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The next, nineteenth in the list, is a more serious candidate, Cardinal Altieri, who, though eighty years old or thereabouts, is the last on the list of the Sacred College, having been created by Clement IX. when he was almost in extremis. "His aspect is noble, his character angelic!" writes the conclavist; "for kindness, affability, generosity, and integrity he has not his equal! He was nuncio at Naples; and had it not been that the Divine Providence specially reserved for Clement IX. the glory of recognising and rewarding Altieri's merit, he would have been a cardinal much sooner." Clement IX., however, almost let this glory, so specially reserved for him, slip though his fingers, for it was only in his last hours that he gave Altieri the purple. The principal objection to him as a candidate for the Papacy is to be found, the conclavist thinks, in his age. But, he adds, he is in such health, so strong and vigorous, that he may well be expected to live for half a dozen years to come (an anticipation which was exactly verified by the event). In other respects, the chances of this the oldest man, though youngest member of the Sacred College, appear to be very favourable. Neither Spain nor France could object to him. Medici and his Tuscan adherents would be favourable to him. It cannot be supposed that Barberini would have any invincible objection to him, since a brother of Altieri had been made cardinal by him. The Cardinal D'Este would not refuse to concur in his election; and though among the adherents of Chigi there would be some opponents, they would probably not stand out against an election so generally desirable. There would also be a strong feeling generally among the Eomans, prompting them to consent to an election which would "restore to Eome its former splendour, and show the world that it was still capable of producing the material from which great Pontiffs are made!" For with the exception of Innocent X., Pamfili, whose pontificate was assuredly in no wise calculated to do credit to Eome and the Apostolic See, there had not been a Eoman Pope for half a century.
Cardinal Nerli, Archbishop of Florence, is the twentieth on the list. An excellent man, of entirely blameless life, he is yet hardly fitted for the Papacy, both by reason of his failing health and his inexperience of State affairs. Though four years younger than Altieri, anybody would suppose him to be much his senior. Innocent X. made him a cardinal and Secretary of the Briefs, and in that position he had remained ever since—an excellent canonist, but wholly ignorant of the politics and interests of Europe. He has.a hypochondriac, impracticable man for a nephew too—a consideration much against him. In short, it seems that the Archbishop of Florence has hardly any place on the list of the papabili.
The twenty-first and last on the list (for the conclavist seems to have made some error in his reckoning, and though he speaks of the papabili as twenty-two, names only twenty-one) is the monk, Father Bona. "His holiness of life, his highly conscientious uprightness, his profound knowledge of the canon law, his acquirements as a theologian, would render him the choice of all who recognise the imminent need of reformation in the Church, and of a bulwark against the rising flood of Atheism." For, as the writer goes on to complain, "there is no sort of impiety which the utter absence of Christian charity and a connivance at heretical interests does not lead to. So that Eome, formerly so holy, has become the very asylum of heresy. Papal censures are no longer feared. Divine worship is neglected. The saints are maltreated and their images trampled on to such a point, that the sacred songs and psalms, with which in better times praise and thanksgiving were rendered to God and his Holy and Immaculate Mother, are in these days reduced to pasquinades!" "And what wonder is it," he proceeds, "if territories are lost, if the Turk advances, if heresy is accredited, and if Christ scourges the world with pestilence, war, and famine, and uses the Turks, his most implacable enemies, to chastise those who place him under the necessity of again purging the Christian world, which has become worse than the Jews who crucified him."
One is curiously reminded of the complaints of an earlier censor:—
"Delicto majorum immeritus lues, Romane, donee templa refeceris, cedesque labentes Deorum, et fceda nigro simulacra fumo" and the rest, in a singularly similar tone of thought and mind.
These are considerations, pursues our author, which would tend to direct the choice of the electors to Father Bona. But .... such a thing is hardly to be thought of. The government of monks has always been abhorrent to the secular priesthood; and least of all would their Eminences place so austere a reformer over them in days when there is so much that needs reforming! And his comparative youth and robust health are against him; for he would be likely enough to live till he had filled the Sacred College with friars. Besides, the crowned heads would never consent to the election of a Pope whose austerity they would dread, and who would prove inflexible in upholding ecclesiastical privileges and immunities.
It will have been seen that from this list of the soggetti papabili—of those, that is to say, who might by possibility be thought of by the electors—several might fairly be erased on the score that their election was hardly on the cards. But it is abundantly clear that, when this has been done, the papabile material remains sufficiently copious to make the work of election a long, difficult, and extremely uncertain one.
No Chief of a party or party able to make Pope the man they most desired to elect. —Fear of enmity much more operative in the Conclave than enmity.—Multiplicity of considerations ever on the increase.—The Conclave which elected Clement X. especially long and difficult.—Moderation of recent Popes as to nepotism operates to increase this.— Saying of the Princess Albani.—Abundant evidence in this Conclave that negotiations with a view to the election were not checked by the Bulls to that effect.—Searching the Dinners of Cardinals a mere Farce.—Odeschalchi all but elected. —Father Bona wishing to further his Chance, injures it.—Why Cardinal Pio could not vote for Altieri.— Chigi fails altogether as Head of a Faction.—Anecdote of Cardinal Eazzi.—Message from the King of Spain to the Conclave.—Bemarkable results of it.— Anecdote of Altieri on the Eve of his Election.—Election of Altieri. —Anecdote of De Eetz.
I Have gone through the long list of candidates given in the last chapter, with their qualifications, disqualifications, and reckoning up of their probable supporters and opponents, because the detail, which has in this instance been preserved to us, seemed to afford the means of forming a very fair notion of the sort of considerations on which the preferences of the electors were, or were supposed to be, based, of the extreme complexity of these considerations, and of the remarkable indirectness of the methods by which they operated to an eventual election. It will have been made clear to the reader that it hardly ever occurred, or could occur, especially in the more recent centuries of the Papal history, that any one, or any one group of the electors, was able to