The Kidnapping of Edgardo Mortara: This Week in Jewish History

R-L: Edgardo Mortara, mother Marianna, and unidentified brother, c. 1880. Source: Wikimedia Commons.
R-L: Edgardo Mortara, mother Marianna, and unidentified brother, c. 1880. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

In the summer of 1858, 6-year old Edgardo Mortara, a Jewish boy living in Bologna, Italy, was forcibly taken from his home by Italian police acting at the behest of the Inquisition. It had come to the attention of the Church that a teenage non-Jewish servant girl had performed an “emergency baptism” on Edgardo several years earlier, fearing that he would die of a childhood illness and not be allowed entry into Heaven.  Despite strenuous efforts by Jewish communities around the world, Pope Pius IX refused to release Edgardo, who ultimately became a priest in the Augustinian order and devoted his life to converting Jews to Catholicism.

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