Giuseppe Pecci

Giuseppe Pecci S.J. (13 December 1807 – 8 February 1890) was a Jesuit Thomist theologian whose younger brother, Vincenzo, became Pope Leo XIII and appointed him a cardinal. The Neo-Thomist revival, which Leo XIII and his brother Giuseppe, Cardinal Pecci originated in 1879, remained the leading papal philosophy until Vatican II.

Giuseppe Pecci

Cardinal-Deacon of Sant'Agata dei Goti
The then-Father Pecci in 1872.
ChurchRoman Catholic Church
Appointed15 May 1879
Term ended8 February 1890
PredecessorFrédéric de Fallorx du Cordray
SuccessorAndreas Steinhuber
Other postsCardinal Protodeacon (1887-90)
Ordination6 February 1837
Created cardinal12 May 1879
by Pope Leo XIII
Personal details
Birth nameGiuseppe Pecci
Born13 December 1807
Carpineto Romano, Papal States
Died8 February 1890 (aged 82)
Rome, Kingdom of Italy
BuriedCampo Verano, Rome, Italy
DenominationCatholic (Roman Rite)
ParentsDominico Ludovico Pecci
Anna Prosperi Buz
Previous postPrefect of the Sacred Congregation of Studies (1884-87)
Alma materCollegium Romanum
Coat of armsGiuseppe Pecci's coat of arms

Early years

Father of Pope Leo XIII
Count and Countess Pecci, parents of Giuseppe and Vincenzo Pecci
Mother of Pope Leo XIII

Born in Carpineto Romano, near Rome, Giuseppe was one of the seven sons of Count Dominico Ludovico Pecci and his wife Anna Prosperi Buzi, Countess Pecci. From 1807 to 1818 he lived at home with his family. Together with his younger brother Vincenzo, he studied in the Jesuit College in Viterbo from 1818 until 1824.[1][2] In 1824, Count Pecci called him and Vincenzo home to Rome, where their mother was dying; the father wanted his children to be with him after the loss of his wife, and so they remained in Rome, attending the Collegium Romanum, a college belonging to the Society of Jesus. In 1828, the question of occupational choice arose for the two brothers; Giuseppe Pecci professed the Jesuit order, while Vincenzo decided in favour of a diocesan priest.[3]


Pecci taught Thomism, the theology and philosophy of St. Thomas Aquinas, at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome in 1847. At the request of his brother, who became Archbishop of Perugia, he was made a professor at the theological seminary in Perugia, where he remained from 1852 through 1859. After the city was taken over by Piedmont forces in 1860, Pope Pius IX called him to Rome and offered him a professorship in theology at La Sapienza University. Pope Pius also called him into the papal commission to prepare the First Vatican Council. Good Thomist theology was hard to come by at that time, with the result that young scholars from other countries were sent to Rome to learn from Pecci and Tommaso Maria Zigliara.[4] In 1870 he resigned his professorship because he refused to take the anti-papal oath which was demanded by the new Italian government. He continued his prominent theological research independently.

Giuseppe Cardinal Pecci, SJ
Giuseppe, Cardinal Pecci. For the most part throughout his life, he refused to be photographed: he considered painting a 'far superior and more benevolent presentation of a human being'.[5]


Coat of arms of Giuseppe Pecci (1807-1890)
Coat of arms of Giuseppe Pecci

In 1879, the College of Cardinals, led by Camillo, Cardinal di Pietro, insistently asked Pope Leo XIII to elevate his brother to their ranks,[6][7][8] and at the age of 71 Giuseppe Pecci was created Cardinal-Deacon of Sant'Agata dei Goti on 12 May 1879 in his brother's first consistory. He was the last member of a Pope's family elevated to the cardinalate.

The ceremony was described by Ludwig von Pastor in his diary: On 15 May at 11 am, Pope Leo XIII entered the hall in pontifical vestments, before him the College of Cardinals. The Swiss Guards stood to attention. After the Papal speech, each of the new cardinals, Pecci, John Henry Newman, Joseph Hergenröther and Tommaso Maria Zigliara, received the red hat, all of whom being well-known Church scholars.[9]


Carpineto, ca. 1860
Carpineto in 1860

The elevation of Pecci, a well-known Thomist, took place in the context of the determined efforts of Leo XIII to foster science and Thomist theology throughout the Catholic Church [1]. Thomism had lost its role as a leading theology and Leo attempted to re-establish it "for the protection of faith, welfare of society and the advancement of science".[10] What he envisaged were not sterile interpretations of it, but a return to the original sources. This new orientation at the beginning of his pontificate was welcomed by Dominicans, Thomist Jesuits like Pecci and numerous bishops throughout the world. Strong opposition also developed as well on several fronts within the Church: Some considered Thomism simply outdated, while others used it for petty condemnations of dissident views that they did not like.[11] As traditional antagonists, Jesuits and Dominicans both claimed leadership in the renewal of Catholic theology.[11]

Birthplace of Leo XIII
The house in Carpineto, in which the Pecci brothers grew up

