Giovanni Bosco – Interventions to solve the matter of Bishops’ ‘Temporalities’ (1872-1874)

The Law of Guarantees on 13 May 1871 and decrees applying to this required that for newly appointed bishops to enter into possession – the so-called temporalities – they had to present the Minister with the original decree of appointment and formally ask for the exequatur to be granted. This act, in the Holy See’s judgement, implied recognising the Kingdom of Italy which came into being in 1861, and included part of the Papal States ‘illegally’ taken from the Pontiff.

Since the Holy See was not ready to give such recognition, even indirectly, to the new Kingdom, and since the Government did not intend to step back from its position, the bishops were between a rock and a hard place, between the intransigence of both Minister and Vatican. So they had to be content with a papal subsidy, and those who took steps not authorised by the Holy See (Montecassino, Saluzzo) were reprimanded and punished. A number of compromises were attempted, some cases were solved, but the situation remained blocked.

Don Bosco in 1872, on the basis of certain oral understandings with ministers in previous years, intervened once more by his personal initiative on both sides, but without getting much of a hearing at the Vatican. In the two years that followed the Vatican seemed to step back from its absolute intransigence, hypothetically accepting another compromise, that of the government being presented, by whatever authority, even a public notary, with a copy of the bull of appointment from the original posted up in the sacristy. Don Bosco kept in close contact with both sides despite being attacked by some zealous Vatican personnel.

Halfway through January 1874 when it seemed that the matter might find a solution with both sides accepting the above approach, it all collapsed from Government opposition also the result of international pressure. The linking role which Don Bosco played and where he did not spare himself the journeys, discussions and letters with various political and Vatican figures had not succeeded in “reconciling the irreconcilable.”

In the decisive stage of the dispute, the slow and careful acceptance by the Vatican in the two years that followed (1875-1876), Don Bosco seemed not to play any further part.

In relation to this question of the “temporalities”, we publish here Don Bosco’s correspondence with Ministers Giovanni Lanza (no. 70, 72), Marco Minghetti (no. 73), Paolo Onorato Vigliani (no. 76), Pope Pius IX (no. 71) and Cardinal Antonelli (nos. 74-77).

Reference time period: 1872 – 1874

Salesian Historical Institute, Salesian Sources 1: Don Bosco and his work. Collected Works, LAS – Kristu Jyoti, Rome – Bangalore, 2017, 245-257.

Reference institution:
Istituto Storico Salesiano
Istituto Storico Salesiano

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