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Cardinal, scholar, and statesman, b. at Benevento, 27 Dec., 1756; d. at Rome, 19 Feb., 1844; son of Orazio Pacca, Marchese di Matrice, and Crispina Malaspina. He was educated by the Jesuits at Naples, by the Somaschans in the Clementine College at Rome, and at the Accademia de' Nobili Ecclesiastici. In 1785 Pius VI appointed him nuncio at Cologne, the centre of anti-Roman agitation. He was consecrated titular Archbishop of Damiata and arrived at Cologne in June, 1786. The Archbishop of Cologne, Archduke Maximilian of Austria, who had written a courteous letter to Pacca at Rome, told him he would not be recognized unless he formally promised not to exercise any act of jurisdiction in the archdiocese. The same attitude was taken by the Archbishops of Trier and Mainz. Hostility to Rome, incited chiefly by the work of Febronius (see FEBRONIANISM) was then at a high pitch on account of the establishment of the new nunciature of Munich. The other bishops, however, and the magistrates of Cologne received Pacca with all due respect. Even Prussia made no difficulty, and its monarch, in recognition of his friendly attitude, was accorded at Rome the title of king, against which Clement XI (1701) had protested when the emperor would have granted it. On his journey through his dominions on the Rhine Frederick William received the nuncio with great honour.
Pacca's position with respect to the three ecclesiastical electors was difficult. When the Archbishop of Cologne, in 1786, opened the University of Bonn, that of Cologne being still loyal to the Holy See, the discourses given were a declaration of war against the Holy See. At Cologne, too, an attempt was made to support Febronian propositions, but was frustrated by the nuncio, against whom innumerable pamphlets were directed. But Pacca induced some prominent German writers to uphold the rights of the Holy See. He soon had a dispute with the Elector of Cologne. Conformably to the Punctuation of Ems, agreed on by the three archbishop electors and the Archbishop of Salzburg in 1786, the Archbishop of Cologne protested against a matrimonial dispensation given by the nuncio in virtue of his faculties, and went so far as to grant dispensations not contained in his quinquennial faculties, instructing the pastors to have no further recourse to the nuncio for similar dispensations. The nuncio, in accordance with instructions from Rome, directed a circular to all the pastors in his jurisdiction apprising them of the invalidity of such dispensations. The four archbishops thereupon appealed to Joseph II to entirely abolish the jurisdiction of the nuncios, and the emperor referred the matter to the Diet of Ratisbon, where it was quashed. Pacca also opposed freedom of worship for the Protestants of Cologne, but so tactfully that his intervention was not apparent, and did not offend the King of Prussia. In 1790 he went on a secret mission to the Diet of Frankfort to safeguard the interests of the Holy See, and prevented the adoption of a new concordat.
When the French invaded the Rhine Provinces, he was ordered to leave Cologne, but he had the satisfaction of being finally recognized as nuncio by the Archbishop of Trier. In 1794 he was appointed nuncio in Portugal, but accomplished nothing of importance there. Of both nunciatures, he wrote memoirs, containing observations on the character of the countries and their governments. While still at Lisbon, he was created cardinal of the title of S. Silvestro in Capite (23 February, 1801), and assigned to various congregations. In 1808 French troops were stationed in Rome. Yielding to the insistence of Napoleon, Pius VII sacrificed Cardinal Consalvi, his faithful secretary of State, and the pro-secretaries, Casoni, Doria, and Gabrielli. The last-named was surprised in his apartments by the soldiers, placed under arrest, and ordered to leave papal territory. Two days later (18 June, 1808) the pope appointed Pacca pro-secretary.
