Abe Silberstein

25 October 2023

The Mortara Case

Marco Bellochio's new film, Kidnapped (Rapito), tells the story of the Mortara case. In 1858, papal officials seized a six-year-old Jewish child from his family in Bologna after learning that he had been secretly baptised as an infant by the household maid. The legally sanctioned kidnapping of Edgardo Mortara was a major source of controversy for the Catholic Church, which the movement for Italian unification leapt on as yet another reason to relieve the pope of his temporal authority. But for the Jewish community and Edgardo’s family, it clarified the condition of Jewish powerlessness. Edgardo was brought up in a seminary in Rome and eventually ordained as a priest. He died in Belgium in 1940, at the age of 88, two months before the Nazi invasion.

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