Papal Collaboration

Kardinal Giuseppe Pecci JS
Photo of Cardinal Pecci in 1887

Pope Leo responded with the encyclical Æterni Patris, much of which was co-written by Cardinal Pecci [2] on the restoration of Christian philosophy in the schools, which was published on 4 August 1879, and mandated all Catholic universities to teach Thomism; it also created a papal academy for the training of Thomist professors and publishing scholarly editions of the works of St Thomas Aquinas. The leadership of this academy he entrusted to his brother, who aided the creation of similar Thomas Aquinas academies in other places (Bologna, Freiburg (Switzerland), Paris and Lowden). In 1879, Cardinal Pecci was appointed as first Prefect of the Pontifical Academy of St. Thomas Aquinas, which Leo founded on 15 October 1879, and was also appointed Prefect of the Congregation for Studies in February 1884 [3]. (On 28 January 1999, the academy was reoriented to more social issues by Pope John Paul II.)[12] Pope Leo XIII appointed thirty members, ten each from Rome, from Italy, and from the rest of the world, and provided generous financial support to attract scholars from everywhere. The Pope also personally supported individual Thomist scholars and applauded numerous critical editions of the Angelic Doctor's texts.[11] To balance his Thomist Jesuit appointments, Leo entrusted the overall responsibility of the works of St Thomas Aquinas to the Dominican Order, of which the saint had been a member.

Vatican Library

Pope Leo XIII considered the mostly locked-up and neglected Vatican Library as "an infinite treasure for the Church and a monument to its role in culture and science".[13] He greatly increased staff and organization and appointed Jesuit father Franz Ehrle and Giuseppe Pecci to head the new undertaking as prefect and librarian, respectively. They in turn opened the Vatican Library to the general public after establishing a consultation library of 300,000 volumes.[14]


Cardinal Pecci continued his work as congregation and academy prefect and librarian until he died on 8 February 1890, of complications from pneumonia. His body lay in repose in the Basilica of the Twelve Apostles (Basilica dei Santi Apostoli) in Rome, where his funeral took place on 12 February. He is buried in the chapel of the Society of Jesus in Campo Verano Cemetery, in Rome [4][5].


  1. ^ Kühne 12
  2. ^
  3. ^ Kühne 20
  4. ^
  5. ^ Benno Kühne, Papst Leo XIII Unser Heiliger Vater in seinem Leben und wirken, Benzinger, Einsiedeln, 1880
  6. ^ Kühne, 247
  7. ^ Schmidlin, Papstgeschichte der Neuesten Zeit, Pustet München 1934, 537
  8. ^ Acta Leonis XIII PM Romae, 1881, Acta I, 35 ff
  9. ^ L. von Pastor, Tagebücher, Heidelberg, 1950 127
  10. ^ Schmidlin 394
  11. ^ a b c Schmidlin 395
  12. ^ Annuario Pontificio 2005, p.1908
  13. ^ Schmidlin 400
  14. ^ Schmidlin 401
Catholic Church titles
Preceded by
Lorenzo Ilarione Randi
Cardinal Protodeacon
Succeeded by
John Henry Newman
Preceded by
Antonio Saverio De Luca
Prefect of the Sacred Congregation of Studies
16 February 1884 – 29 October 1887
Succeeded by
Tommaso Maria Zigliara
Catholic moral theology

Catholic moral theology is a major category of doctrine in the Catholic Church, equivalent to a religious ethics. Moral theology encompasses Roman Catholic social teaching, Catholic medical ethics, sexual ethics, and various doctrines on individual moral virtue and moral theory. It can be distinguished as dealing with "how one is to act", in contrast to dogmatic theology which proposes "what one is to believe".

Devotio Moderna

Devotio Moderna, or Modern Devotion, was a movement for religious reform, calling for apostolic renewal through the rediscovery of genuine pious practices such as humility, obedience, and simplicity of life. It began in the late fourteenth-century, largely through the work of Gerard Groote, and flourished in the Low Countries and Germany in the fifteenth century, but came to an end with the Protestant Reformation. It is most known today through its influence on Thomas à Kempis, the author of The Imitation of Christ, a book which proved highly influential for centuries.

Emmanuel Mounier

Emmanuel Mounier (; French: [munje]; 1 April 1905 – 22 March 1950) was a French philosopher, theologian, teacher and essayist.

Johann Baptist Metz

Johann Baptist Metz (born 5 August 1928) is a German Catholic theologian. He is Ordinary Professor of Fundamental Theology, Emeritus, at Westphalian Wilhelms University in Münster, Germany.

Joseph Maréchal

Joseph Maréchal (1 July 1878 – 11 December 1944) was a Belgian Jesuit priest, philosopher, theologian and psychologist. He taught at the Higher Institute of Philosophy of the University of Leuven and was the founder of the school of thought called transcendental Thomism, which attempted to merge the theological and philosophical thought of St. Thomas Aquinas with that of Immanuel Kant.

List of Catholic philosophers and theologians

This is a list of Catholic philosophers and theologians whose Catholicism is important to their works. The names are ordered by date of birth in order to give a rough sense of influence between thinkers.

Luigi Taparelli

Luigi Taparelli (born Prospero Taparelli d'Azeglio; 1793–1862) was an Italian Catholic scholar of the Society of Jesus who coined the term social justice.

