The news of the sudden and unexpected death of Cardinal Rampolla, published on Wednesday morning, carne as a surprising shock to the Catholic world. Nor was the nonCatholic world unaffected, for Cardinal Rampolla was one of the greatest and most interesting figures in the Sacred College. He had long occupied a prominent position in the public eye, as ecclesiastical diplomat, as Cardinal Secretary of State to Leo XIII, and then as his probable successor in the Papacy. The very veto which Austria raised in the Conclave against his election was a tribute to his greatness and influence, and though since the accession of Pope Pius X to the Chair of Peter, Cardinal Rampolla had lived in comparative retirement, there were not a few who still persisted in believing in his ultimate elevation to the Holy See.
Though the Cardinal had not been in robust health for some time past, there was nothing to excite anxiety. His doctor had ordered care and rest, but these recommendations Cardinal Rampolla was not likely to carry out very fully. He went for his usual drive on Monday afternoon, but on Tuesday he was not well enough to say Mass. No grave symptom was apparent when the doctor visited him in the evening, and His Eminence refused to allow his valet to remain with him, but about ii o'clock Giuseppe was so anxious that he again went to his room and found him worse and breathing with great difficulty. His secretary and medical attendant were immediately summoned, but the Cardinal had passed away before their arrival. The body was laid out in the drawing-room, which was transformed into a chapelle ardente, where it remained until the funeral on Friday.
Cardinal Mariano Rampolla del Tindaro was a member of a noble family. Born at Polizzi, in the diocese of Cefalu, on August 17, 1843, he was taken to Rome in his boyhood and from his earliest years was drawn to the service of the Church. After studying at the Vatican Seminary he was transferred to the Capranican College, where the future Cardinal Vincenzo Vannutelli was one of his schoolfellows. Thence he subsequently passed to the Academy of Noble Ecclesiastics for the completion of his studies. Such was his piety and industry that he was cited as an example to those about him. The earliest fruit of his studies was a Latin pamphlet demonstrating the infallibility of the Pope from the Liturgy, which won the praise of the Civilta Cattolica. After taking his Doctor's degree, Rampolla was given a position under the Congregation of Ecclesiastical Affairs, and shortly afterwards Pius IX made him a domestic prelate and a canon of St. Mary Major.
His diplomatic career opened in 1875, when he was sent to Madrid as a Councillor of the Nunciature under Mgr. Simeoni, on whose elevation to the Cardinalate and Secretariate of State he remained in Madrid as chargé d'affaires. In 1877, he too was recalled to Rome, and made a Canon of St. Peter's. The following year Pius IX died, and was succeeded by Leo XIII, who quickly discerned the abilities of the young prelate. In 1882 Rampolla was consecrated Archbishop of Heraclea, and sent as Nuncio to Madrid, where, during the struggle with Carlism, he supported the established dynasty and secured a convention between the Holy See and the Spanish Government on the respective rights of the two Powers in connection with marriage and on other matters of high importance. It was during his term of office at the Madrid Nunciature that Leo XIII acted as arbitrator between Germany and Spain in the dispute about the Caroline Islands. On March 14, 1887, he was created a Cardinal, and on the death of Cardinal Jacobini a short time afterwards, he was appointed Cardinal Secretary of State, a position which he held till the death of Leo XIII. He proved a loyal and capable Minister. He entered fully into the large views of the Pope, whose policy was to enable the Church to gain a position in which she might with best effect exert her influence and apostolate. Difficulties with Germany were settled, and French Catholics were exhorted to rally to the Republic as the established form of government. Leo XIII died on July zo, 1903, and Cardinal Rampolla entered the Conclave as the most probable of the papabfli. First 24 votes were cast for him, then 29, and, after the veto of Austria was pronounced, 30, but eventually the Cardinal Patriarch of Venice was elected, and Cardinal Rampolla was replaced in the Secretariate of State by Cardinal Merry del Val.
His years since then have been spent in comparative retirement. But he had more than enough to keep even a busy man occupied. He was Archpriest of St. Peter's, and belonged to several of the most important of the Congregations —the Holy Office, the Consistorial, Extraordinary Ecclesiastical Affairs, &c. Besides all this, he sat on several Commissions, and yet found time to devote to study and literary pursuits. He published a volume in which he gave the result of his researches into the life of Sta. Melania. His studies included the life of St. Cecilia, of whose church in Rome he was titular, and in whom he was greatly interested. He spent considerable sums on this church.
In conclusion, we may quote the following from the personal impressions of Cardinal Rampolla, contributed to the
Daily Telegraph by "One who Knew Him " In the eye of the world Cardinal Rampolla was a diplomatist and politician, but in private life he was a humble and pious priest. Strictly in keeping with his Sicilian character, he combined 'the dignity of a Spaniard with the polish of a Frenchman.' Whilst Leo XIII occupied the Papal chair, Rampolla was compelled to play a prominent part in worldly affairs, but the work was never to his taste. He much preferred prayer and private meditation on matters spiritual. His strong face was greatly mollified by a kindliness of expression which only those who met the illustrious man can imagine. The features betokened a wonderful combination of strength and gentleness. He had a full share of the intensity of his race. Young Rampolla gave up at an early age all thought of worldly aggrandizement ; he was of a pious and contemplative nature, and, having followed the vocation, as he himself expressed it, of 'a humble servant of God,' he adopted the religious life whole-heartedly."