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The kidnapping of Edgardo Mortara by the Vatican


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Author Topic: The kidnapping of Edgardo Mortara by the Vatican  (Read 452 times)
Zeynab
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« on: August 29, 2007, 05:35:44 am »

Remembering history ..

An incident that changed Europe, yet downplayed to conceal the embarrassment.

How many of you have heard of that name, Edgardo Mortara?  Well .. he was a young boy of about six from a middle-class Jewish family who was 'officially' kidnapped by the Vatican in 1858.  He was then brought to the Vatican to be baptized and raised as a Christian.  This was a period when the tailend of the infamous Inquisition was still raging in Europe. 

Abduction of Jewish boys by the Church for the purpose of converting them to Christianity was a common practice in italy for several hundred years during the days of the Inquisition.  The Church considered its legal right to forcibly take children away from their Jewish parents to be brought up as Christians.  From the 1500s to the 1800s, thousands of families were torn apart by this practice.  But the kidnapping of Edgardo has a special importance in the annals of history.  It somehow attracted much attention from all over Europe and eventually led to the downfall of the Papacy in Rome.

Edgardo's parents were accused of "betrayal," an excuse that was used to snatch away their little son who was then made the "property of the Church."  The emotional impact of this incident on Edgardo's family was unimaginable.  But the actual reason why Edgardo was taken away out of all his siblings was different. 

David Kertzer has written a classic book on this incident titled, "The Kidnapping of Edgardo Mortara." The following is the theme of Kertzer's interesting work.

"Bologna, 1858: A police posse, acting on the orders of a Catholic inquisitor, invades the home of a Jewish merchant, Momolo Mortara, wrenches his crying six-year-old son from his arms, and rushes him off in a carriage bound for Rome. His mother is so distraught that she collapses and has to be taken to a neighbor's house, but her weeping can be heard across the city. With this terrifying scene--one that would haunt this family forever--David I. Kertzer begins his fascinating investigation of the dramatic kidnapping, and shows how the deep-rooted antisemitism of the Catholic Church would eventually contribute to the collapse of its temporal power in Italy.  As Edgardo's parents desperately search for a way to get their son back, they learn why he--out of all their eight children--was taken. Years earlier, the family's Catholic serving girl, fearful that the infant might die of an illness, had secretly baptized him (or so she claimed). Edgardo recovered, but when the story reached the Bologna Inquisitor, the result was his order for Edgardo to be seized and sent to a special monastery where Jews were converted into good Catholics. His justification in Church teachings: No Christian child could be raised by Jewish parents.  The case of Edgardo Mortara became an international cause célèbre. Although such kidnappings were not uncommon in Jewish communities across Europe, this time the political climate had changed. As news of the family's plight spread to Britain, where the Rothschilds got involved, to France, where it mobilized Napoleon III, and even to America, public opinion turned against the Vatican. The fate of this one boy came to symbolize the entire revolutionary campaign of Mazzini and Garibaldi to end the dominance of the Catholic Church and establish a modern, secular Italian state.  A riveting story which has been remarkably ignored by modern historians--The Kidnapping of Edgardo Mortara will prompt intense interest and discussion as it lays bare attitudes of the Catholic Church that would have such enormous consequences in the twentieth century."

In the last episode of the award winning 4-part television docu-drama produced and directed by David Rabinovitch titled "The Secret Files of the Inquisition," Edgardo's story has been wonderfully presented.  Do watch this entire documentary, if they can find it.  It's available on DVD.  On the night of June 1858 in Bologna, a knock sounds at the door of the Jewish merchant Momolo Mortara. Two officers of the Inquisition burst inside and seize Mortara's six-year-old son, Edgardo. The reason for his abduction: the boy had been secretly "baptized" by a family servant. According to papal law, the child is therefore a Catholic who can be taken from his family and delivered to a special monastery where his conversion will be completed.  Beginning with this terrifying scene, prize-winning historian David I. Kertzer tells the true story of how one boy's kidnapping helped bring about the collapse of the Vatican as a secular power.

However, in spite of his father's constant and tireless efforts to bring him back, Edgardo never returned to his family.  After being abducted at such an impressionable age and raised in the Church according to strict Christian doctrines for more than 12 years, he became a devout Catholic by the time he was in his late teens.  Even after the fall of the Papacy, he desired not to return home.  Instead, he became a priest and spent the final years of his life in religious meditation within the environs of the Church.   

It's to be kept in mind that within the archives of the Vatican more than 85,000 files are still locked away that contain details on the trials of various innocent people on charges of heresy carried out by the "holy Inquisition" at the behest of the Church from the 1200s to the 1800s.  In 1998, with the permission of the pope, the archives were opened for the first time in history but on a very limtied basis.  Historians and analysts were given access to just a few of those files.  But by far the majority of them still remain locked as the dark, bitter and ugly history of the Catholic Church that terrorized Europe for 700 years. 

