It is the 6th of November 2020. Welcome to the Christian History Almanac brought to you by 1517 at 1517.org. I'm Dan van Voorhis.
The year was 1876.
It was the year of the first centennial of the United States of America. If you remember 1976 and the country's bicentennial, it might cloud your ability to see the celebrations 100 years earlier.
Unlike 1976 when America had established itself as a superpower, in 1876, things were a lot less sure for the country still smarting from her devastating Civil War just a few years earlier. In 1876 the future of the country was very much an open question. The presidential election of that year is considered to be amongst the most corrupt. Not since the corrupt bargain of 1828 had a presidential election so soured the idea of democracy amongst Americans. Rutherford B. Hayes lost the popular vote to Samuel Tilden, and Hayes only took the Electoral college when southern congressmen threw him enough electoral votes on the condition that he remove federal troops from the south and put an end to Reconstruction. You'll excuse the lack of flag-waving, even on the country's 100th anniversary. There was, however, a World's Fair in Pennsylvania marking the event, and it was at that event the world was introduced to the world's first Monorail, Bell's Telephone, a portable bathtub, sugary popcorn, and Heinz Tomato Ketchup.
The consolidation of countries and kingdoms was one of the hallmarks of the 19th century. While not yet a superpower, the United States showed the world a blueprint for uniting disparate regions and climates for the whole country's mutual benefit. Of course, the English blood in the new Americans may have been showing. The 19th century was the high watermark of the British Empire, at least in terms of Geography. It was in 1876 that Queen Victoria was officially given the title "Empress of India." The British Empire would grow famously such that it could be claimed that the "sun never set" on it. In 1876 King Leopold of Belgium was scheming with his newly formed International African Association. The scramble for Africa by the leading European parties was on.
The century is known for the German states' consolidation into something that resembles the modern state of Germany today. In Italy, the Risorgimento brought together the forever, and famously, warring Italian states. Of course, uniting Italy under a secular ruler would not be welcomed by Rome and the Papal States. The battle between the secular and sacred on the Italian peninsula was a long-running battle. And one of the chief architects of the counter-Risorgimento, Cardinal Giacomo Antonelli, died on this, the 6th of November in 1876. One of the last "lay" cardinals, Antonelli, would be one of the premier power players for the Papal States as they navigated the century of unification.
The Papal States, of course, go back centuries. After the fall of the Roman Empire, the church would establish itself as the peninsula's powerhouse. One sacred city has ruffled the feathers of many non-Romans, which would be the grounds for several controversies. The states famously claimed that they had the right to the area on account of being given the land by Constantine the Great himself. The so-called "Donation of Constantine" by which the Roman church laid claim to the area was later discovered to be a forgery. Furthermore, the papacy had spent time outside of Rome during various schisms and temporal scuffles. It was often the Machiavellian machinations of church Bureaucrats that allowed for the so-called eternal city to remain for at least the near future.
Giacomo Antonelli was one such man. He was never ordained as a priest, making him an outlier, but his service to the church was inestimable. After 1848 and the inclusion of a democratic constitution for the Papal States, a "premier" was appointed to take care of temporal affairs. It would become a dicey job with one of Antonelli's successors being assassinated in 1848. This led to a short exile for the Pope and Antonelli, as Rome and the Vatican were under siege. Antonelli and the Pope made it back to the Vatican in 1850, and Antonelli was named "Secretary of State." By 1870 the Risorgimento was gaining steam, and Rome had fallen in line with the others. Antonelli and the Pope remained in control of the church from the Vatican. Antonelli would be instrumental in maneuvering to have the Vatican recognized as a state. This would happen in 1929. more than 50 years after the death of the Vatican's secretary of State Giacomo Antonelli, who died on this, the 6th of November in 1876.
The reading for today comes from William Gadsby, "Approach, My Soul, the Mercy Seat."
Approach, my soul, the mercy seat,
Where Jesus answers prayer;
There humbly fall before his feet,
For none can perish there.
Thy promise is my only plea;
With this I venture nigh;
Thou callest burdened souls to thee,
And such, O Lord am I.
Bowed down beneath a load of sin,
By Satan sorely pressed,
By war without and fears within,
I come to thee for rest.
Be thou my shield and hiding place,
That, sheltered near thy side,
I may my fierce accuser face,
And tell him thou hast died.
O wondrous love! To bleed and die,
To bear the cross and shame,
That guilty sinners, such as I,
Might plead thy gracious name.
Poor tempest-tossed soul, be still;
My promised grace receive;
I'll work in thee both power and will;
Thou shalt in me believe.
This has been the Christian History Almanac for the 6th of November 2020 brought to you by 1517 at 1517.org. The show is produced by a man who has sold monorails to Brockway, Ogdenville, and North Haverbrook, Christopher Gillespie. The show is written and read by Dan van Voorhis. You can catch us here every day. Remember that the rumors of grace, forgiveness, and the redemption of all things are true. Everything is going to be ok.