By Ariella Lang
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Extra resources for Converting a Nation: A Modern Inquisition and the Unification of Italy (Studies in European Culture and History)
In 1809, as the rector explains in his diary, papal defenders were busy fighting off the French invasion of the pontifical state. Napoleon’s forces proved unstoppable, however, and French forces occupied the Papal States. After Pius VII was carried off to Avignon, the general arrested and deported Rome’s priests and clergymen, including the rector of the Catechumens, to the island of Corsica; the year was 1812. While the rector’s detainment in Corsica foiled his plans to arrest Tivoli—at least for the time being—he did not desist from his proselytization efforts.
In the papal city of Pesaro, for example, one papal supporter wrote the office of the Sant’Uffizio to complain that the taste of freedom provided by the pope’s exile had rendered the Jews uncooperative and many refused to follow the reinstated edicts. Before Napoleon’s invasion of the Papal States, wrote this Pesarese inhabitant, the law dictated that Jews were forbidden to leave their homes from Holy Thursday until the morning of the following Saturday. 43 In this letter, the author portrays the sanctity of the Easter holiday as being at risk because of Jewish delinquency—a complaint that recalls accusations of deicide and recalcitrance that resulted in Jesus’ death.
Escaping from the tumult of the Jewish day school, Rector Tabacchi went to Cavalieri’s father-in-law’s house to claim the new convert’s wife as an offering. When he arrived, the policemen outside assured him that no one had come or gone from the house. But when the rector knocked on the door, no one answered. He then entered the house of his own accord, only to discover that Cavalieri’s wife was not there: “I knocked at that door and since it was open I entered into that house, and I made the most thorough of searches.