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Jean-Siffrein Maury

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Cardinal and statesman, born at Valréas, near Avignon, 26 June, 1746; died at Rome on 10 May, 1817. He made his early studies in his native town and at Avignon, and by the age of nineteen had completed his theological course. He then proceeded to Paris and entered the College de France. Ordained in 1769, he attracted the attention of a grand-nephew of Fénelon by a eulogy of the great archbishop, and was appointed Vicar-General of the Diocese of Lombez in Gascony. In 1772 he was selected by the Academy to preach the panegyric of St. Louis at the Louvre. His success was such that the audience interrupted him with loud applause. As a reward he received a benefice and appointment as royal preacher. At the General Synod of 1776 he fearlessly exposed the failings of the court bishops, and in 1784, preaching on St. Vincent of Paul, he denounced the ingratitude of France towards one of her worthiest sons. These two sermons have been preserved, the remainder were burnt by Maury himself — to save, as he said, his reputation. Nevertheless, it was owing to them that he obtained a seat in the Academy (1784). In 1789 he was elected by the clergy of Péronne to be their deputy in the States-General, and soon became the acknowledged leader of the Court and Church party. Mirabeau's name at once occurs whenever the National Assembly is mentioned. Little is heard of the Abbé Maury, who was the great tribune's most doughty adversary, and who, though always defeated on the vote, was not seldom the conqueror in the debate. In September, 1791 the Assembly was dissolved, and Maury quitted France for Coblenz, the headquarters of the emigrants. Here he was received by the king's brothers with extraordinary attention. Pius VI invited him to reside in Rome, and created him Archbishop of Nicaea (April, 1792). Soon afterwards he represented the Holy See at the Diet of Frankfort, where Francis II was elected emperor. The royal and noble personages assembled there vied with one another in showing him honour. On his return he was made cardinal and Archbishop of Montefiascone. When the Republican armies overran Italy in 1798, Maury fled to Venice and took a prominent part, as representative of Louis XVIII, in the conclave at which Pius VII was elected (1800). He did his best to stop the drawing up of the Concordat, but this did not prevent him from deserting his royal master and returning to Paris. Just as he had given his whole energies to the royal cause, so now he devoted himself entirely to Napoleon. In the difficult question of the divorce he sided with the emperor, and it was he who suggested a means of dispensing with the papal institution of the bishops. He accepted from Napoleon in this way the See of Paris, though he never styled himself anything but archbishop-elect. At the fall of the Empire (April 1814) he was ordered to quit France, and was suspended by the pope. During the Hundred Days he was confined in the Castle of St. Angelo. Consalvi obtained his release, and brought about his reconciliation with Pius VII . His position as cardinal was restored to him, and he was made a member of the Congregation of Bishops and Regulars. Maury did not live long to enjoy his restoration to papal favour. The hardships of his prison life had destroyed his constitution, and aggravated the malady from which he had long been suffering. Early in May, 1817, his strength had so failed that the Last Sacraments were administered to him. During the night of 10 May his attendants found him lying dead with his rosary still in his grasp.

Louis XVIII had obstinately refused all reconciliation, and now forbade his body to be buried in his titular church, Trinita dei Monti. By order of the pope the remains were laid before the high altar of the Chiesa Nuova, by the side of Baronius and Tarugi. When Pius VII heard of his death he said: "He committed many faults, but who is there that has not done the like? I myself have committed many grave ones."

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