Benedict XIV - Encyclopedia


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BENEDICT XIV. (Prospero Lorenzo Lambertini), pope from 1740 to 1758, was born at Bologna on the 31st of March 1675. At the age of thirteen he entered the Collegium Clementinum at Rome. He served the Curia in many and important capacities, yet devoted his leisure time to theological and canonistic study. Benedict XIII. made him archbishop of Theodosia in partibus, then of Ancona (1727), and the next year created him cardinal priest. In 1731 Clement XII. translated him to his native city of Bologna, where as archbishop he was both efficient and popular. He published valuable works, notably De servorum Dei beatificatione et canonizatione, De sacrificio missae, as well as a treatise on the feasts of Christ and the Virgin and of some saints honoured in Bologna. In a conclave which had lasted for months he was elected on the 17th of August 1740 the successor of Clement XII. Benedict XIV. was not merely earnest and conscientious, but of incisive intellect, and unfailingly cheerful and witty. In several respects he bettered the economic conditions of the papal states, but was disinclined to undertake the needed thoroughgoing reform of its administration. In foreign politics he made important concessions to Portugal, Naples, Sardinia, Spain, and was the first pope expressly to recognize the king of Prussia as such. In 1741 he issued the bull Immensa pastorum principis, demanding more humane treatment for the Indians of Brazil and Paraguay, and in the bulls Ex quo singulari (1742) and Omnium sollicitudinum (1744) he rebuked the missionary methods of the Jesuits in accommodating their message to the heathen usages of the Chinese and of the natives of Malabar. In accord with the spirit of the age he reduced the number of holy days in several Catholic countries. To the end of his life he kept up his studies and his intercourse with other scholars, and founded several learned societies. His masterpiece, Libri octo de synodo diocesana, begun in Bologna, appeared during his pontificate. He died on the 3rd of May 1758.

His works, published in twelve quarto volumes at Rome (1747-1751), appeared in more nearly complete editions at Venice in 1767 and at Prato, 1839-1846; also Briefe Benedicts XIV., ed. F. X. Kraus (2nd ed., Freiburg, 1888); Benedicti XIV. Papae opera inedita, ed. F. Heiner (Freiburg, 1904). See Herzog-Hauck, Realencyklopcidie, ii. 572 ff.; Wetzer and Welter, Kirchenlexikon, ii. 317 ff. (W. W. R.*)

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