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Giovanni Mercati (17 December 1866 – 23 August 1957) was an Italian cardinal of the Roman Catholic Church. He served as Archivist of the Vatican Secret Archives and Librarian of the Vatican Library from 1936 until his death, and was elevated to the cardinalate in 1936.
Giovanni Mercati was born in Villa Gaida, Reggio Emilia, to a devout Christian family. He was the second of four brothers, the elder and third brothers were also priests, as was his uncle Giuseppe Mercati, who served as a pastor in Castellarano. Giovanni's father, a veterinarian, was a close friend of the Redemptorists of Madonna dell'Olmo, Montecchio Emilia, and after the closure of the convent in 1859, a sizable portion of its library was placed in the Mercati home.
Mercati studied at the minor seminary of Marola, Reggio Emilia, from 1876 to 1882, earning his licence ginnasiale. He entered the classical Lyceum Spallanzani in 1883, and later the seminary of Reggio Emilia. He was ordained to the priesthood on 21 September 1889, and then furthered his studies in Rome whilst residing at the Pontifical Lambardian Seminary with his brother Angelo (who would later gain fame for editing the official list of popes). During this time, he also frequented the public sessions of Accademia di Conferenze storico-giuridiche, and was admitted to the Vatican Library in February 1890, obtaining a doctorate in the summer of 1891. He attended the Pontifical Gregorian University, whence he obtained his doctorate in theology also in 1891. Mercati then performed his obligatory military service in Florence as soldato di sanità until 1893.
On 9 November 1893, he was elected a doctor of the Ambrosian Library in Milan (where he befriended Achille Ratti), and in October 1898 he was called by Pope Leo XIII to work at the Vatican Library. Mercati was a member of the Historical-Liturgical Commission from 1902 to 1906, and was named a consultor to the Pontifical Commission for Biblical Studies on 31 January 1903. He was raised to the rank of Domestic Prelate of His Holiness on 2 August 1904, and appointed Prefect of the Vatican Library on 23 October 1919. In the summer of 1930, for reasons of personal health, he was relieved of the administrative functions at the Library. Mercati became a protonotary apostolic on 12 January 1936.
Pope Pius XI created him Cardinal-Deacon of S. Giorgio in Velabro in the consistory of 15 June 1936, in advance of his appointment as Librarian and Archivist of the Holy Roman Church three days later, on 18 June. Mercati was one of the cardinal electors who participated in the 1939 papal conclave, which selected Pope Pius XII. During the early years of World War II, the Cardinal was protected and supported by a number of émigré scholars from Germany. From 1951 to 1952, he served as Camerlengo of the Sacred College of Cardinals. A prolific writer and great humanist, he understood Aramaic and the intricacies of racing automobiles and rocketry; he was even called the "most learned prelate to be elevated to the sacred purple" in a century. He was also once quoted as saying, "I'm always ready to learn".
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