Benedict Xiii., Pope

, otherwise Vincenzo Maria Orsini, a Dominican friar, was a native of the kingdom of Naples, and the eldest son of the duke of Grayina. Being of a religious turn of mind from his tender years, he embraced a monastic life among the Dominicans, In 1672, partly by his t’amily influence, he was preferred to the dignity of cardinal, and soon after to the archbishopric of Benevento, but was with the utmost difficulty prevailed upon, to accept of the papal dignity, alleging that he was utterly unacquainted with state affairs, and too old to acquire that | species of knowledge. Being, however, obliged to acquiesce, he began with those measures which corresponded with his previous disposition, and the retired life he had led; reducing the pleasures and pomp of his court, suppressing abuses, and restraining the licentiousness of his clergy. With a view to these changes, he held a provincial synod in the Lateran in 1725, but the Jesuits, of which three were at this time cardinals, highly provoked at his approving the doctrine of the Dominicans, concerning grace and predestination, found means to render all his endeavours ineffectual. On another occasion, he rose above the bigotry of his predecessors, by expressing a wish for the diffusion of scriptural knowledge; and with that, view, he permitted the people in general to peruse the sacred volume, and encouraged the multiplication of copies in the modern languages, which, although it displeased the rigid catholics, was approved by a majority of the members of that church. Benedict, about the same time, testified his devotion to the muses, by publicly decorating Perfetti, a Tuscan poet, with a crown of laurel.

One leading object with him was to unite the four religious communities in Christendom. He proposed that four councils should be held at different places, each consisting of a certain number of representatives of the Romish, Greek, Lutheran, and Calvinist churches; but it is unnecessary to add that this scheme was found impracticable. In all his transactions, however, with the catholic sovereigns of Europe, he endeavoured to operate by a conciliatory temper, and although not always successful, yet the purity of his intentions was visible. It has been said that he was more of a monk than of a pope, by which we may probably understand, that he was more attached to what he conceived to be the genuine interests of the church, than to her political influence. Indefatigable in his apostolical duties, he continued to preach and pray, attended to all pontifical and sacerdotal functions, and directed the conduct of subordinate prelates, and ministers of the church. He frequently visited the poor, and not only gave them spiritual comfort, but relieved them by his bounty, selling for that purpose the presents which he received. He habituated himself to the plainest fare, and lived in the most frugal manner, like a hermit in his cell, that he might more liberally bestow upon others the blessings of fortune. His chief blemish was that easiness of temper, and | reluctance to active business, which led him to suffer cardinal Coscia, an unprincipled Neapolitan, to have the entire management of the government, and would listen to no complaints against him, although Coscia was guilty of the most enormous and notorious extortions. Yet he died, without losing his popularity, Feb. 21, 1730, in the sixth year of his pontificate. His works were published in 3 vols. 1728, fol. under the title of “Opera di Benedetto XIII.1


Bower’s Lives of the Popes.—Dupin.—Walch’s Lives of the Popes.—Mosheim, Eccl. Hist.