Benigni, Umberto

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Italian ecclesiastical historian, journalist, integralist; b. Perugia, March 30, 1862; d. Rome, Feb. 26, 1934. After ordination (1884) he became secretary to the archbishop of Perugia and then professor of ecclesiastical history in the diocesan seminary. As a result of his interest in Catholic journalism and in social problems, he acted also as editor of a local journal until he founded (1892) La Rassegna Sociale, the pioneer Catholic periodical of this type in Italy. He went to Genoa in 1893 to edit L'Eco d'Italia and later to Rome as a collaborator in La Voce della verità. One fruit of a stay in Germany to study the language and the social situation was a polemical book on papal grain policies, Die Getreide politik der Päpste (1898). While holding the chair of ecclesiastical history at the Apollinaris in Rome (190104), he was noted for his lectures, delivered in Italian rather than in the traditional Latin, which were vivacious but lacking in order, precision, and depth. For the use of his students he published Historiae ecclesiasticae repertorium (1902), which incorporated his earlier Propedeutica. In 1904 he entered the Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith as a secretary (minutante ). He transferred in 1906 to the secretariat of state, where he worked until 1911 as an undersecretary connected with the press office in the section dealing with extraordinary affairs. There he came into contact with Cardinal Rafael merry del val, papal secretary of state. From 1911 he taught at the Academy of Noble Ecclesiastics. His useful Manuale di stilo diplomatico (1920) represented the content of his lectures there.

Monsignor Benigni's opposition to Modernism made him a leading figure in integralism. Because of the clandestine nature of many of his activities, his role in the anti-Modernist movement, though central, remains shrouded in considerable mystery and controversy. Until the necessary documents are brought to light, this situation is likely to continue. When Correspondenza di Roma, which he founded in 1907, changed its title to Correspondance de Rome in 1908, it served as a kind of international news agency, particularly for the dissemination of information concerning Modernism. In this publication appeared many denunciations of scholars and others who were thought to bear a Modernist taint. After leaving the secretariat of state in 1911, Benigni devoted himself to the sodalitium pianum, which he founded in 1909 and in which he remained the key figure until its dissolution by order of Benedict XV (1921). From this date until his death as a poor man, he continued to favor action franÇaise.

The most important of Benigni's several books was Storia sociale della Chiesa (5 v. in 7, 190633). This study, which was carried to the 14th century, contains considerable source material of a heterogeneous kind, but it suffers from a defective critical sense and an imprecise notion of the proper scope of this subject. He contributed numerous articles to the Catholic Encyclopedia.

Bibliography: Dizionario biographico degli Italiani, ed. a. m. ghisalberti, s.v. "Benigni, U." (Rome 1960). n. fontaine (pseud. for l. canet), Saint-Siège: Action française et catholiques intégraux (Paris 1928). j. schmidlin, Papstgeschichte der neuesten Zeit, 18001939, v. 3 (Munich 193339).

[t. p. joyce]