Birth. December 17, 1866, Villa Gaida, diocese of Reggio Emilia, Italy. He was the third of the seven children of Domenico Mercati, a veterinarian, and Giuseppina Montipò. His two older brothers were also priests, as was one of his uncles, Giuseppe Mercati, pastor of Roteglia. His father was a good friend of the Redemptorists of Madonna del''Olmo, Montecchio d'Emilia and after the closure of the convent in 1859, a good part of its library was placed in the Mercati home.
Education. Studied at the Minor Seminary of Marola from 1876 until 1882, obtaining the licence ginnasiale; at the Classic Lyceum Spallanzani from 1883; at the Seminary of Reggio Emilia; while studying in Rome, he resided in the Pontifical Lombardian Seminary, together with his brother Angelo; also studied at the Vatican Library, where he obtained a doctorate in the summer of 1891; at the Pontifical Gregorian University, Rome, where he earned a doctorate in theology in 1891); and at the Ambrosian Library, Milan, where he was elected doctor on November 9, 1893.
Priesthood. Ordained, September 21, 1889, at the cathedral of Reggio Emilia, by Bishop Vincenzo Manicardi of Reggio Emilia. Went to Rome for further studies, 1889-1891; frequented the public sessions of Accademia di Conferenze storico-giuridiche; admitted to the Vatican Library in February 1890; obligatory military service in Florence as soldato di sanità, 1891-1893. At the Ambrosian Library, Milan, 1893-1898. At the Vatican Library, 1898-1919; he was called by Pope Leo XIII in October 1898. Member of the Historical-liturgical Commission, established by the pope, November 28, 1902-1906. Consultor of the Pontifical Commission for Biblical Studies, January 31, 1903. Domestic prelate of His Holiness, August 2, 1904. Socio corrispondente of the Pontifical Roman Academy of Archeology, May 11, 1917. Prefect of the Vatican Library, October 23, 1919; in summer 1930, at his request for health reasons, he was relieved from the administrative functions of the library. Protonotary apostolic, January 12, 1936.
Cardinalate. Created cardinal deacon in the consistory of June 15, 1936; received the red hat and the deaconry of S. Giorgio in Velabro, June 18, 1936; he had declined the cardinalate several times in the past. His cardinaltial motto was Paratus semper doceri. Librarian and Archivist of the Holy Roman Church, June 18, 1936 until his death. Participated in the conclave of 1939, which elected Pope Pius XII. Camerlengo of the Sacred College of Cardinal, May 28, 1951 until January 12, 1953. He was a prolific writer and a great humanist, who had himself protected and supported a number of émigré scholars from Germany during the early years of the Second World War. He was a scholar who understood Aramaic and the intricacies of racing cars and rocketry. He was considered by many as the "most learned prelate to be elevated to the sacred purple" in a century. He was also once quoted as saying, "I'm always ready to learn".
Death. August 23, 1957, of a heart attack, serenely, in his residence in Vatican City. The funeral mass was celebrated in the church of S. Ignazio a Campo Marzio, Rome. Buried in the the tomb he had built in the basilica of S. Giorgio in Velabro, Rome. His brother, Monsignor Angelo, who was prefect of the Vatican Archives, is also buried in that tomb (1).
