Eighteenth general of the Jesuits at the time of the expulsion of the society from the Bourbon states and its suppression by Clement XIV (July 31, 1773); b. Florence, Aug. 2, 1703; d. Castel Sant' Angelo, Rome, Nov. 24, 1775. The Ricci family was among the oldest and most renowned in Florence. One of Lorenzo's brothers was canon of the cathedral and another served as chief magistrate of the Grand Duchy of Tuscany.
Early Life. Lorenzo attended Cicognini College, conducted by the Jesuits at Prato near Florence, and entered the novitiate of Sant' Andrea in Rome (1718). His extreme youth proved no disadvantage to his pursuit of learning or his practice of religious discipline, and after distinguishing himself in philosophy as well as the humanities, he was assigned to teach rhetoric and philosophy at the Jesuit College in Siena. After resuming his studies in Rome in 1731, he was selected for a public defense of the entire field of theology, an assignment in which he acquitted himself brilliantly.
After his ordination and his completion of formal studies, Ricci was appointed to the theological faculty of the Roman College, and there he pronounced the four vows of solemn profession Aug. 15, 1736. He continued teaching theology until 1751, when he was appointed spiritual director of the Roman College; he served in that capacity until 1755. In that year he became secretary to the newly elected general, Aloysius Centurione, and after the latter's death (Oct. 7, 1757), while Marquis Sebastião pombal was preparing the first devastating attack on the society from Lisbon, Father Ricci was chosen general on May 25, 1758, by the 19th General Congregation. Announcement of the choice was received with mixed reactions. One group of those conspiring to destroy the Jesuits is reported to have exulted, "Ricci, Ricci, now we have them!" Many members of the order and apprehensive friends thought that someone more active in public affairs and more alert to the Bourbon menace should have been chosen. Whatever the merit of these opinions, the selection of a general was to prove notably less significant than the choice of the next two popes.
Ricci and the Papacy. clement xiii became pope just six weeks after Ricci's election, and during the 11 years of his pontificate the two worked unremittingly to protect the Church and the society from their common enemies. Clement XIII, besides issuing the brief "Apostolicum Pascendi," vigorously defending the order and adding an impressive endorsement to those of his predecessors, directed to rulers and ministers 150 letters that carried additional support and served notice to Voltairian agitators and the Bourbon states that he would not be forced into suppressing the order. The pope counseled Ricci to be "silent, patient, and prayerful," evidently judging that reticence and meekness would best counteract the fierce hostility that bold missionary ventures, zealous aggressiveness, and daring rebukes of dissolute kings had occasioned. Ricci not only observed the pope's admonitions as faithfully as his responsibilities would permit, but made silence, patience, and prayer the prevailing theme of his letters to his fellow Jesuits. Annoying instances of interception of, or tampering with, his mail and the use of clumsy forgeries by enemies discouraged his use of the normal channels of communication. Despite these difficulties, he managed to deliver some stern remonstrances to those intent on destroying the order, and to refute each new or reedited diatribe as it appeared. The famous response "Sint ut sum ant non sint" (Let them continue as they are or cease to be), which peremptorily rejected the French proposal that an autonomous aggregation of Jesuits be formed for France, although mistakenly credited at times to Ricci rather than to Clement XIII, expresses a tenacity of purpose that was a notable attribute of both men.
Even when his subjects had been driven from Portugal, from France, and finally from Spain and Naples by the Bourbon conspiracy, Ricci cherished the hope that the order would continue to flourish elsewhere, even if this were to require preternatural intervention. The assistant for Italy, Father Timoni, an indomitable optimist, did much to sustain a hope that was destined to be verified only by the remnant of the order that survived in White Russia, where catherine ii refused to promulgate the brief of suppression.
Clement XIII died on Feb. 2, 1769, as the result of the shock caused by a vicious threat of removal from the papacy, seizure of the Papal States, and schism if he delayed the suppression any longer.
Suppression by Clement XIV. Disquieting rumors that the factional tensions in the electoral conclave centered on the fate of the Jesuits severely tested Ricci's hopes, and the memory that he had personally sponsored Fra Giovanni Ganganelli for the cardinalate ten years before did not carry any reassurance when it was announced that he was to be consecrated as clement xiv. The demands that had hastened the death of Clement XIII then assailed the more pliant Clement XIV, and to appease the clamorous Bourbon governments, he became harsh toward those Jesuits exiled in, or seeking sanctuary in, the Papal States. His publication of statements about the necessity of maintaining Church-State amity even at the cost of certain "sacrifices" was obviously designed to serve as a prelude to the suppression ordered by the brief "Dominus ac Redemptor," which was presented to Ricci on Aug. 16, 1773.
Father Ricci and his assistants were arrested and held for a day at the Roman College before their removal to castel sant' angelo on Sept. 23, 1773. There Ricci was to spend the two remaining years of his life under such close confinement that word of the death of his secretary, imprisoned nearby, did not reach him for six months. The tedious hearings to which he was subjected to satisfy the vindictiveness of the Bourbon courts not only exonerated him but thoroughly discredited the canards about buried treasure and dark conspiracies that had been fabricated to justify the suppression. Despite Ricci's advanced age and broken health, which made his narrow confinement and the boarding-up of his cell window superfluous precautions, Clement XIV refused any relaxation of custodial vigilance, explaining that it was maintained for "reasons of safety."
pius vi, who succeeded Clement after a conclave that again centered on the attitudes of candidates toward the Jesuits, had several years earlier detected and exposed one of the forged letters originating in Spain but purporting to have come from Ricci in Rome. Pius VI was considering a plea for the release of Ricci when death freed the prisoner. The pope arranged an elaborate funeral in S. Giovanni de' Fiorentini, where the body lay in state until the funeral Mass and burial in the church of the Gesù in the vault reserved for generals of the order.
Bibliography: g. c. cordara, De suis ac suorum rebus … usque ad occasum S. I. commenatarii, ed. g. albertotti (Turin 1933). j. crÉtineau-joly, Clément XIV et les Jésuites (Paris 1847). b. duhr, Geschichte der Jesuiten in den Ländern deutscher Zunge, 4 v. in 5 (St. Louis 1907–28); "Lorenzo Ricci," Stimmen der Zeit 114 (1928) 81–92. c. sommervogel et al., eds., Bibliothèque de la Compagnie de Jésus (Brussels-Paris 1890–1932) 6:1785–92. l. pastor, The History of the Popes from the Close of the Middle Ages (London-St. Louis 1938–61) v.36, 37, 38. l. koch, Jesuiten-Lexikon: Die Gesellschaft Jesu einst und jetzt (Loovain-Heverlee 1962) 1535–39.
[r. f. copeland]