Mortara. Jewish-born Priest Abducted in Childhood, Dead at 89
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Mortara. Jewish-born Priest Abducted in Childhood, Dead at 89

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Father Edgar Mortara, Italian Jewish-born priest whose abduction as a child by Papal Guards in 1858 created an international sensation, has died in Liege, Belgium, at the age of 89, it was learned here today.

The Mortara case, which created a sensation in Europe and America, stirred the entire Jewish world, and gave the strongest impetus to the formation of the Alliance Israelite Universelle. Sir Moses Montefiore advised the Pope not to defy the public opinion of Europe. Dr. Gotthard Deutsch stated in the Jewish Encyclopedia that the Mortara case undoubtedly contributed in some measure to the downfall of the Papal States.

Mortara, when six years old, was forcibly removed from the custody of his parents by Papal Guards in Bologna after reportedly having been baptized by a servant in the Mortara household. While the Church deprecated forcible baptism, it held the sacrosanct character of the sacrament, if duly performed, made the recipient ipso facto a member of the Christian community.

In 1859, after Bologna had been annexed to the kingdom of Sardinia, the parents made an effort to obtain possession of their child, without avail, for he had been taken to Rome. Another effort, made in 1870 when Rome became the capital of Italy, also failed. Edgar Mortara, then 18, had declared his intention of remaining a Catholic. Mortara was educated in a convent, and often was paraded in the ghetto for the purpose of annoying the Jews. Later he entered the Augustine order, adopting the convent name Pius. He preached before the Vatican Council and was often sent as a missionary to various German cities, including Munich, Mayence and Breslau, and also preached before Italian congregations in Catholic churches in New York.

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