Bibliography. Albareda, Anselm Maria. Gli scritti del Cardinale Mercati. Rome : Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana, 1957. Note : Articolo apparso su "L'Osservatore Romano" preceduto da "Appunti biografici"; Campana, Augusto. Bibliografia degli scritti del Cardinale Giovanni Mercati, 1890-1956. Città del Vaticano : Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana, 1957; Miscellanea Giovanni Mercati. Città del Vaticano, 1946. 6 vols. (Biblioteca apostolica vaticana. Studi e testi, 121-126;. Contents: v. 1. Bibbia. Letteratura cristiana antica.--v. 2. Letteratura medioevale.--v. 3. Letteratura e storia bizantina.--v. 4. Letteratura classica e umanistica.--v. 5. Storia ecclesiastica. Diritto.--v. 6. Paleografia. Bibliografia. Varia; Nel novantesimo anno del Cardinale Mercati, 1866-1956. Vatican City : Biblioteca apostolica vaticana, 1956. Note : "Bibliografia degli scritti (1890-1956) : p. 57-130; Scaduto, Mario. "Un dotto: il cardinale Giovanni Mercati (1866-1957)," La Civiltà Cattolica, CVIII (1957), 49-60; Studi e ricerche nella biblioteca e negli archivi vaticani in memoria del cardinale Giovanni Mercati (1866-1957). Edited by Lamberto Donati. Firenze, L.S. Olschki, 1959. Contents: Il vescovo di Barcellona Pietro Garsias, bibliotecario della Vaticana sotto Alessandro VI, di A. M. Albareda.--Due liste di libri per la Biblioteca vaicana, di L. Berra.--La lettera di Walone, abate di S. Arnolfo di Metz e di S. Remigio di Reims a Gregorio VII (1073) di G. B. Borino.--Per il "Textus Evangelii" donato da Enrico II a Montecassino (Vat. Ottobon. lat. 74) di A. Campana.--Le fonti iconografiche di alcuni manoscritti urbinati della Biblioteca vaticana, di L. Donati.--I registri vaticani e la loro continuazione, di m Giusti.--Der Amstantritt des Botarichters Bernardino Giraud (1762-63) di H. Hoberg.--Enea Silvio Piccolominis Fortsetzung zum Liber Augustalis von Benvenuto Rambaldi aus Imola und ein ähnlicher zeitgenhossischer Aufholversuch, di P. Künzle.--La traduction française du "Dizionario" de Gaetano Moroni (1844-1862) di M. H. Laurent.--I due manoscritti urbinati dei privilegi dei Montefeltro, di L. Michelini Tocci.--Il clero della cattedrale di Lucca nei secoli XV e XVI, di L. Nanni.--La riforma della segreteria di Stato di Gregorio XVI, di L. Pásztor..--Recherche des deux bibliothèques romaines Maffei des XVe et XVIe siècles, di J. Ruysschaert.--Disavventure e morte di Vincent Raymond, miniatore papale, di N. Vian; Tisserant, Eugène. Giovanni Mercati, 1866-1957 : commemorazione tenuta nella seduta a classi riunite dell'11 maggio 1963. Roma : Accademia nazionale dei Lincei, 1963. (Problemi attuali di scienza e di cultura ; quaderno ; n. 63; Vian, Paolo ; Mercati, Giovanni. Carteggi del card. Giovanni Mercati. Città del Vaticano : Biblioteca apostolica vaticana, 2003- . (Studi e testi ; 413; Cataloghi sommari e inventari dei fondi manoscritti ; 7. Contents: 1. 1889-1936; Vian, Paolo. "Per una biografia del Cardinale Giovanni Mercati." Rivista di storia della chiesa in Italia. LV (2001), 175-199.
Webgraphy. Biography by Paolo Vian, in Italian, Dizionario Biografico degli Italiani - Volume 73 (2009), Treccani; his arms, Araldica Vaticana; Il cardinale che non voleva la porpora by Paolo Vian, in Italian, L'Osservatore Romano, news.va, 2012-10-14; Sixty Years After the Death of the “Great Old Man, Online Window into the Library (Owl), sixth entry; Sua Eminenza l’Umiltà Giovanni Mercati, L'Osservatore Romano, 30 dicembre 2017.
(1) This is the text of the inscription on the tomb, kindly provided by Mr. Eman Bonnici, from Malta:
Birth. March 24, 1884, Nancy, France, in a house which his maternal grandparents had bought twenty years earlier. Son of Hippolyte Tisserant, a veterinarian, and Ocatvée Connard, both from Alsace-Lorraine. His godfather was his uncle Eugène Tisserant, who exerted a great influence on his godson because of his large personal library, which helped develop in the youngster a great love for books. His baptismal name was Eugène-Gabriel-Gervais-Laurent. His last name is also listed as Tisserand. He was the fourth of the six children of the family and the eldest of the three boys; one of his sisters became a nun of the Christian Doctrine; and one of the brothers, a priest of the Fathers of the Holy Spirit and spent forty years as a missionary in Oubangui-Chari, which later became the Central African Republic.
