Having re-established their community at Pavia, and with the church of Saint Peter in Ciel d'Oro a basilica again in their control, the Augustinians welcomed the Brief of Leo XIII on 14th September 1900 that authorised the return of the remains of St Augustine to Augustinian custody once again.
To commemorate the translation of the remains of Saint Augustine back to their former resting place, Pope Leo XIII wrote a poem. Augustinians scattered throughout the world are perpetually remembered at the tomb of St Augustine by lamps fixed into the balustrade, one placed there and provided for by each province, congregation and major convent of the Order.
Never before in the history of the Order had its members been given so many high positions of honour as during the pontificate of Leo XIII. He raised three Augustinians to the position of cardinal, and appointed many more of them as bishops.
Fr Augustine Ciasca, one of the three to be made cardinal, was an outstanding orientalist of the nineteenth century. He excelled in Scripture, but it was in the study of Oriental languages - Hebrew, Arabic, and Syro-Chaldaic - that he was to find fame.
In 1891 Leo XIII named Fr Ciasca titular Archbishop of Larissa and Legate to the Ruthenian Synod held in Austrian Poland. He also served as Prefect in the Vatican Archives. He was named a Cardinal by the Pope on 19th June 1899.
Fr Ciasca also brought to light the fragments of the Bible in the Borgiano Museum and published these with other Coptic manuscripts.
Fr Luigi Sepiacci, another of the Augustinian Cardinals, was ordained to the priesthood by the then Cardinal-Archbishop of Perugia, Giacomo Pecci, in 1859. Fr Sepiacci remained on terms of close friendship with Leo XIII throughout his life.
The Pope named him his personal representative to the Third Plenary Council of Baltimore in 1883, with Fr Patrick Stanton O.S.A. of St Augustine's Church in Philadelphia as his secretary; but as the Pope's plan was not popular with the American bishops Fr Sepiacci remained in Rome.
Sepiacci was later named the Bishop of Callinico, President of the Roman Academy for Noble Ecclesiastics, Secretary of the Congregation of Bishops and Regulars, and on 14th December 1891 he was named Cardinal, with St Prisca as his titular church. He was noted for his clear thinking and his eloquence.
The final Augustinian Cardinal appointed by Leo XIII (and there have been no Augustinian cardinals thereafter) was Fr Sebastian Martinelli, who earlier while Prior General of the Order had been named Apostolic Delegate to the United States in 1896.
(Continued on the next page.)
Biography of Cardinal Agostino Ciasca O.S.A. He died in 1903, and in 1938 his final resting place became the Church of S. Maria del Popolo in Rome.
Pictures (at right)
Picture 1: Pope Leo XIII
Picture 2: Cardinal Augustine Ciasca O.S.A.
Picture 3: Cardinal Luigi Sepiacci O.S.A.