Edgardo Mortara, the story of the Jewish boy kidnapped by Pius IX to convert him - Corriere.it

Edgardo Mortara, the story of the Jewish boy kidnapped by Pius IX to convert him - Corriere.it

Of Antonio Carioti

He was kidnapped by Pius IX to convert him. Baptized by a maid without the knowledge of the parents, the child by the laws of the Papal State had to receive a Catholic education

On the evening of 23 June 1858, in Bologna, the papal gendarmerie raided the home of the Jew Salomone Momolo Mortara and took little Edgardo away from the family, born on August 27, 1851. The child was then taken to Rome, to the Casa dei Catecumeni, to receive a Catholic education. It is the story from which Mark Bellocchio drew the film Kidnapped

At the time Bologna was still part of the State of the Church and the Inquisition operated there, directed by Pier Feletti. The latter had known that a young Catholic maid of the Mortara house, Anna Morisi, had baptized the child without the parents' knowledge, when Edgardo had not yet turned one year old. The little boy was ill and the girl, fearing that he would die, had wanted to assure him of eternal salvation. A gesture with very significant consequences for the laws of the Papal State, which made Edgardo a Catholic to all intents and purposes. This resulted in the need to remove him from the family, since it was forbidden for a Christian child to be raised by people belonging to another religion.

The Casa dei Catechumeni was an institution founded in 1542 to welcome Jewish individuals or individuals of other faiths who had decided to convert to Catholicism. But Edgardo's case was clearly different, as he was a child who was abusively baptized and torn from his family. His parents were able to see him again only in October 1858 and not alone. Then they were forbidden any contact with Edgardo until the fall of the Papal States in 1870.

In the meantime, the news of the kidnapping had gone around Europe and had thrown a strong discredit on the Papal States, which appeared to be an anachronistic reality, deaf to any call for respect for freedom of conscience and human rights in general. Not only many Jewish personalities and associations protested, but also various governments, including that of the Kingdom of Sardinia, which later became the Kingdom of Italy, and the French one of Emperor Napoleon III, which was also aligned in defense of the Papal States.

However Pope Pius IX was adamant: in addition to deeming Catholic education compulsory for a baptized person, he was also fond of the child, who in turn had embraced the Christian faith. "I had the right and the obligation - said the pontiff in 1865 - to do what I did for this boy, and if I had to do it I would do it again".

When the Italian troops entered Rome, with the breach of Porta Pia on 20 September 1870, and the Papal State was suppressed, Edgardo, having become a fervent Catholic, had already entered the novitiate of the Lateran regular canons. So the young man, now nineteen, refused to return with his family and continued on his path of religious life, which would have led him to priestly ordination in 1874. He traveled a lot through Europe and still maintained good relations with his relatives, indeed he tried to convert them. He died in Liège, Belgium on March 11, 1940.

May 24, 2023 (change May 24, 2023 | 2:23 pm)

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