Education. He learned to read when he was five years old (1). He studied at the Gymnasium-Lyceums Saint-Léopold and of Saint Sigisbert, Nancy, for eight years (humanistic and scientific studies. especially chemistry and physics, in which he earned several prizes); he then entered the Major Seminary of Nancy, Nancy, 1900-1904 (theology, Sacred Scripture, Hebrew, Syriac, Old Testament, Oriental Patrology); Dominican "Scuola S. Stefano", Jerusalem, 1904-1905 (directed by Fr. Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange, O.P.); returned to France in June 1905 for the military service; Catholic Institute, Paris (diploma in five languages: Hebrew, Syriac, Arambic, Ethiopian and Assyrian); Pontifical Biblical Institute, Jerusalem. Fr. Fulcran Grégoire Vigouroux, manifested his wish of having Eugène in Rome, where the basis of the future "Istituto Biblico" were being prepared, and invited him, in the name of Pope Pius X, to accept a professorship of Assyrian language on March 19, 1907. He was fluent in thirteen languages: Amharic, Arabic, Akkadian, English, French, German, Greek, Hebrew, Italian, Latin, Persian, Russian, Syriac.
Priesthood. Ordained, August 4, 1907, Nancy, by Charles-François Turinaz, bishop of Nancy. Following Fr. Lagrange's advice, he was called to Rome, where he arrived on October 30, 1908, and was named professor of Assyrian at the Pontifical Roman Athenaeum "S. Apollinare"; and scriptor orientalis adjunct, 1908-1914. Due to general mobilization in France because of the First World War, he joined the 26th Regiment of Infantry of Troyes in August 1914; in January 1915, he was transferred to the Ministry of War, section of Africa of the General Major State of the Army; in March 1917, he was sent to the Middle East and participated in the campaign of Palestine, from October 31 to December 20, of that year; and in the Battle of Meggido, September 16 to 23, 1918; he was essentially charged with logistics; on December 16, 1918, he was promoted to lieutenant; he was demobilized in April 1919 and retured to his post in the Vatican. In 1929, he joined the Société des prêtres de Saint-François-de-Sales; his spiritual director until 1945 was Bishop Charles Ruch, of the Société. In October 1919, Msgr. Giovanni Mercati, prefect of the Vatican Librarian, requested him as his deputy. He also worked in other Vatican dicasteries as consultor of of the Pontifical Commission for Biblical Studies of the S.C. of the Holy Office; of the S.C. of Rites; and of the S.C. of the Oriental Church. Privy chamberlain of His Holiness, May 12, 1921; reappointed, February 8, 1922. Invited and supported by the Carnegie Foundation for International Peace, he made his first visit to the United States of America and Canada; and visited many libraries (2). Domestic prelate of His Holiness, January 12, 1929. Pro-prefect of the Vatican Library, November 15, 1930. Protonotary apostolic, January 13, 1936.
Cardinalate. Created cardinal deacon in the consistory of June 15, 1936; received the red hat and the deaconry of Ss. Vito, Modesto e Crescenzia, June 18, 1936. Secretary of the S.C. for the Oriental Church, June 19, 1936.
Episcopate. Elected titular archbishop of Iconio, June 25, 1937. Consecrated, July 25, 1937, patriarchal Vatican basilica, by Cardinal Eugenio Pacelli, secretary of State, assisted by Giuseppe Migone, titular archbishop of Nicomedia, privy almoner of His Holiness, and by Charles-Joseph-Eugène Ruch, bishop of Strasbourg. His episcopal motto was Ab Oriente et Occidente. Opted for the order of cardinal priests and his deaconry was elevated to title pro illa vice, December 13, 1937. President of the Biblical Commission, July 11, 1938. Participated in the conclave of 1939, which elected Pope Pius XII. Opted for the title of S. Maria sopra Minerva, December 11, 1939. Opted for the order of cardinal bishops and the suburbicarian see of Porto e Santa Rufina, February 18, 1946. Vice-dean of the Sacred College of Cardinals, February 21, 1948. Papal legate to the National Eucharistic Congress, Nancy, June 6, 1949. Dean of the Sacred College of Cardinals and, as such, suburbicarian bishop of the see of Ostia, proper of the dean, retaining the suburbicarian see of Porto e Santa Rufina, January 13, 1951. Prefect of the S.C. Ceremonial, March 10, 1951. Librarian and archivist of the Holy Roman Church, September 14, 1957. Camerlengo of the Sacred College of Cardinal, June 9, 1958 until March 28, 1960. Papal legate to the International Mariological-Marian Congress, Lourdes, France, August 2, 1958. Participated in the conclave of 1958, which elected Pope John XXIII. Resigned the secretariat, November 11, 1959. Grand master of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem, August 19, 1960. Attended the Second Vatican Council, 1962-1965; member of its board of presidency, 1962-1965. Elected member of the Académie Française, June 15, 1961; reception, June 23, 1962. Participated in the conclave of 1963, which elected Pope Paul VI. Cardinal bishop of the title (3) of the suburbicarian sees of Ostia and Porto e Santa Rufina, November 17, 1966. Attended the First Ordinary Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, Vatican City, September 29 to October 29, 1967; the First Extraordinary Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, Vatican City, October 11 to 28, 1969. Lost the right to participate in the conclave by being older than eighty years, January 1, 1971. He and Cardinals Manuel Gonçalves Cerejeira and Achille Liénart were the last cardinal electors created by Pope Pius XI. Resigned as librarian and archivist and was named emeritus, March 27, 1971.
