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Mortara, Edgar

MORTARA, EDGAR, an Italian Jew, of a Bologna family, whose abduction in early childhood (1858) by the Inquisition occupied for several years the attention of European diplomacy. Edgar Mortara, when between five and six years of age, fell ill. His nurse, a Catholic, arranged with her priest for his baptism in that faith, unknown to his parents, on the 24th of June 1858. She had acted in the same way with his elder brother, who had been ill a year or two previously, but on his recovery the boy continued to be educated as a Jew. This time she determined to make sure of her convert. Everything was concerted in advance with the ecclesiastical authorities, and immediately after the baptism both child and nurse disappeared. The story became public property, and protest was aroused in nearly every European country. The English and French governments made representations to the Vatican, but Pius IX., through the medium of the Civilta Callolica, maintained that the question at issue was a spiritual one, outside his temporal jurisdiction. He accordingly declined to take any action, meanwhile indicating the direction of his sympathies by making Mortara his ward. In 1861 the Mortara family induced the Italian government to demand the prosecution of the nurse. The Vatican replied that she had entered a nunnery, and subsequently, on the threat of intervention by Prussia, induced the Mortara family to withdraw their plaint. After the capture of Rome by the Italian troops in 1870 Edgar Mortara had the opportunity of reverting to Judaism, but he refused to do so, and not long afterwards became an Augustinian.

Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)

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