control over the Italian bishops was generally more direct than over the other European episcopacies. This authority had been achieved through the Congregation of the Council in 1564, and through the Congregation of bishops in 1571-72, later (in 1601) the Congregation of bishops and regular clergy. Papal authority was further strengthened through the ruling of Sixtus V in 1585, requiring Italian bishops to make regular ad limina visits to Rome every three years (every four years for bishops of other European countries) and deliver reports in person or via an intermediary on the state of their dioceses.

Despite these efforts, however, the early decades of the seventeenth century revealed substantial weaknesses on the part of both Rome and the Italian bishops, due in large measure to the growing expansion of the regular orders and difficult relations with the Inquisition. This situation would be resolved only slowly during the more secular period of the papacy, beginning with Innocent XI in 1676. The bishops' functions would be particularly extolled during the long pontificate of Benedict XIV (1740-58) who, inspired by the writings of Ludovico Antonio Muratori, sought to spread the model of a prelate who was not only a good diocesan administrator, but also a pastor capable of wise 'moderation' in civil and religious matters.

An anti-papal offensive led by various 'Enlightened' rulers of the peninsula began in the 1760s in Venice, Tuscany, Lombardy, and Naples, an offensive which created a large degree of uncertainty among the bishops, especially after the expulsion of the Jesuits. The most advanced anti-Roman and prostatist episcopalism occurred in Tuscany, with the ecclesiastical reforms of Peter Leopold and of Bishop Scipione de' Ricci of Pistoia and Prato, and with the unsuccessful attempt to create a 'national' church at the Pistoia synod of 1786. At the same time, however, a substantial pro-papal movement was emerging elsewhere within the Italian episcopate. A position in favour ofpon-tifical primacy could be seen, in particular, among the bishops of the Papal States, the Kingdom of Sardinia, the Venetian Republic and the small states of the Po Valley, such as Parma and Modena. After the period of reform, the French Revolution, and the Napoleonic period, this moderate 'Roman' majority would ensure a non-traumatic transformation from the 'Italian churches' of the ancien regime to the Italian church of the nineteenth century.

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