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The South American College in Rome

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The Rev. Ignatius Victor Eyzaguirre, after having spent many years in Chile, his native country, in different works for the salvation of souls, went to Rome, in 1857, and proposed to the Pope the erection of a college for students, from "Latin" American countries, i.e. where the Spanish and Portuguese languages are spoken. Pius IX , who had been Apostolic Delegate in Chile, granted letters of approbation, and urged the bishops to send students and to help the foundation by procuring funds for the maintenance of the seminary. Father Eyzaguirre went back to South America, collected some money, and returned to Rome with a few students. He rented a small house for these students and some others who arrived later. They were fifteen in all. Pius IX ordered the Fathers of the Society of Jesus to direct the new college, and they opened the college on 21 November, 1858. In December, 1859, Pius IX helped to purchase a larger house, belonging to the Dominicans, near their Church of the Minerva. He also bought with his own money a villa and a vineyard for the use of the college, and made Monsignor Eyzaguirre protonotary-apostolic. Towards the beginning of 1860 he sent this prelate back to South America as ablegate of the Holy See, to urge the bishops again to co-operate on a larger scale in procuring the necessary means for the support of the college. At the same time he himself contributed a large sum of money to the new house. During the year 1864 Pius IX sent to the college a great variety of books from his own private library, ordered a new chapel to be erected at his own expense, and furnished it with magnificent vestments and on the 21 November, the sixth anniversary of its foundation, visited the college in person. For all this and many other favours he is considered the principal, if not the first, founder of the South American College. The number of students continually increasing, the superiors had to look for another dwelling. Through the assistance of His Eminence Cardinal Sacconi, protector of the college, part of the old novitiate of the Jesuits, on the Quirinal -- which since the year 1848 had been used for a French military hospital -- was secured, the house near the Minerva sold, and the new residence occupied on 18 April, 1867, the feast of the Patronage of St. Joseph, to whom the college had been dedicated. As the centenary of the martyrdom of Sts. Peter and Paul occurred in this year, many South American bishops visiting Rome brought new students, and the number reached fifty-nine. After the festivities of the centenary Pius IX, almost unannounced, went to the new college, assisted at an "academy", and allowed his name to be added to its legal title, making it "Collegio Pio-Latino Americano". In 1870 the bishops attending the Vatican Council increased the number of students to eighty-two. In 1871, the Italian government having expelled the Jesuits from the small part of the novitiate they occupied, acceded to the request of the Brazilian Emperor and permitted the South American College to remain where it was until a suitable house should be found. The new rector the Rev. Agostino Santinelli, S.J., bought a new site in the Prati di Castello, not far from the Vatican, and near the Tiber. The foundation stone was blessed on 29 June, 1884, by the protector, Cardinal Sacconi, in presence of a large assemblage among whom was the Most Rev. Father Peter Beckx, General of the Society of Jesus, then living in the American College. The work of building began immediately, and Father Santinelli, putting into execution the plans for a grand college he had fostered for very many years, saw the splendid building finished in 1887-88. During this last year the new house received ninety students, but it can accommodate more than 120. It has a splendid chapel, an assembly hall with a capacity for 400 persons, a very spacious dining room for the students, and several small apartments for American bishops visiting Rome. It was here that the first General Council of Latin America (28 May-9 July, 1899) was held. There were present fifty-three prelates, archbishops and bishops, of whom twenty-nine took up their quarters in the college, together with their secretaries and servants. The solemn opening took place in the college chapel, and all the sessions were held there. In the same chapel on 26 March, 1905, the Cardinal Protector , Joseph C. Vives y Tuto, solemnly published the Apostolic Constitution "Sedis Apostolicae providam", by which His Holiness granted the title of "Pontifical" to the college and committed its direction in perpetuum to the Society of Jesus . This constitution, which had been solicited by the bishops during the councils and promised by Leo XIII, has been completed and given by Pius X ; it fixes the fundamental rules of the college already tested by so many years of experience, and on this account it is recognized as the Bull of foundation of the college. There were 104 alumni present at the ceremony besides many others; the Very Rev. Aloysius Caterini, S.J., Provincial of the Roman Province, accepted the charge in the name of the General of the Society, absent through sickness. The college, during its existence of nearly fifty years has seen twenty-five of its former students made archbishops or bishops in their native countries, besides many others created doctors in philosophy, theology, and canon law. The influence of all these upon the development of religion has been immense. A number of the seminaries and one ecclesiastical university in Latin America have taken their professors exclusively from the alumni of the college. Finally, in 1906, the high tribute of esteem was paid the college by the Holy See, in the choice, from amongst the students formed within its walls of the first cardinal of Latin America: Monsignor Joaquin Arcoverde de Albuquerque-Cavalcanti, Archbishop of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

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