Matthias Joseph Scheeben

Matthias Joseph Scheeben (Meckenheim, Rhine Province, 1 March 1835 – Cologne, 21 July 1888) was a German Catholic theological writer and mystic.

Peter Kreeft

Peter John Kreeft (; born 1937) is a professor of philosophy at Boston College and The King's College. He is the author of over a hundred books on Christian philosophy, theology and apologetics. He also formulated, together with Ronald K. Tacelli, "Twenty Arguments for the Existence of God".

Pontifical Academy of Saint Thomas Aquinas

The Pontifical Academy of St. Thomas Aquinas (PAST) (Pontificia Academia Sancti Thomae Aquinatis) was established on 15 October 1879 by Pope Leo XIII who appointed two presidents, his brother and noted Thomist Giuseppe Pecci (1879–1890) and Tommaso Maria Zigliara, professor of theology at the College of Saint Thomas, the future Pontifical University of Saint Thomas Aquinas, Angelicum.

The academy is one of the Pontifical academies housed along with the academies of science at Casina Pio IV in Vatican City, Rome.

Pope Leo XIII

Pope Leo XIII (Italian: Leone XIII; born Vincenzo Gioacchino Raffaele Luigi Pecci [vinˈtʃɛntso dʒoakˈkiːno raffaˈɛːle luˈiːdʒi ˈpettʃi]; 2 March 1810 – 20 July 1903) was head of the Catholic Church from 20 February 1878 to his death. He was the oldest pope (reigning until the age of 93), and had the third-longest confirmed pontificate, behind that of Pius IX (his immediate predecessor) and John Paul II.

He is well known for his intellectualism and his attempts to define the position of the Catholic Church with regard to modern thinking. In his famous 1891 encyclical Rerum novarum, Pope Leo outlined the rights of workers to a fair wage, safe working conditions, and the formation of labor unions, while affirming the rights of property and free enterprise, opposing both Marxism and laissez-faire capitalism. He influenced Mariology of the Catholic Church and promoted both the rosary and the scapular.

Leo XIII issued a record of eleven Papal encyclicals on the rosary earning him the title as the "Rosary Pope". In addition, he approved two new Marian scapulars and was the first pope to fully embrace the concept of Mary as Mediatrix. He was the first pope to have never held any control over the Papal States, after they had been dissolved by 1870. He was briefly buried in the grottos of Saint Peter's Basilica before his remains were later transferred to the Basilica of Saint John Lateran.

Roman Catholic Diocese of Gubbio

The Italian Catholic Diocese of Gubbio (Latin: Dioecesis Eugubina) is in the province of Perugia, in Umbria, central Italy.

Sant'Agata de' Goti, Rome

Sant'Agata dei Goti is a church in Rome, Italy, dedicated to the martyr Saint Agatha. It is the diaconia assigned to Cardinal Raymond Leo Burke, patron of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta.

Santa Balbina

Santa Balbina is a Roman Catholic basilica church in located in the Aventine rione, adjacent to the Baths of Caracalla in Rome.

Scott Hahn

Scott W. Hahn (born October 28, 1957) is an American Roman Catholic theologian. A former Presbyterian who converted to Catholicism, Hahn's popular works include Rome Sweet Home and The Lamb's Supper: The Mass as Heaven on Earth. His lectures have been featured in multiple audio distributions through Lighthouse Catholic Media. Dr. Hahn is known for his research on early Christianity during the Apostolic Age and various theoretical works concerning the early Church Fathers.

Hahn presently teaches at the Franciscan University of Steubenville, a Catholic university in the United States. He has also lectured at the Pontifical College Josephinum in Columbus, Ohio. Hahn is married to Kimberly Hahn, who co-runs their Catholic apostolate, the Saint Paul Center for Biblical Theology.

Systematic theology

Systematic theology is a discipline of Christian theology that formulates an orderly, rational, and coherent account of the doctrines of the Christian faith. It addresses issues such as what the Bible teaches about certain topics or what is true about God and his universe. It also builds on biblical disciplines, church history, as well as biblical and historical theology. Systematic theology shares its systematic tasks with other disciplines such as constructive theology, dogmatics, ethics, apologetics, and philosophy of religion.

Theology of Pope Leo XIII

The theology of Pope Leo XIII was influenced by the ecclesial teachings of the First Vatican Council (1869-1870), which had ended only eight years earlier. Leo issued some 46 apostolic letters and encyclicals dealing with central issues in the areas of marriage and family and state and society.

Vincenzo Vannutelli

Vincenzo Vannutelli (5 December 1836 – 9 July 1930) was an Italian prelate of the Roman Catholic Church. He spent his career in the foreign service of the Holy See and was made a cardinal in 1890.

At his death he was the oldest member of the College of Cardinals, the last surviving cardinal elevated to that rank during the 19th century, and the next to last surviving cardinal named by Pope Leo XIII.His older brother Serafino (1834 – 1917) was also a cardinal.

Early Church
Early Middle Ages
High Middle Ages
Mysticism and reforms
19th century
20th century
21st century

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