Death. February 21, 1972, from a heart attack, in "Regina Apostolorum Clinic" Albano Laziale, where he had been confined for months due to an ailment in his legs. During his illness, he was visited by Pope Paul VI, who later sent his secretary of State, Cardinal Jean Villot, with a special blessing as he lay on his deathbed. The pope granted that the late cardinal would be laid out in state in the patriarchal Vatican basilica. On the following February 24, the pope presided the funeral, while Cardinal Paolo Marella sang the requiem mass, attended by over two thousand people together with thirty cardinals. His body was buried in the cathedral of La Storta of Porto e Santa Rufina, in via Cassia, near Rome. His private archives are preserved in the south of France by Association Les amis du cardinal Tisserant.
Bibliography. Bârlea, Octavian ; Tisserant, Eugène. L'activité du cardinal Eugène Tisserant dans les diocèses d'Ostie, de Porto et Santa Rufina. Louvain : Centre international de dialectologie générale, 1955. Cover title : "Extrait de Recueil cardinal Eugène Tisserant, t. II."; Biagio, Agostino di. "Card. Eugenio Tisserant." La Pontificia Università lateranense : profilo della sua storia, dei suoi maestri, e dei suoi discepoli. Roma : Libreria editrice della Pontificia Università lateranense, 1963, p. 142-144; Bibliographie de Son Éminence le Cardinal Eugène Tisserant, 1907-1964. Vaticano : Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana, 1964. (Studi e testi (Biblioteca apostolica vaticana); 231). Note : Extrait de Mélanges Eugène Tisserant, vol. 1 (Studi e testi, 231); Cardinal Eugène Tisserant. 2 vols. Louvain : Centre International De Dialectologie Generale, n.d.; Le cardinal Eugène Tisserant : 1884-1972 : une grande figure de l'Église, une grande figure française : actes du colloque international, Toulouse, les 22 et : 23 novembre 2002. Toulouse : Groupe de recherche en histoire immédiate, 2003. (Sources et travaux d'histoire immédiate ; N 14. Organisé par l'Unité de recherche Histoire et théologie, Institut catholique et le Groupe de recherche en histoire immédiate ; Université de Toulouse-Le Mirail; Chapeau, O.S.B. André and Fernand Combaluzier, C.M. Épiscopologe français des temps modernes, 1592-1973. Paris : Letouzey et Ané, 1974, p. 505-506; Del Re, Niccolò. "Eugenio Tisserant" in La Sacra Congregazione per le Chiese Orientali. Nel cinquantesimo della fondazione (1917-1967). Grottaferrata, Roma : Tipografia Italo-Orientale "San Nilo", 1969, p. 88-90; Fouilloux, Étienne. Eugène, cardinal Tisserant (1884-1972). Une biographie. Paris : Desclée de Brouwer, 2011; Gaignard, Hervé. La vie spirituelle du cardinal Eugène Tisserant. Entre perfection et sainteté (1908-1945). Paris : Parole et silence, 2009. (Histoire et théologie ; 3); Lesourd, Paul ; Ramiz, Jean-Marie. Eugene Cardinal Tisserant.. Notre Dame, Ind.: University of Notre Dame Press, 1964. (Men who make the Council. Critical Portraits, 5); Luella, M. "Eugène Cardinal Tisserant." The Library Quarterly, vol. 22, No. 3 (July 1952), 214-222; Mattioli Háry, Nicoletta. The Vatican Library and the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. The history, Impact and Influence of their collaboration [1927-1947]. Città del Vaticano : Libreria Editrice Vatican, 2009; Moubarac, Youakim. Anthologie de la littérature arabe selon une translittération nouvelle établié et présentée par son éminence le cardinal Eugène Tisserant. Paris : Gedalge, 1962; Pop, Sever, 1901-1961. ; Tisserant, Eugène. Cerémonie de la remise du Recueil Cardinal Eugène Tisserant, le lundi 28 novembre 1955. Louvain : Centre international de dialectologie générale, 1957. (Travaux / le Centre international de dialectologie générale, l'Université catholique de Louvain ; fasc. 3; Variation: Travaux (Centre international de dialectologie générale) ; fasc. 3); Tisserant, Eugène. The iron curtain pastoral of Eugene Cardinal Tisserant. Paterson, N.J. : St. Anthony's Guild, 1949; Tisserant, Eugène ; Pop, Sever. Recueil cardinal Eugène Tisserant : "Ab Oriente et Occidente." 2 vols. Louvain : Centre international de dialectologie générale, 1955.(Travaux publiés par le Centre international de dialectologie générale près l'Université catholique de Louvain, 1.-2. fasc.).
