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Lorenzo Ricci, S.J. (August 1, 1703 – November 24, 1775) was an Italian Jesuit, elected the eighteenth Superior General of the Society of Jesus. He was also the last before the suppression of the Jesuits in 1773.
Early Life and career
Ricci was born in Florence, Italy. After the preliminary spiritual training (novitiate at St Andrea, Rome), he did his Philosophy (1722–25) and Theology (1729-34) at the Roman College of Rome. He was meant to be a professor of the Sacred Sciences and specialized in Theology (1740–42). Along with teaching he was also the spiritual guide of many young religious at the Collegio Romano. In fact this quiet and unassuming spiritual work - in particular giving the Spiritual Exercises of Ignatius of Loyola (a form of guided retreat) - seemed to have had his preference.
At the 19th General Congregation Ricci was elected Superior General of the Society of Jesus at the second ballot. Quite aware of some serious defects in the Society he said during the Congregation: The hatred that the Society is experiencing in some quarters comes partly from the arrogance of the writings of some of ours. The crisis with the Catholic Bourbon royal courts was coming to a head: expulsion from Portugal the year after his election (1758), from France in 1764, from Spain and Naples in 1767, from the Duchy of Parma in 1768. The helpless Ricci saw it all. As long as Clement XIII was pope, the Society was somehow protected in Rome. The Pope gave a new public approval of the Society (the bull Apostolicum Pascendi, of 1769). To Ricci the Pope advised courage, prayer and patience. The spiritually inclined Superior General sent circular letters to the Jesuits on Fervent perseverance in Prayer (1763), On greater fervour in prayer in 1769, and just a few months before the suppression of the Society another one on a New incentive to Prayer (February 1773). Clearly he was not in touch with what was going on. But pressure on the Holy See was increasing and at the conclave called (in 1769) to elect a successor to Clement XIII the Suppression of the Jesuits was the main issue. Clement XIV was elected; it is not clear whether he made a promise to have the Society suppressed. After his election Clement XIV took harsh and humiliating decisions against the Society in order to placate its enemies, but political pressure went on unrelenting and the Pope finally suppressed the order (Dominus ac Redemptor of 21 July 1773), the main reason being that he wanted to 'restore peace in the Church'.
End and Assessment
Jesuit communities were disbanded, libraries confiscated, properties looted and Ricci put behind bars at the Castel Sant'Angelo, Rome, where he suffered further humiliation and ill treatments (not allowed to celebrate the mass). The charges leveled publicly against the Jesuits were never brought in a court of law: no process of justice was gone through. Before he died Ricci, solemnly declared before witnesses: "I say and protest that the Society of Jesus did not give any ground warranting its suppression; nor is there any right reason why I should have been put in jail." Giulio Cordara, a close friend of Ricci made the following assessment: "I would have judged him most competent to guide the Society on a quiet and tranquil sea. But because of his gentle nature I felt he was less equipped to be at the helm amid violent tossing waves" (Pastor, History of the Popes, vol.XXXV, p. 379). He is buried in the crypt of the Gesù Church in Rome.
- "Lorenzo Ricci" in the Catholic Encyclopedia
- CORDARA, De suppressione Societatis commentarii, Padua, 1923-25.
- RAVIGNAN, Xavier de, Clément XIII et Clément XIV, Paris, 1856.
- ROSA, I., I Gesuiti, Roma, 1957.
- PASTOR, Ludwig von, Geschichte der Päpste, XVI,2 Herder Freiburg, 1961
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Stanislaus Czerniewicz as
Temporary Vicar General of the Society of Jesus