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Home > Mezzofanti > Biography > 1814 to 1817 > Invitation to Rome

Hence the first impulse of this munificent pope was to attach to his own immediate service a scholar who was at once eminent for learning, distinguished by piety, by priestly zeal, and by loyalty in the hour of trial, unstained even by the slightest compromise. The re-construction of the various Roman tribunals and congregations which, during the captivity of the Pope and Cardinals, had been, for the most part, sus¬pended, suggested an opportunity of employing, with marked advantage for the public service, the peculiar talents which seemed almost idly wasted in the obscurity of a provincial capital. The halls and public offices of Rome had been the school or the arena of all the celebrated linguists of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries; and the very constitution of the congregation and college, " De Propaganda Fide. " appeared specially to invite the services of one so eminent in that department. Accordingly, Pius VII. surprised the modest Abate by an invitation to accompany him to Rome, and proposed for his acceptance the important office of the secretaryship of the Propaganda Note 1—one of those so called poste cardinalizie, which constitute the first step in the career towards the cardinalate.

Mezzofanti was deeply affected by this mark of the favour and confidence of his sovereign. Independently, too, of these flattering considerations, and of the advantages of rank and fortune which it involved, the mere residence in Rome, and especially in the Propaganda—the great polyglot centre of the ancient and modern world—had many attractions for a student of language so enthusiastic and indefatigable. It was a proud thought, moreover, to follow in the track of Ubicini, and Giorgi, and Piromalli, and the Assemani's. But his modesty was proof against all these temptations. He shrank from the responsibility which this great office involved;—and, with the every expression of gratitude for so distinguished an honour, he declined to exchange the quiet and seclusion of his life at Bologna, for the more brilliant, but far more anxious position held out for his acceptance at Rome.

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Note 1
See Stolz,"Biografia,"p. 12,Manavit,"Esquisse Historique,"p.34.

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