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Giuseppe Maria Pignatelli, Venerable

B. December 27, 1737, in Saragossa, Spain; d. November 11, 1811

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* Published by Encyclopedia Press, 1913.


Pignatelli, VENERABLE GIUSEPPE MARIA, b. December 27, 1737, in Saragossa, Spain; d. November 11, 1811. His family was of Neapolitan descent and noble lineage. After finishing his early studies in the Jesuit College of Saragossa, he entered the Society of Jesus (May 8, 1753) notwithstanding his family's opposition. On concluding his ecclesiastical studies he was ordained, and taught at Saragossa. In 1766 the Governor of Saragossa was held responsible for the threatened famine, and so enraged was the populace against him that they were about to destroy his palace by fire. Pignatelli's persuasive power over the people averted the calamity. Despite the letter of thanks sent by Charles III the Jesuits were accused of instigating the above-mentioned riot. Pignatelli's refutation of the calumny was followed by the decree of expulsion of the Fathers of Saragossa (April 4, 1767). Minister Aranda offered to reinstate Nicola and Giuseppe Pignatelli, providing they abandon their order, but in spite of Giuseppe's ill-health they stood firm. Not permitted by Clement III to land at Civita Vecchia, with the other Jesuits of Aragon, he repaired to St. Boniface in Corsica where he displayed singular ability for organization in providing for five hundred fathers and students. His sister, the Duchess of Acerra, aided him with money and provisions. He organized studies and maintained regular observance. When France assumed control of Corsica, he was obliged to return to Genoa. He was again detailed to secure a location in the legation of Ferrara, not only for the fathers of his own province of Aragon, but also for those of Peru and Mexico, but the community was dissolved in August, 1773. The two Pignatelli brothers were then obliged to betake themselves to Bologna, where they lived in retirement (being forbidden to exercise the sacred ministry). They devoted themselves to study and Pignatelli himself collected books and manuscripts bearing on the history of the Society. On ascertaining from Pius IV that the Society of Jesus still survived in White Russia, he desired to be received there. For various reasons he was obliged to defer his departure. During this delay he was invited, on the instance of Ferdinand, Duke of Parma, to reestablish the Society in his States; and in 1793, having obtained through Catharine II a few fathers from Russia, with other Jesuits, an establishment was made. On July 6, 1797, Pignatelli there renewed his vows. In 1799 he was appointed master of novices in Colerno. On the decease of the Duke of Parma, the States of Parma were placed under allegiance to France. Notwithstanding this fact, the Jesuits remained undisturbed for eighteen months, during which period Pignatelli was appointed Provincial of Italy. After considerable discussion he obtained the restoration of the Jesuits in Naples. The papal Brief (July 30, 1804) was much more favorable than that granted for Parma. The older Jesuits soon asked to be received back; many, however, engaged in various ecclesiastical callings, remained at their posts. Schools and a college were opened in Sicily, but when this part of the kingdom fell into Napoleon's power, the dispersion of the Jesuits was ordered; but the decree was not rigorously executed. Pignatelli founded colleges in Rome, Tivoli, and Orvieto, and the fathers were invited to other cities. During the exile of Pius VII and the French occupation the Society continued unmolested, owing largely to the prudence and the merits of Pignatelli; he even managed to avoid the oaths of allegiance to Napoleon. He also secured the restoration of the Society in Sardinia (1807). Under Gregory XVI the cause of his beatification was introduced.

U. BENIGNI


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