Carmelite Chronicles
Philip II and the General Chapter of 1564

January 8, 2013 |

From the beginning of his reign (1556) the Most Catholic King Philip II of Spain had at heart the reform of the religious orders in his realms. Trent had entrusted the reform of religious orders to their superiors, but Philip had little faith in a solution that had brought so little result in the past.

His plans for the reform of the orders included the Carmelites. From Michael de Carranza, provincial of Aragon, the king learned of the existence of vicars general in the Order – those of the Mantuan and Albi Congregations. He now proposed to the general chapter the permanent appointment by the prior general of a Spaniard as vicar general for Spain with the title and plenipotential powers of reformer.

The institution of a vicar in Spain which such sweeping prerogatives would, as in the case of Mantua and Albi, effectually cut off the prior general from any real influence in Philip’s realm. Rossi managed to refuse the king without alienating him. Spain would have its vicar general, elected by the five provinces (including Portugal), if the prior general did not personally visit the peninsula within two years. To facilitate communication between Rome and Madrid, the chapter appointed a procurator general to the Spanish court, Desiderio Mazzapica, who had been king’s theologian at Trent.

Whatever else is to be said of Philip’s interference in Carmelite affairs, it brought action deferred for centuries. This time, Spain held priority in the itinerary of the prior general. Nevertheless, affairs kept Rossi in Italy until April, 1566.

From The Mirror of Carmel by Joachim Smet, O. Carm.

Fr. Joachim Smet O.Carm.
Fr. Joachim Smet, O.Carm. (1915-2011) was one of the leading historians of the Carmelite Order. In addition to being a founding member and President of the Institutum Carmelitanum in Rome and editor of Carmelus, a journal of Carmelite Studies, Fr. Joachim was a gifted writer. he is well-known for his four-volume work The Carmelites and his Life of Saint Peter Thomas. Among his other works: Familiar Matter of Today-Poems (2007), The Mirror of Carmel: A Brief History of the Carmelite Order, (2011), various publications on Carmelite Nuns, Carmelite Liturgy, Carmelite Libraries of Spain and Portugal and the Carmelites of Medieval England.
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