Webgraphy. His episcopal lineage by Charles N. Bransom, Jr., Apostolic Succession & Episcopal Lineages in the Roman Catholic Church, in English; photographs, portrait and arms, Araldica Vaticana; Tisserant l'americano, in Italian, Sottoosservazione's Blog; Scuola Diocesana di Teologia Card. Eugenio Tisserant, in Italian, suburbicarian diocese of Porto-Santa Rufina.
(1) Lesourd, Eugene Cardinal Tisserant., p. 7, cites Cardinal Tisserant: "The whooping cough which I caught when I was only five years old, was
decisive for my future. I was quarantined at home, and my father, who did not want anybody to lose time, got it into his ahead to teach me to read by the syllable method. The system
wasn't bad at all; when I returned to school I was one year ahead of everybody else."
(2) Among them the New York Public Library; the Columbia University Library; the J. P. Morgan Library; the Princeton University Library; the New Free Library of Philadelphia; the University of Pennsylvania Library; the Johns Hopkins University Library;the Library of Congress, the Notre Dame University Library and the library of the University of Illinois. In his report to the Vatican, quoted by Lesourd, Eugene Cardinal Tisserant., p. 24-25, he said "As different as the American libraries are from one another --the Library of Congress which was created for the needs of the members of the legislature and has become the central library of the nation; the municipal libraries, which seek to spread instruction among the people, to raise the general moral and intellectual level; the university libraries, whose personnel go out of their way to prepare for both professor and students the tools of research and instruction; the collectors' libraries, founded by enlightened amateurs and always to be preferred to the other kinds because, thanks to generous foundation grants, they are at the disposal of specialists-- they all seemed to me to be dominated by that principle of usefulness which characterizes all American organizations. If in Europe there are so many 'dead' libraries, which collectors and city institutions hold in such high esteem, it is because on this continent it is the book which holds the first place in consideration. In America, the reader is more important to the librarian than the book. Hence, the system of lending from library to home, which surprises us; likewise, the policy of the open shelf, stacks accessible to an enormous number of readers if not to all, where even children begin their apprenticeship; hence also the dictionary catalogue, which not only helps one find a book one knows but also suggests related titles; and finally, the preoccupation with the improvement of services, on the grounds that the capital invested in a library should bear fruit in noble and widespread instruction." His second visit took place in 1933 to attend the convention of the American Library Association in Chicago and a reunion of the International Library Committee; in 1947, he returned to the United States to receive an honorary doctorate of laws degree from Princeton University in company with General Dwight D. Eisenhower; he took advantage of the trip to make a lecture tour around the country which netted him $40,000 for the completion of the construction of the cathedral of his suburbicarian diocese; in 1950, he made yet another trip to America, starting in Canada and ending in the United States, where he visited the Grand Canyon.
(3) The motu proprio Suburbicariis sedibus, issued by Pope John XXIII on April 11, 1962, established that the cardinal bishops would have no ordinary jurisdiction over their suburbicarian sees. These dioceses were to be ruled by bishops with complete and independent ordinary power; cardinal bishops would only retain the title of the see. The disposition applied only to the cardinal bishops appointed in 1961 and later. The others, Cardinals Eugène Tisserant, Clemente Micara, Benedetto Aloisi Masella and Giuseppe Pizzardo, retained the denomination of bishops of their sees. On November 17, 1966, they were listed as bishops of the title of their suburbicarian sees in Annuario Pontificio per l'anno 1967, except Cardinal Micara, who had died in 1965.
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