240 years ago in Rome, the Secretary of the Society of Jesus, Fr Comolli, was the first Jesuit to die in captivity Castel Sant'Angelo. He was buried in secret 240 years ago tonight. In a very sad chapter of Jesuit History he was the first of three Jesuits to die in Castel Sant'Angelo at the beginning of the suppression, the third being Fr General Ricci. We have a remarkable historical source for this period - the vice-governor of Castel Sant'Angelo, Major Fillipo Pescatore, kept a detailed diary between October 1773 and June 1775. The purpose of the diary was to keep a council of Cardinals and Monsignori informed of the Jesuits conditions, and also any information and intelligence which might help them in the investigations into the affairs of the Society that followed the Suppresion.
According to this diary, the body of Fr Comolli was taken ' in the fourth hour of the night' to the Gesu for a secret burial. There is some discussion at what time this could refer to, could be 9pm (4 hours after sunset this time of the year in Rome) could be 4am. He wasn't even afforded the dignity of a requiem mass, his body was carried the 2kms under the cover of darkness to the church of the Gesu. The next Jesuit to die in Castel Sant'Angelo was Fr Stefanucci and he was given the dignity of a Funeral Mass and burial - although the story is told that the Carmelites who performed the last rites later appeared at the jail to ask for payment. Sadly and most famously was the death of Fr General Ricci - who was allowed a requiem mass in San Giovanni dei Fiorentini, the then 'national church' for Florence. This was seen as honour for the Florentine Lorenzo Ricci. It is interesting that we can detecting a softening in the political climate towards the Jesuits in the manner of these three burials.
What is especially tragic about the death of Fr General Ricci is that his release had already been decided and advanced negotiations were underway to allow him back to Florence as a 'guest' of the Duke of Florence who would keep a watchful eye on him. Before his incarceration Ricci had been staying at the English College where we are told that he received much consolation hearing the seminarians sing vespers. Too much consolation it seems - as he was soon moved to the much harsher conditions of Sant'Angelo. Previous negotiations to allow him to move to the Carthusian monastery in Rome had broken down leading to his tragic death in captivity. A captivity in which he is alleged to have said - I say and protest that the Society of Jesus did not give any ground warranting its suppression; nor is there any right reason why I should have been put in jail.