Merry del Val, Rafael
MERRY DEL VAL, RAFAEL
Cardinal, papal secretary of state (1903 to 1914); b. London, Oct. 10, 1865; d. Rome, Feb. 26, 1930. His father, a diplomat, was a Spanish marquis; his mother was English. After studies in England and Belgium, he entered the seminary at Ushaw, England, transferring (1885) to the Pontifical Scots College, Rome, and then, at the urging of Pope Leo XIII, to the Pontificia Accademia dei Nobili Ecclesiastici, where he was ordained (Dec. 30, 1888). Entering the papal diplomatic service, he was first named a chamberlain, and was then sent on missions to London, Berlin, and Vienna. Because of his competence and zeal for the conversion of England, he was asked to collaborate (1895–96) in the preparation of the apostolic letters Amantissimae voluntatis and apostolicae curae. He was also apostolic delegate to Canada (1897). From 1899 he presided over the Accademia dei Nobili Ecclesiastici. He became titular archbishop of Nicaea (1900). As secretary of the conclave (July 1903), he was commissioned to beg Cardinal Sarto not to refuse the papacy.
Pius X chose him pro-secretary of state immediately upon election, secretary of state (Oct. 18), and created him cardinal (Nov. 9). His distinction and lofty virtues attracted the pope, as did the diversity of his diplomatic and linguistic talents, which contrasted with and complemented Pius X's background. Thenceforth, he was the faithful executor of the decisions of Pius X, who was more self-willed than is sometimes realized. But Merry del Val remained to the end the pope's counselor. His personal rigidity and great influence with the pope made unlikely a lack of vigor in the conduct of the pontificate, especially in the affairs of the secretariate of state. Merry del Val has been reproached for his protest, addressed to Catholic governments, at the visit of the French President Loubet to the king of Italy in Rome (April 1904). Yet this note was no more vigorous than that in which Cardinal rampolla revealed (June 1903) to the Quai d'Orsay the grave implications of the "offense" given to the pope, despoiled of Rome and the states of the Church. Merry del Val's text was published in Paris (May 17) by the Socialist journal, L'Humanité, to which the prince of Monaco had mailed it. A violent campaign against the Roman note soon developed. Complaint was especially strong because the note had been sent to foreign chanceries and because this version contained a phrase (omitted from the text dispatched to Paris) judged unacceptable to France. As a result the French ambassador was recalled, and replaced for a short time by a chargé d'affaires. The secretary of state, however, actively supported the more conciliatory attitude of Pius X toward the Italian government. Despite the Irish problem, he maintained a good understanding with England. In 1914 he signed a concordat with Serbia. Merry del Val has been blamed for an extreme doctrinal rigorism, which led him to utilize Monsignor benigni, head of Italian integralism and founder of the sodalitium pianum. Yet the cardinal frequently strove to moderate Benigni, rousing the latter's open complaint.
Politically the influence of the secretary of state ended with the death of Pius X. Merry del Val also fulfilled diligently his duties of archpriest of Saint Peter's Basilica, secretary of the Holy Office, member of several Roman congregations, and papal legate to Assisi. He was buried, as he wished, in the grotto of St. Peter's Basilica at the foot of Pius X's tomb. At the request of the Spanish hierarchy, Pius XII authorized (Feb. 26, 1953) the opening of a process of information concerning his renown for sanctity.
Bibliography: r. merry del val, Memories of Pope Pius X (Westminster, Md. 1951). p. cenci, Il cardinale Raffaele Merry del Val (Turin 1933), preface by e. pacelli, later Pius XII. a. c. jemolo, Church and State in Italy, 1850–1950, tr. d. moore (Philadelphia 1961). f. a. m. forbes, Rafael, Cardinal Merry del Val (London 1932). g. dal-gal, Le Cardinal Merry del Val (Paris 1955). c. ledrÉ, "À propos de plusiers livres récents sur quelques aspects du gouvernement de Pie X," Revue d'histoire de l'Église de France 40 (1954) 249–267. h. mitchell, Le Cardinal R. Merry del Val (Paris 1956).