In his new position Pacca carefully avoided everything that might provoke the emperor's anger, even ignoring the excesses of the French soldiery in and about Rome. But in August he felt obliged to publish in every province a decree forbidding subjects of the Holy See to enlist in the new "Civic Guard" (see NAPOLEON I) and, in general, under any foreign command. The "Civic Guard" was a hotbed of turbulence that might easily produce a rebellion in the Pontifical States. But Miollis, the French commandant, was furious, and threatened Pacca with dismissal from Rome. The pro-secretary replied that he took orders from the pope alone. Realizing that the annexation of Rome was inevitable, Pacca took precautions to prevent a sudden attack on the Quirinal; at the same time advising calm and quiet. The Bull of excommunication against Napoleon had been prepared in 1806, to be published in the event of annexation. On 10 June, 1809, when the change of government actually took place, the Bull was promulgated; on 6 July, the Quirinal was attacked, the pope arrested and taken to France and thence to Savona. Pacca was among those who accompanied him. As far as Florence, he tried to cheer Pius VII; at Florence he was torn from the pontiff's side, much to his sorrow, and saw him again only at Rivoli and Grenoble. From Grenoble he was conducted (6 Aug., 1809) to Fenestrelle, where he was confined with great severity, and could hardly find opportunities for confession and communion. Later, however, this restriction was removed. During this period the captive minister found time to write those records which formed the substance of his "Memorie storiche del ministero" etc.
Finally, on 30 January, 1813, he was told that in view of the concordat between the pope and Napoleon at Fontainebleau (25 January) he was free to join the pope. Napoleon had long objected to his liberation, declaring: "Pacca is my enemy". At Fontainebleau he and the other liberated cardinals insisted that Pius VII should retract the last concordat and refuse further negotiations until he was back in Rome with full freedom. Pacca also suggested the re-establishment of the Society of Jesus, although both the pope and he himself had been educated in prejudices against the society. When Pius VII was conducted to Savona the second time, Pacca was deported to Uzes (January, 1814), leaving that place on 22 April. He joined the pope at Sinigaglia whence he accompanied him to Rome. Appointed cardinal camerlengo in the same year, he exerted himself to re-establish the religious orders from the foundations not already sold.
During the absence of Consalvi at the Congress of Vienna, Pacca again became pro-secretary of State, the restoration of the pontifical Government thus devolving upon him. He was reproved by Consalvi, from Vienna, for his severity towards the supporters of the Napoleonic regime, and vainly tried to justify his conduct. When Murat, King of Naples, sent his troops through the Pontifical States to meet the Austrians, Pacca advised Pius VII to seek temporary refuge at Genoa, fearing that Murat would attempt to ravage the domains of the Holy See. During the pope's absence, the provisional Government caused the arrest of Cardinal Maury on a charge of having secret intelligence with Murat, and his trial was continued even after the pope's return. But Consalvi, immediately on his arrival, stopped the proceedings. The rest of Pacca's life was occupied in the affairs of the different congregations to which he was assigned, and in the administration of the suburbicarian sees. Leo XII appointed him pro-datary, he was the first to hold the post of cardinal legate of Velletri, and he was active against the Carbonari.
Cardinal Pacca's house was frequented by the most illustrious scientists, men of letters, and artists, both Roman and foreign. He had excavations made at Ostia at his own expense, and with the objects discovered formed a small museum in his vineyard on the Via Aurelia (Casino of Pius V).
Acute observations on politics and the philosophy of history are found in his "Memorie storiche della nunziatura di Colonia"; "Dei grandi meriti verso la Chiesa Cattolica del clero dell' Universita e de' Magistrati di Colonia nel secolo XVI"; "Notizie sul Portogallo e sulla nunziatura di Lisbona"; "Memorie storiche per servire alla storia ecclesiastica del secolo XIX" (1809-14); "Notizie storiche intorno alla vita e gli scritti di Mons. Franc. Pacca, arcivescovo di Benevento (1752-75)".
Diario di Roma (1844), n. 39; Album di Roma (1844), n. 16; RINIERI, Corrispondenza inedita de' cardinali Consalvi e Pacca nel tempo del Congresso di Vienna in Diplomazia pontificia, V (Turin, 1903); WISEMAN, Recollections of the Last Four Popes (London, 1858).