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Rome Reports

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Leo XIII, a revolutionary pope who changed the Church

Vincenzo Gioacchino Raffaele Luigi Pecci, better known as Leo XIII, was born in the Italian town of Carpineto Romano - 200 years ago on March 2nd 1810. He studied philosophy, theology, ; civil and canon law in Rome and was ordained a priest in 1837.

When he was 33, the pope appointed him Apostolic Nuncio to Belgium. He worked there only three years because King Leopold I was not happy with his support for the local bishops in their struggle against the Liberal Party. He returned to Italy as Bishop of Perugia where he lived 32 years.

After the death of Pius IX in 1878, he was elected pope and he chose the name of Leo XIII.

As Pope he allowed experts and scholars access to the Vatican Archives, which have since then been closed to the general public. He also mediated between Germany and Spain in the conflict of the Caroline Islands. And he wrote the encyclical ?Rerum Novarum?, the Church?s first encyclical focusing on social issues.

Leo XIII was also the first pope to appear in film. ; Walking through the Vatican gardens, as seen in this footage, he wanted to show people he was still healthy to quiet rumours to the contrarty circulating among European leaders.

In 1903, after 25 years as pope, Leo XIII died in Rome. His pontificate is remembered for having changed the course of the Church.