One would think, no wonder the West felt the need to separate the Church and state.  It was basically an act on the rebound, not a quest for modernism.  The incredible intolerance of the Church by misinterpreting Faith for the purpose of power, politics and gross corruption simply had to stop. 
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N. Truth Seeker
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« Reply #1 on: August 29, 2007, 11:53:20 pm »

O God!  I saw this docu-drama.  Quite good production and presentation.  I think the entire series was tragic though probably a bit exaggerated as it was produced & directed by a Jewish director.   However, those days in Europe were terrible.   Many innocent lives were cruelly lost.  Not that it's too different now. 

Thanks for this very well written piece for highlighting a very important event in history.
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« Reply #2 on: August 30, 2007, 01:29:49 am »

It was staggering to hear the Pope's cursory apology in March 2000 for the Inquisition.  He talked about it as though it was just an isolated incident or a mistake made by a few representatives of the Church.  He never even hinted on all the horrible things that happened in the inquisition like burning innocent people at the stake, boiling them in oil and tar, death by quartering, death by downing, kidnappings, executions of intellectuals by accusing them of witchcraft & sorcery and so on.  There was absolutely no mention about the large scale killings & expulsions of Muslims in Spain.  Similar persecution was received by the Jews.  They were all told either to convert or to get killed if they didn't leave the country fast.  In fact the Spanish Inquisition was known as the Tears of Spain.  The remarkably ruthless Queen Isabella of Spain, who's known in history as "Isabella the Catholic" was a great pal of the Church and gave orders that all Muslims and Jews should either convert or get eliminated.  While leaving the country, they were not allowed to carry any of their possessions except the clothes they wore.  Their homes and assets became the property of the state.  One of the best known victims was the astronomer Galileo, condemned for claiming that the earth revolved around the sun. Another was the Italian writer and philosopher Giordano Bruno, who was burnt at the stake.  The Pope mentioned nothing about any of these tragic events or people.  His reference to the notorious Bartholomew’s Day massacre in France was very brief and vague, making it seem like a minor incident with a few people clashing here and there. 

Actually various Christian sects were also awfully displeased with the Pope's so-called apology.  The European Institute of Protestant studies referred to the Pope's apology as the "first great laugh of the new millennium" and called him a "lowly sinner" that rhymes with that blasphemous self-given title of "holy father."

Another group called it the "Pope's phoney apology" and said, I quote:
"Pope John Paul II did not mention these historical facts in his "apology." Do not be deceived, friends. The pope has not apologized for the bloody and horrible 600-year Inquisition against humble Bible-believing saints, which was instigated formally by Pope Innocent III (1198-1216) (though it existed more informally prior to that) and was conducted mercilessly by the popes who succeeded him, century after century, until finally Rome was no longer politically capable of sustaining it in the late 1700s. THE INQUISITION WAS NOT A "MISTAKE" OR AN ISOLATED ERROR OR THE PROBLEM OF A MERE HANDFUL OF "BAD POPES." IT WAS THE FORMAL AND OFFICIAL POLICY OF THE HIGHEST LEVELS OF ROMAN CATHOLIC AUTHORITY FOR CENTURIES ON END. The pope has not admitted this; he has not condemned the Inquisition; he has not labeled his fellow popes the murderers they were."

After being an icon of systematic brutality and state vandalism for 6 or 7 long centuries, it sounds more than a little funny that the Vatican at present, for that matter Christians in general, should talk big about love and forgiveness with such a straight face.
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« Reply #3 on: August 31, 2007, 08:39:20 am »

hummm .. you've wrapt it up beautifully.  Inquisition wasn't a "mistake," it was an intentional and calculated policy that stretched for almost 7 centuries. 

.. referred to the Pope's apology as the "first great laugh of the new millennium" and called him a "lowly sinner" that rhymes with that blasphemous self-given title of "holy father."

 teethsmile
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« Reply #4 on: September 02, 2007, 04:40:46 am »

As news of the family's plight spread to Britain, where the Rothschilds got involved,  

And u know what?  The vatican was dependent on financial loans from the Rothschilds.  When the Rothschilds heard of this episode, they too requested the Pope to free Edgardo.  But he even rejected the request of his financier.
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« Reply #5 on: September 02, 2007, 05:32:59 am »

Very nice thread.  That name 'Rothschilds' sounds familiar.  But can't recall who that is.

As for this entire episode, I think even the abolition of the inqusition didn't do any great justice to those thousands of victims who died during this time.  According to whatever I've studied, even after the inquisition ended, except for a few Catholic clergy who might have been arrested and questioned, no one in the Vatican was taken into custody, let alone being punished for their crimes.  Pope Pius, though deprived of all his cruel powers, never stood any trials nor got any convictions.  He continued living in Rome within the premises of the vatican as comfortable as before which is about 100 acres large.  If proper accountability had been dispensed, then all vatican officials should have been jailed.

