Cardinal, papal secretary of state; b. Fermo, Italy, Dec. 29, 1779; d. there, March 21, 1852. After studying philosophy and law at the University of Fermo, he went to Rome (1800) and soon became secretary to the Rota. He accompanied the papal court to France (1808) and joined Cardinal Brancadoro, his uncle, in Reims, where Napoleon I exiled him (1810). There he acted as intermediary between the captive Pius VII, the cardinals, and the Belgian Catholics. Following Bernetti's return to Rome (1814), Pius VII sent him to persuade Austria to evacuate the Legations (1815). After serving as papal legate to Ferrara, governor and head of the police of Rome (1820–26), and papal representative at the coronation of Czar Nicholas I in Moscow (1826), he became a cardinal (1827), but he was not ordained priest until 1832. He succeeded della somaglia as secretary of state from June 17, 1828, until the death of leo xii on Feb. 10, 1829, after which Cardinal Giuseppe albani assumed the office under Pius VIII (1829–30), who sent Bernetti as legate to Bologna. gregory xvi appointed Bernetti as prosecretary of state (Feb. 10, 1831) and secretary from Aug. 10, 1831, to Jan. 20, 1836. Revolution in the states of the church (1831), followed by intervention of the great powers who submitted a memorandum (May 21, 1831) demanding civil reforms, taxed Bernetti's abilities. He upheld papal independence, sternly repressed continuing disorders, organized a voluntary local militia, obtained Austrian military aid, and thereby preserved the state. When the French occupied Ancona (1832), Bernetti procured their evacuation by his diplomatic skill and patience. His unwillingness to become dependent on Austria, while seeking its military help, led Metternich to have lambruschini named secretary of state. Pius IX named Bernetti, together with Cardinal Gizzi and Lambruschini, a member of a consultative commission to help govern the States of the Church (1846). During the Roman uprising in 1848 Bernetti suffered a brief arrest, then joined the Pope at Gaeta. Ill health caused his retirement to Fermo (1850). He was an active, cultured, and good man, although the revolutionaries considered him intransigent and reactionary.
Bibliography: l. jadin, Dictionnaire d'histoire et de géographie ecclésiastiques, ed. a. baudrillart et al. (Paris 1912–) 8:828–830. e. morelli, La politica estera di Tommaso Bernetti (Rome 1953). l. pÁsztor, "I Cardinali Albani e Bernetti e l'intervento austraico nel 1831," Rivista di storia della Chiesa iri Italia 8 (1954) 95–128.