3 popes spanned the period that covers the suppression and universal restoration of the Society. Today we remember the election of 'the middle one' Cardinal Giovanni Angelo Braschi as Pope Pius VI. In a sign that he was sympathetic to the Society of Jesus he wished to have Fr General Ricci and his assistants released from imprisonment immediately. Charles III of Spain refused and Fr Ricci was to die in captivity and in squalid conditions 10 months later. The Pope was to persist in his desire to release the generals assistants, but in the case of Ricci it was another example of the relative impotency of the papacy at this stage in the face of the Bourbons Powers.
The conclave that elected Braschi as pope is worth commenting on. The atmosphere amongst the cardinal was very different from the previous conclave 6 years before. The Court Cardinals (i.e. the Cardinals who were effectively carrying out the orders of Kings and other national forces) had to moderate their aims. Braschi was the second youngest Cardinal in the Conclave at 58, and kept in the background. He was known for his integrity, a genuine piety, amiability and a practical capacity for getting things done. Born into a noble family, he was educated by the Jesuits in Cesena, and was seen as being very friendly with Society. He was known for speaking his mind and had made no secret of his disapproval about how the Jesuits had been treated. This caused some alarm among the ambassadors who were controlling the Court Cardinals.
However in spite of this he was well thought of in Madrid. In a previous job as auditor to the Cardinal of Velletri he had prevented Spanish papers from falling into the hands of the victorious Austrian army. He had also been sent as a secret agent of Benedict XIV to Naples where he had successfully overseen a dispute between the secular and spiritual courts. Both of these episodes had won the confidence of Charles III of Spain and this was enough to overcome the suspicion of Monino the Spanish Ambassador. He was to show his confidence to the Jesuits by discreetly allowing them to consolidate their position in Russia, without annulling the Brief of Supression.