||Prayer offered up in the synagogues of the Spanish and Portuguese Jews on Adar 1, 5619 in consequence of the approaching departure of Sir Moses and Lady Montefiore on their mission to Rome.
The case of the abduction began on the night of June 23–24, 1858, Edgardo Mortara, aged six years and ten months, son of a Jewish family in Bologna, Italy, was abducted by the papal police and conveyed to Rome where he was taken to the House of Catechumens. A Christian domestic servant had secretly baptized the boy five years before in an irregular fashion, who thought, as she said later, that he was about to die. The parents vainly attempted to get their child back. This flagrant abduction of a minor had many precedents in Italy. The church, moreover, had always maintained that the extemporized baptism of a child who was in danger of death was valid even if it had been carried out against the parents' will. The case caused a universal outcry. Napoleon III was among those who protested against the infringement of religious freedom and parental rights. Sir Moses Montefiore went to Rome in 1859, in the hope of obtaining the child's release. The founding of the Alliance Israelite Universelle in 1860, in order to "defend the civil rights and religious freedom of the Jews," was due partly to this case. Pope Pius IX, however, rejected all petitions submitted to him. In 1860, after the annexation of Bologna to the Italian kingdom, the boy's parents took new steps, again in vain, for the return of the child. With the ending of the pope's secular power in 1870, Edgardo Mortara who had taken the name Pius and in the meantime was a novice in an Augustinian order—was free to return to his family and religion. However, he refused to do so. Mortara, who preached eloquently in six languages, was such an ardent conversionist that he received the title of "apostolic missionary" from Leo XIII. He became canon in Rome and professor of theology. He died at the Abbey of Bouhay near LiIge in Belgium in 1940.