Moderator general of the Society of the Most precious blood; b. Spoleto, Italy, Aug. 28, 1795; d. Rome, Jan. 12, 1873. In 1820, two years after his ordination, he was received by St. Gaspare del bufalo into the society, founded five years previously. As a preacher of missions Merlini gained so much renown that he was given charge of the more difficult ones. From 1847 until his death he served as the congregation's third moderator general. During his tenure of office, which coincided with a disturbed period in history, the institute expanded in the U.S., spread to Germany, and maintained itself well in Italy. At Merlini's suggestion, Pius IX extended (1849) to the universal Church the feast of the Most Precious Blood (July 1). Merlini was the spiritual director of Bl. Maria de mattias from her youth and was her guide and ecclesiastical superior in the founding and direction of the Sisters Adorers of the Most Precious Blood. Among the many others who sought Merlini's spiritual counsel was Princess Adelaide Wolkonska, a convert and the mother of the Russian ambassador to Naples. Humility, meekness, and charity were prominent among Merlini's virtues. His remains rest in the society's church of S. Maria in Trivio, Rome. The decree introducing his cause for beatification was issued in 1927.
Bibliography: e. rizzoli, Biografia del Servo di Dio Don Giovanni Merlini (privately printed; 2d ed. Rome 1915). Acta Apostolicae Sedis 19 (1927), 143–146. j. n. mÜller, Lexikon für Theologie und Kirche, ed. j. hofer and k. rahner, 10 v. (2d, new ed. Freiburg 1957–65) 7:310.
[a. j. pollack]