this ministry resigned after the papal allocution of April 29, Antonelli temporarily receded into obscurity, although he remained a highly regarded counselor of the pope. He returned as prosecretary of state (Dec. 6, 1848) and as secretary (March 18, 1852), holding office until death. Largely because of him Pius IX decided first to flee Rome (Nov. 24, 1848) and then to remain at Gaeta, despite the contrary advice of rosmini-serbati, whose influence Antonelli knew well how to undermine. Antonelli was made head of the papal government in exile (November 26). Convinced that it would be impossible to make the government of the states of the church partially a lay one, he decided to practice a severe policy toward the Roman liberals by refusing all contact with them and appealing to the Catholic powers to restore papal temporal power by arms. After the fall of the Roman Republic, Antonelli was the source of the motu proprio (Sept. 12, 1849) that promised administrative and judicial reforms and immunities to municipalities, but no specific political liberty. As secretary of state he was the one mainly responsible for putting it into effect. Although his policy had become frankly reactionary, his government, which lasted until 1870, did not lack merit, but neither did it progress beyond the outlook characteristic of 18th-century enlightened despotism.
The roman question came to the forefront with the war in Italy (1859). Antonelli had no faith in direct negotiations with Piedmont and regarded the policy of armed independence advocated by Monsignor de merode as chimerical. Instead he relied, as in 1849, on the support of the conservative powers to save the States of the Church, not realizing how much ideas and political conditions had changed in the interim. Believing that the young kingdom of Italy would soon disintegrate, he supported the Neapolitan guerrillas. Monsignor de Merode could not support the concessions to the France of napoleon iii implicit in this policy of passive resistance and sought to utilize his ascendancy over Pius IX to undermine the influence of Antonelli, who was also being attacked by all who reproached him with replacing the nepotism of the popes with the nepotism of the secretary of state. The pope, however, judged Antonelli "without equal for the defense" and refused to part with his secretary, who, moreover, was conscious that he had no title to involve himself in the spiritual government of the Church and very carefully refrained from doing so. After 1870 Antonelli, who had advised the pontiff against leaving Rome, as some wished, successfully reorganized the new situation of the Holy See on solid financial bases.
Antonelli was severely criticized as a morally lax man, avid for money, who strove by authoritarian means to concentrate all power in his own hands, and did not hesitate to break those who opposed him. Although his concepts were lacking in breadth and his actions in grandeur, he possessed admirable qualities. He was diligent and competent in economic and administrative matters, energetic, invariably amiable, and master of himself. His clear, subtle mind permitted him to adapt himself to circumstances with dexterity and to find a ready solution to difficulties that arose daily. His defects and limitations were undeniable; yet he was a conscientious servant of Pius IX and managed affairs with great skill under the circumstances, whatever the exalted ultramontanes grouped around Monsignor de Merode may have thought.
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