Gasparri, Pietro

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GASPARRI, PIETRO

Cardinal, secretary of state under two popes, codifier of Canon Law; b. Ussita (Macerata), Italy, May 5, 1852;d. Rome, Nov. 18, 1934. At the Apollinare in Rome he received doctorates in philosophy, theology, and civil and Canon Law. After ordination (1877), he was secretary to Cardinal Mertel, the prefect of the Apostolic Signatura, and he lectured on Canon Law at the college of Propaganda in Rome. At the request of Leo XIII he accepted (1890) the newly established chair of Canon Law at the Institut Catholique in Paris, and remained there 18 years. During this period he published the fruits of his research: Tractatus canonicus de Matrimonio (1892), De sacra Ordinatione (189394), and De Sanctissima Eucharistia (1897). He joined the commission examining the validity of anglican orders. At first he favored their validity, but he modified his opinions somewhat in De la valeur des ordinations anglicanes (1896). He was sent as apostolic delegate to Peru, Bolivia, and Ecuador (18981901), and was consecrated titular archbishop of Caesarea (March 6,1898). He returned to Rome (1901) as secretary of the Congregation for Extraordinary Ecclesiastical Affairs. His greatest accomplishment was the codification of Canon Law. As secretary of the cardinalitial commission of codification and as presiding officer of the two groups of scholars who did the research and actual formulation of the canons, he was the man most responsible for the completion of the tremendous task. Work began Nov. 13, 1904 and was expected to require 25 years. However, Gasparri handed Benedict XV the first printed copy of the new Code of canon law on Dec. 4, 1916. It was solemnly promulgated on Pentecost 1917. Gasparri was elevated to the cardinalate Dec. 16, 1907.

Gasparri succeeded Cardinal ferrata as secretary of state (Oct. 13, 1914) a few months after the outbreak of World War I. No detail of Benedict XV's many projects to end hostilities and to alleviate human misery was too insignificant for the cardinal's wholehearted attention. When Benedict XV died (Jan. 22, 1922), Gasparri said: "Every man has his special mission in life. Mine was the codification of Canon Law and the support of Benedict during the war. These two tasks are now completed." Pius XI, however, pleaded with the weary camerlengo to continue as secretary of state. On Feb. 11, 1929, in the Lateran Palace, Gasparri and Mussolini signed the Lateran Pacts on which Gasparri had worked painstakingly for some years, and which ended the roman question. The pope finally acquiesced to Gasparri's pleas for permission to resign (Feb. 7, 1930). The remaining four years of his life he spent in a modest residence overlooking the Colosseum, enjoying his library and completing his Cathechismus Catholicus (1930). He lived to see the completely edited manuscript of the seventh volume of his celebrated Fontes Iuris Canonici. On

Nov. 14, 1934, he gave a brilliant address to the international jurists, assembled at the Apollinare for the 14th centenary of the Code of justinian i. He suffered a heart attack immediately after and died four days later. Gasparri, descended from a family of shepherds, was always a simple, devoted priest, practical rather than theoretical in his approach to problems. His inexhaustible capacity for work, his disarming amiability, humor, tact, and imaginative resourcefulness were qualities that contributed to his greatness. His diary remains unpublished.

Bibliography: p. gasparri, "Storia della codificazione del diritto canonico per la Chiesa latina," Acta Congressus iuridict internationalis, 5 v. (Rome 193537) 4:110. l. fiorelli, ed., Il cardinale Pietro Gasparri (Rome 1960). f. m. taliani, Vita del Cardinale Gasparri, segretario di Stato e povero prete (Milan 1938). w. sandfuchs, Die Aussenminister der Päpste (Munich 1962). c. ledrÉ, Catholicisme 4:176568. w. h. peters, The Life of Benedict XV (Milwaukee 1959).

[w. h. peters]