The most tragic part of the Mortara story, as mentioned in Zeynab's original aritcle above, was Edgardo Mortara wanted to have nothing to do with his family after he turned an adult.  It is said that at age 21 he became a priest and was a great admirer of Pope Pius, the man who ordered his abduction.  Edgardo considered him to be his only guardian.  According to a report in Wikipedia, in 1912 Edgardo Mortara testified in writing that he supports the cannonisation of Pope Pius.  He wrote: "In 1912 Mortara himself testified in writing that he thought Pius IX should be canonized: "I am firmly convinced, not only by the deposition I have given, but by the entire life of my august protector and father, that the Servant of God [Pius IX] is a saint. I have the almost instinctive conviction that one day he will be raised to the glory of the altars. For me it will be an intimate joy for my entire life and a great comfort in the hour of my death to have cooperated to the limits of my strength toward the success of this cause."

It is commonly thought that the vatican is thinking of making a saint of Pope Pius.  Widipedia writes: "Elena Mortara, a great-great-granddaughter of one of Edgardo's sisters, and a professor of literature in Rome, continues to campaign for an apology from the Vatican for Edgardo's abduction and against the canonisation of Pius IX. She has said she is 'appalled at the idea that the Catholic Church wants to make a saint out of a Pope who perpetuated such an act of unacceptable intolerance and abuse of power." She explained that she "feels historically obliged in the name of my generation to ask [the Church] if this is the example you want to give.' "
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« Reply #6 on: September 02, 2007, 05:48:51 am »

Amazing ...

  That name 'Rothschilds' sounds familiar.  But can't recall who that is.


Rothschilds were a family of bankers of Jewish origin, rather Zionists cause they supported the creation of Israel.  Isn't it odd?  The Christians were the greatest oppressors of the Jews throughout history, yet the Jews never lashed out at them but always at the Muslims.  And after the 2nd war, they both forgot the bitter past and joined hands to snatch the land from the Muslims.  Even more surprising, much to the delight of the Jews, Christian Europe was proud to have freed itself from the fetters of oppression by separating the Church from the State, yet the land of Israel was created on the basis of religion as the Jews say that they drove out the Palestinians from there because "that land was given to them by God."  Today it's hard to decide who is actually the greater oppressor, the Church or the Jews .. LOL!
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« Reply #7 on: September 02, 2007, 06:05:19 am »

Rothschilds were a family of bankers of Jewish origin, rather Zionists cause they supported the creation of Israel.  Isn't it odd?  The Christians were the greatest oppressors of the Jews throughout history, yet the Jews never lashed out at them but always at the Muslims.  And after the 2nd war, they both forgot the bitter past and joined hands to snatch the land from the Muslims.  Even more surprising, much to the delight of the Jews, Christian Europe was proud to have freed itself from the fetters of oppression by separating the Church from the State, yet the land of Israel was created on the basis of religion as the Jews say that they drove out the Palestinians from there because "that land was given to them by God."  Today it's hard to decide who is actually the greater oppressor, the Church or the Jews .. LOL!

Salaams Persian, I agree totally with what you've mentioned.  Actually this was precisely my point for putting up this original article.  I wanted to elucidate that the actual lot who were perpetually at the throats of the Jews were the Christians.  Muslim rulers on the other hand never ever interferred with the Jewish lifestyle .. not in Spain neither in any part of the Arab world.  And of course, most importanlty, it wasn't just the Jews who suffered during the inquisition.  The Muslims suffered just as much.  The Jews suffered more in Italy because the Muslim population of Italy was very small.  But in Spain the Muslims were persecuted a lot more and Spanish Inquisition (known in history as 'Tears of Spain') was the worst of all.

You know, if we point out the atrocities inflicted upon the Muslims by the Crusades and other Christian invaders, people don't tend to believe or they just ignore.  But if the atrocities inflicted upon the Jews are brought to light, then everyone listens.  So, let everyone know who persecuted the Jews .. and it was the same ones who persecuted the Muslims.  I thought this was a good way to expose the truth. 

Thanks again for your great input, and thanks also to rose and cat for enlightening me with so many important details Smiley
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« Reply #8 on: September 02, 2007, 06:55:20 am »


  Actually this was precisely my point for putting up this original article.  I wanted to elucidate that the actual lot who were perpetually at the throats of the Jews were the Christians.  Muslim rulers on the other hand never ever interferred with the Jewish lifestyle .. not in Spain neither in any part of the Arab world.  And of course, most importanlty, it wasn't just the Jews who suffered during the inquisition.  The Muslims suffered just as much.  The Jews suffered more in Italy because the Muslim population of Italy was very small.  But in Spain the Muslims were persecuted a lot more and Spanish Inquisition (known in history as 'Tears of Spain') was the worst of all.



You know, if we point out the atrocities inflicted upon the Muslims by the Crusades and other Christian invaders, people don't tend to believe or they just ignore.  But if the atrocities inflicted upon the Jews are brought to light, then everyone listens.  So, let everyone know who persecuted the Jews .. and it was the same ones who persecuted the Muslims.  I thought this was a good way to expose the truth. 


LOL!  yeah, I figured that out sister.  I think it's a fine way to draw attention toward the truth .. highlighting one truth to expose the greater one  Grin
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