Saturday, 10 November 2012

Bishop Casartelli of Salford

Louis Charles Casartelli, Bishop of Salford
Louis Charles Casertelli was born in the Cheetham area of Manchester on 14 November 1852 the eldest child of Joseph Casartelli, an optician, who had come to England in 1834 from Tavernerio near Lake Como.  Casartelli elder had established a family firm of scientific instrument manufacturers and was a friend of the Manchester physicist James Joule.

Louis was the second child to enroll  at the Salford Catholic Grammar School, where he shone, it being said of him that he 'was as wax to receive and marble to retain'.  He had a particular talent for languages - he is supposed to have set himself to learn Flemish, 'as there was nothing else to do one afternoon'.  By the time he entered the seminary at Ushaw, he was fluent in French, German, Italian, Spanish and Flemish.  At Ushaw he won the Gold Medal for Classics and was awarded an MA degree externally from London University.  He then went on the Catholic University of Louvain where, along with his theological studies, he specialised in Eastern languages.

He was ordained priest by Bishop Vaughan of Salford (later Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster) in September 1876 and was attached to the teaching staff of St Bede's College, Manchester (becoming rector of the college in 1891).  In 1884 he gained a doctorate in Oriental Literature from Louvain.  He lectured at Louvain and Manchester University on Iranian languages and was offered a post at Oxford University (though was prevented from accepting it by the hierarchy).

When he was nominated for the vacant see of Salford in 1903, he wrote to Cardinal Vaughan and traveled to Rome in a futile attempt to decline the post.  During his episcopate confessions went up by over 50%; there were 90 additional priests, 24 new parishes, 14 secondary and central schools and 7 new religious communities.

Cathedral Church of St. John the Evangelist, Salford
He stood out as an intellectual at a time when it was often felt that Catholics came from poorly-educated stock.  Vaughan saw the need for someone of his intellectual ability and vision at a high level in the Church in England. He was founder and president of the Manchester Dante Society and the Manchester Egyptian Association, the president of the Manchester Statistical Society and a supporter many other societies. In 1918 he was elected an Honorary Member of the Royal Asiatic Society.

During the First World War, he worked on the behalf of Belgian and other refugees, and was later instrumental in the rebuilding of the library and collections of the University of Louvain, which had been destroyed during the war.  He was a correspondent of the the Prefect of the Vatican Library, Cardinal Ratti (later Pope Pius XI), hosting his visit to England and introducing him to British academic libraries.

Bishop Casartelli suffered from poor health - he wintered every year at Westcliffe-on-Sea, almost inevitably catching bronchitis.  He died at Bishop's House, Salford, on 18 January 1925 at the age of 73 and is buried in Moston Cemetery, Manchester.

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