Commendone, Giovanni Francesco
COMMENDONE, GIOVANNI FRANCESCO
Cardinal, papal diplomat; b. Venice, March 17, 1524; d. Padua, Dec. 25, 1584. His father, Antonio, came from a family in Bergamo; his mother, Laura Barbarigo, belonged to the old Venetian aristocracy. After a well-rounded education at the University of Padua, Commendone went to Rome in 1550 and entered the "famiglia" of Pope Julius III in 1551. His first and rather sensational test as a diplomat took place in 1553 when, traveling to Brussels in the suite of the Cardinal Legate Girolamo Dandino, he went to London on a secret mission. His assignment was to see Queen Mary Tudor and subsequently to report to the Curia about religious and political conditions in England and the prospects of a Catholic restoration. After a mission to Portugal in 1554, Paul IV gave him a position in the Secretariat of State. In 1556 he accompanied the Cardinal Legate Scipione Rebiba to Brussels. Because of the conflict between the pope and the House of Hapsburg, the journey was interrupted in Maastricht and ended with the sudden flight of the legate through the Ardennes to France, where thanks to Commendone's skill he arrived safely. Appointed bishop of Zante in 1555, he came to Venice on a mission to win over the city for the anti-Hapsburg coalition led by Paul IV and Henry II. Here Commendone came into conflict with the unscrupulous Cardinal Carlo carafa, who owed his appointment to the nepotism of the age. There followed a time of withdrawal and studies that ended with his reentry into the Secretariat of State under Pius IV.
Pius commissioned Commendone to invite participation of North and West Germany in the conciliar sessions at Trent. Traveling by way of Vienna, the nuncio came to Naumburg, where the Protestant princes, gathered in convention, met the papal invitation with a firm refusal (January–February 1561). Further travels to the courts of spiritual and temporal princes (Berlin, Lübeck, Cologne, Brussels, Reims, Nancy, Mayence, Bamberg, Munich) yielded a variety of views from Protestants and Catholics alike regarding the question of a council, which views Commendone gathered in a final report to Pius IV (spring 1562). From Trent he visited Emperor Ferdinand I, whom he tried to win over to the same solution of the conciliar crisis that Cardinal Giovanni morone later successfully proposed.
From 1563 to 1565 Commendone was nuncio in Poland, where in cooperation with Cardinal Stanislaus hosi us he laid the permanent foundation of Catholic reform. Pius IV elevated him to the cardinalate and sent him as papal legate to the Imperial Diet at Augsburg, where the German estates of the empire were deliberating about the confirmation of the Peace of Augsburg (1555). The newly elected Pius V inclined to the opinion that the decrees of the Council of Trent were incompatible with the resolutions of the Augsburg Peace and recommended his legate to raise a protest. Commendone and the majority of his theological advisers saw the possibility of having the decrees of Trent adopted by the Catholic estates without opposing the Religious Peace. With the help of the general of the Jesuits, Francis Borgia, and Spanish diplomacy, Commendone succeeded in convincing Pius V of this viewpoint. The protest was not raised, the estates accepted the decrees, and the road of Catholic reform in Germany was open. In the years 1568 and 1569 Commendone was sent as legate to Emperor Maximilian II in the matter of the Austrian religious concessions, and again from 1571 to 1573 to Vienna and to Poland in the matter of the Polish succession and a League against the Turks. After 1574 he was an active member of the Roman Congregation of Cardinals for Germany. Through his untiring and selfless zeal, his realistic evaluation of political and ecclesiastical situations, his diplomatic skill, and his deeply religious sense of responsibility, Commendone made a substantial contribution to the beginnings of regeneration of the Catholic Church in central Europe.
Bibliography: Nuntiaturberichte aus Deutschland, Abt.1,v.13, ed. h. lutz (Tübingen 1959); Abt.2, v.2, ed. a. wandruszka (Vienna 1953); v.5–6, ed. i. p. dengel (1928–39). a. m. graziani, De vita J. F. Commendoni (Paris 1669), French tr. (1694). l. pastor, The History of the Popes from the Close of the Middle Ages (London-St. Louis 1938–61) bibliog. k. repgen, Die Römische Kurie und der Westfäische Friede (Tübingen 1962–) 1:87–153. l. van meerbeeck, Dictionnaire d'histoire et de géographie ecclésiastiques, ed. a. baudrillart et al. (Paris 1912–) 13:367–378, bibliog. j. wodka, Lexikon für Theologie und Kirche, ed. j. hofer and k. rahner (2d, new ed. Freiburg 1957–65) 3:19–20.