Cardinal, papal diplomat; b. Benevento (Campania), Italy, Dec. 25, 1756; d. Rome, April 19, 1844. Of noble birth, he studied in Naples under the Jesuits and in Rome at the Collegio Clementino and the Accademia dei Nobili Ecclesiastici. In 1785 he received minor and major orders, becoming titular archbishop of Damietta and nuncio to Cologne, where he met the opposition of the bishopelectors of Mainz and Cologne, who were incensed against the Holy See because of the erection of the nunciature in Munich. These bishops, who were hostile to interventions in spiritual matters by nuncios, were impregnated with febronianism and were defenders of the Congress of ems. The repercussions of the French Revolution did more to improve the situation than did Pacca's firmness and ability. He was named nuncio extraordinary to Louis XVI, whose flight Pius VI believed successful, but the king's capture at Varenne made Pacca's mission pointless. As nuncio to Lisbon from 1794 to 1801, he had to struggle against the regalianism inherited from pombal and upheld at the University of Coimbra. Created cardinal (1801), Pacca became one of the most influential zelanti. He opposed the French concordat of 1801 and remained in contact with the bishops of the Ancien Régime who refused submission to it. His nomination as prosecretary of state on June 18, 1808, after the occupation of Rome by Miollis and the expulsion of Cardinals Consalvi and Giulio Gabrielli by the French, indicated pius vii's will to resist. For impeding Pacca's arrest, the pope was also seized and carried off from Rome (July 1809). Pacca was imprisoned in the stronghold of San Carlo di Fenestrelle in Piedmont from July of 1809 until the concordat of fontainebleau (February 1813), after which he was permitted to rejoin Pius VII.
Contrary to what Pacca wrote in his memoirs (Memorie storiche del Ministero ), neither he nor the cardinals around the Holy Father were responsible for the pope's decision to withdraw the concessions to Napoleon I in this so-called concordat, only the basis of a definite arrangement. On January 28 Pius VII made his own decision and annulled these agreements in a secret declaration. Pacca's role consisted in counseling the best procedure to minimize the consequences of the pope's act. For this, Pacca incurred Napoleon's wrath and was deported to Uzès in southern France. He reentered Rome with Pius VII on May 24, 1814. During the Hundred Days he fled with the pope to Genoa to escape Murat, who invaded the States of the Church (March 1815).
As prosecretary of state from May 19, 1814 to July 2, 1815, during the sojourn of the secretary of state consalvi at Paris and the Congress of Vienna, Pacca practiced a policy of restoring the old order, contrary to Consalvi's broader views. During the latter part of Pius VII's pontificate, Pacca allied with the zelanti and ceaselessly opposed the reforms judged necessary by the pope. At the conclave in 1823 Pacca actively participated in the reaction which resulted in Consalvi's disgrace. Pacca became bishop successively of Frascati (1818), Porto and Santa Rufina (1821), and Ostia and Velletri (1829). Under Leo XII, Pius VIII, and Gregory XVI he was prodatary and a member of important congregations in the Curia.
Pacca was a true churchman, solidly pious, courageous in upholding the Church's rights, cultured, a patron of artists, and promoter of the first archeological excavations at Ostia; but his outlook was that of the Ancien Régime and lacked open-mindness. He failed to understand Pius VII and Consalvi and passed severe judgments on them. His volumes of memoirs, published under various titles, are valuable historical sources, but they must be utilized with caution because later he substantially altered the section concerning Pius VII's captivity. To know his real sentiments it is necessary to refer to the original text.
Bibliography: g. brigante colonia, Bartolomeo Pacca, 1756–1844 (Bologna 1931). a. durante, Tre papi e un cardinale (Rome 1940). j. leflon and c. perrat, "Les Suppressions et édulcorations qu'a fait subir à ses Mémoires le cardinal P.," Chiesa e stato nell'ottocento: Miscellanea in onore di P. Pirri, ed. r. aubert et al., 2 v. (Padua 1962), 2:355–381. l. pasztor, "Per la storia del Concordato di Fontainebleau," ibid. 597–606.