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Ostia (suburbicarian see)Porto e Santa Rufina (suburbicarian see)
His younger brother Vincenzo (1836 – 1930) was also a cardinal.
Vannutelli was born at Genazzano, in the diocese of Palestrina, where he studied and graduated in philosophy before studying theology in the Capranica College, Rome. After teaching theology at the Pontifical Seminary, he was secretary to the Papal Nuncio in Bavaria.
He went to North America to become auditor to the Nuncio at the Court of Maximilian in Mexico, and apostolic delegate to Ecuador, Peru, Colombia, and Central America. He was made Papal Nuncio to Brussels in 1875. His stay in Brussels stopped abruptly when Belgian government broke off the diplomatic relations with the Holy See on 28 June 1880. He became Papal Nuncio to Vienna that same year.
On 16 January 1893, after Vannutelli reportedly declined an appointment as Secretary of State, Pope Leo XIII named him Archbishop of Bologna, an assignment considered an exile from Rome. The Pope wrote a letter to the people of Bologna saying that he had been guided by divine inspiration in making the appointment and was reported to have said "Vannutelli goes to Bologna Cardinal and will return a Pope". The New York Times commented: "He has for some time been prominently mentioned in connection with the Papal succession, and is supported by an influential ecclesiastical party, with whom, it is believed, Pope Leo is in sympathy." He served until 12 June when he was named Cardinal-Bishop of Frascati.
He served as Secretary, the highest officer except for the pope, of the Congregation for Universal Inquisition (later known as the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith), from 16 January 1903 until he resigned that office on 31 December 1908 at the age of 74. On 22 June 1903 he was moved from Frascati to become Cardinal-Bishop of Porto Santa e Rufina and then on 25 May 1914 to become Cardinal-Bishop of Ostia, while retaining his previous suburbicarian see.
He became Dean of the College of Cardinals in May 1914. Performing the duties of Dean during the conclave that met in August of that year and elected Pope Benedict XV proved challenging as he was "almost blind ... stone deaf ... and weakened from nervous prostration". En route to that conclave from Naples, his train was bombed and several passengers, though not Vannutelli, were injured.
- "Cardinal Bishop Vannutelli Dead" (PDF). New York Times. 20 August 1915. Retrieved 18 July 2017.
- "The Pope's Policy" (PDF). New York Times. Associated Press. 4 December 1892. Retrieved 18 July 2017.
- "Pope Leo's Successor" (PDF). New York Times. 10 January 1893. Retrieved 18 July 2017.
- "Cardinal Vannutelli Exalted" (PDF). New York Times. 17 January 1903. Retrieved 18 July 2017.
- "The Pope Creates Seven New Cardinals" (PDF). New York Times. 23 June 1903. Retrieved 18 July 2017.
- "Pope Leo's Successor" (PDF). New York Times. 6 July 1903. Retrieved 18 July 2017.
- "Bomb on Cardinal's Train" (PDF). New York Times. 21 August 1914. Retrieved 18 July 2017.
- Serafino Vanuttelli, Catholic Hierarchy
|Catholic Church titles|
| Archbishop of Bologna
16 January 1893 – 12 June 1893
| Major Penitentiary of Apostolic Penitentiary
20 November 1899 – 19 August 1915
Willem Marinus van Rossum
| Secretary of the Supreme Sacred Congregation of the Holy Office
16 January 1903 – 31 December 1908
Mariano Rampolla del Tindaro
Luigi Oreglia di Santo Stefano
| Dean of the Sacred College of Cardinals
7 December 1913 – 19 August 1916