In 1888 Father Edgardo Mortara wrote his autobiography so that the world would understand he had not been kidnapped by the Vatican. So what had happened to him–to the baptized Jewish boy whose removal from his family by Pope Pius IX remains an international controversy to this day?
Mortara's previously unpublished memoirs, accompanied with commentary by Italian journalist Vittorio Messoi, answer this question with an account that runs contrary to popular opinion. As an infant, Mortara was on the point of death and secretly baptized by a Catholic servant employed by his family. He recovered his health, and in the Papal State where his family lived, the law required that he, like other baptized children, receive a Christian education. After several failed attempts to persuade his parents to enroll him in a local Catholic school, in 1858 Pope Pius IX had the boy taken from his family in Bologna and sent to a Catholic boarding school in Rome. There the child grew in faith and eventually responded to the calling to become a Catholic priest.
The Mortara case reverberated around the world. Journalists, politicians, and Jewish leaders tried to pressure the pope to reverse his decision. The pope's refusal to do so was used as one of the reasons to dissolve the Papal State in 1870. Here now for the first time in English is the actual true story in the words of Mortara himself.