At the death o f Pius IX, the papacy, if not the church, found itself estranged from ‘modern civilization’ and in conflict with a series o f European powers. Two o f the continent’s most powerful empires, Russia and Germany, had severed their diplomatic intercourse with the Roman pontiff, while the Am er ican republic had suppressed its legation at the Vatican.1 The Vatican was opposed or abandoned by many o f the courts o f Europe, ignored by the uni versities, and ridiculed as hopelessly out o f touch with the times by critics who claimed to speak for the masses. Consequently the task o f the 61-member conclave o f 1878 did not prove easy. The long and storm y pontificate o f Pio N ono (1846-78) had not only seen the church shorn o f its temporal power, but had witnessed conflicts with the kingdom o f Italy over the Roman Ques tion, and with the German empire in the Kulturkampj‘ with ramifications in Austria and Switzerland. Relations with the French republic were little better as the French hierarchy openly cavorted with the monarchical pretenders, pro voking retaliation by the republicans as Leon Gambetta proclaimed clericalism the mortal enemy!