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June 24: The Mortara Affair

June 24, 2013

220px-EdgardoMortaraThe Mortara Affair began on this date in 1856 when a contingent of papal police kidnapped 6-year-old Edgardo Mortara from his parent’s apartment in Bologna because Church higher-ups had learned that the child had been secretly baptized by a maid five years earlier when he was seriously ill. Edgardo was whisked to Rome, “adopted” by Pope Pius IX, and eventually became a priest. Jewish organizations and international leaders protested to the Vatican and called for Edgardo to be returned to his parents, but the pope declared that canon law forbade non-Christians in the Papal States to raise a Christian child, even if the child was their own. Protests in France led to the founding of the Alliance Israelite Universelle in 1860, and helped fuel the movement for Italian unification, which overcame the Papal States in 1870. As an adult, Edgardo was sent on missionizing missions to Jews in Germany and the United States, and vigorously sought the beatification of Pope Pius IX — which finally took place in 2000. Mortara did reconnect to his parents (the photo above includes his mother and a brother) and attended his mother’s funeral in Bologna in 1895. He himself died at 88 in 1940.

“I couldn’t care less what the world thinks.” —Pope Pius IX