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Home > Catholic Encyclopedia > C > Alfonso Capecelatro

Alfonso Capecelatro

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Cardinal, Archbishop of Capua, and ecclesiastical writer; b. at Marseilles, 5 Feb., 1824; d. 14 Nov., 1912. He was descended from the family of the dukes of Castel Pagano. His father served with distinction under Murat, adopted the political principles of the Napoleonic period, and voluntarily exiled himself to Malta and Marseilles, when Ferdinand of Naples, after his restoration by the Congress of Laibach, set about the repression of political Liberalism. The family returned to Italy in 1826 and to Naples in 1830. At sixteen Alfonso entered the Oratory of St. Philip Neri at Naples. Ordained priest in 1847, he zealously devoted himself to the confessional, preaching, and various charitable enterprises, without, however, neglecting his ecclesiastical studies, and giving especial attention to ecclesiastical history. He was more particularly drawn to St. Peter Damian, St. Catherine of Siena, St. Philip Neri, and St. Alphonsus Liguori, the great figures who at various times represented religious revival in Italy, and whose biographies he wrote. He refuted Renan's "Life of Christ" then widely circulated in Italy, and afterwards himself published a "Life of Jesus Christ", wherein without entering into details of criticism and polemics, he gathered the results of modern researches on the topography and the contemporary history, customs, usages, and opinions of the Hebrews. He devoted three volumes to an exposition of Catholic doctrine and two to the Christian virtues, and published several volumes of sermons.

Meanwhile he maintained personal relations with various persons, particularly priests and religious at Naples, among them the Franciscan Ludovico da Casovia, whose biography he wrote, and two priests Persico and Casanova, with whom he often discussed methods of catechetical instruction. He corresponded with other Liberal Catholics, among them Manzoni, Cesare Cantù, Dupanloup, and Montalembert. These friendships indicated that he was tending towards "Catholic Liberalism". His own family antecedents better explained both this and Capecelatro's "conciliatorist" tendencies after 1870. These tendencies were not unknown to Leo XIII, who, one year after his elevation to the papacy, summoned the learned Oratorian to Rome, together with Padre Luigi Tosti, and made him assistant librarian, wishing thereby not only to honour a learned man, but also to make use of him for the work of reconciliation which occupied his mind until 1887. In 1880 Capecelatro was appointed Archbishop of Capua. There he passed his life in the administration of his diocese, literary labours, and works of charity. He was made a cardinal by Leo XIII in 1885. In the pastoral letters and other minor works published in the last years of his life he treats the great questions of modern times, especially those relating to public life in Italy. His writings are distinguished by purity and simplicity of style. He received some votes in the conclave of 1903. He had no influence in ecclesiastical politics; but his correspondence will unquestionably supply valuable material for the politico-religious history of Italy in his time. Cardinal Capecelatro, particularly in recent years, was overwhelmed by the course of events and by that Modernist crisis which had long been preparing and so violently burst out in the Church. He remained immured in his old ideal of "God and Liberty", in the old dream of "the pope arm-in-arm with the King of Italy". He did not understand the new movement and the hard lessons which it brought with it. But that did not prevent Pius X from calling him with reason, on the occasion of his cardinalitial jubilee, "a learned theologian, an elegant and prolific writer, a scrupulous hagiographer, and, as a bishop, a tender and compassionate father".

About this page

APA citation. Benigni, U. (1914). Alfonso Capecelatro. In The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: The Encyclopedia Press.

MLA citation. Benigni, Umberto. "Alfonso Capecelatro." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 16 (Index). New York: The Encyclopedia Press, 1914. <>.

Transcription. This article was transcribed for New Advent by Herman F. Holbrook. Reverendo Stuart Antonio Paulo Campbell MacDonald, Presbytero.

Ecclesiastical approbation. Nihil Obstat. March 1, 1914. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York.

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