After five years of investigations, the diocesan inquiry for the process of beatification and canonisation of the Dominican Pope Benedict XIII will officially be closed on the 24th of February 2017. The closing ceremony will take place at the Lateran Palace with Cardinal Agostino Vallini, the Vicar General of the Diocese of Rome presiding. The members of the Diocesan Tribunal which conducted the investigation will also be present: Monsignor Giuseppe D'Alonzo, Chief Judge, Don George pacifiers, Promoter of Justice, and Marcello Terramani, notary actuary. The Master of the Order, fr Bruno Cadoré will lead the Dominican contingent at the ceremony.
Pope Benedict XIII (Pier Francesco Orsini) was born in Gravina, Puglia on 2 February 1649/50. The first of six children of Ferdinando III, Duke of Gravina and Giovanna Frangipani of Tolfa, daughter of the Duke of Grumo. He had a strong desire for the religious life from a very young age which his family strongly opposed. At a young age and with the guardian of his mother, he inherited the reign as the Duke of Gravina after his father’s death. Under the pretext of the desire to know other parts of Italy, he travelled to Venice where he met the Dominicans. On 12 August 1668, he received the habit and took the name fra Vincenzo Maria.
He was ordained to the priesthood on 24 February 1671 and the following year on 22 February 1672, Pope Clement X nominated him as Cardinal. He was appointed Prefect of the Congregation for the Councils and he was a member of several Congregations. When the See of Mandredonia became vacant, he was appointed the Archbishop. He dedicated himself to the restoration of the Cathedral church, pastoral visits of his archdiocese and he convoked the first Diocesan Synod. He also started a unique form of agricultural credit among his faithful which became famously known as “Benevento”.
After five years, Pope Innocent XI transferred him from Manfredonia to Cesena. Also at Cesena, he was dedicated to pastoral work and the restoration of the Cathedral church. Just after six years, in 1686, he was transferred from Cesena and put in charge of Benevento which he founded. After two severe and devastating earthquakes, he organized and brought effective relief and support to victims.
On 7 March 1724, Pope Innocent XIII died. The conclave to elect a successor went on for about three months after which Vincenzo Maria Orsini was elected on 29 May 1724. The Archbishop of “Benevento” did everything he could to resist the election but all to no avail. Finally, he gave in and took the name, Benedict XIII. But the new pope did not change his principles or character. He maintained his piety, humility, simplicity, detachment from vanity and great attachment to charity and care of the poor.
As pope, he reduced drastically the papal court of knights and Swiss guards and moved around with a smaller number of escorts and attendants. Clerics of the Papal Household surprised at his level of familiarity with them would often say that, “he is Pope in the public but always fra Vincenzo Maria in private”. During his pontificate, he built several hospitals and focused on the care of the poor and needy. He celebrated the Jubilee of 1725 during which he held a council at the Lateran.
Pope Benedict XIII died on 21 February 1730 at the age of 81. He was originally buried at the Basilica of St Peter but on 22 February 1733, he was translated to the Dominican Basilica of Santa Maria sopra Minerva, Rome.
(24 February 2017)