Giovanni Maria MastaiFerretti, was
born 13 May 1792 in Sinigaglia, Italy, and died in Rome, 7
February 1878. His pontificate lasted from 1846 to 1878. He
received a classical education at the Piarist College in
Volterra, and then went to Rome to study philosophy and theology
(1802-1809). He was forced to leave in 1810 because of political
disturbances, but returned in 1814, where he continued his study
of theology and was ordained priest, 10 April 1819.
In 1823, Pope Pius VII sent him
to Chile as auditor of the Apostolic delegate, Msgr Muzi. On his
return in 1825, he was made canon of Santa Maria in Via Lata and
director of the hospital, San Michele, by Pope Leo XII. In 1827,
the same Pope created him Archbishop of Spoleto.
He saved Spoleto from the ravages
of battle, at a time when northern Italy was subject to Austria.
He persuaded 4000 Italian revolutionaries, who were in retreat
from the Austrians, to lay down their arms, while persuading the
Austrian commander to pardon their rebellion, and obtained the
means for them to return to their homes.
In 1832, Gregory XVI transferred
him Imola, a more important diocese, and created him a cardinal
priest in 1840.
Cardinal Mastai-Ferretti was
loved by the people for his charity, and was thought to favor a
more moderate authority for the Pope over his territories. But
the Papal States would be lost altogether in the nationalistic
wind that blew during his papacy. He was elected to succeed
Gregory XVI, taking the name Pius after his former benefactor,
Pius VII. The new Pope became embroiled in revolutionary
currents which would force his flight from Rome in 1848. He
returned two years later with the help of Napoleon III. Italy
would shortly gain her independence from foreign powers
(Austria, France, Spain), and became a united country, but under
an antipapal government which seized the Papal States, leaving
the Pope only Vatican City.
Not only in Italy, but in
virtually every country, political change was tainted by a false
liberalism that threatened to destroy the very essence of the
Catholic Religion. In response, the Holy Father published his
encyclical Quanta cura, in 1864, in which he condemned
sixteen propositions relating to errors of the age. This
encyclical was accompanied by a Syllabus of errors,
containing eighty propositions previously censured on pantheism,
naturalism, rationalism, indifferentism, socialism, communism,
freemasonry, and various kinds of religious liberalism. In the
face of philosophico-theological currents inimical to
Christianity, he advocated a return to the philosophy and
theology of St. Thomas.
Among the more memorable acts of
his pontificate was his definition, in 1854, of the dogma of the
Immaculate Conception. He also promoted devotion to the Sacred
Heart of Jesus, extended this feast to the whole world, and
consecrated the Catholic world to the Sacred Heart on 16 June
1875. He founded Catholic Action, and promoted the inner life of
the Church by liturgical regulations, monastic reforms, and a
large number of beatifications and canonizations.
On 29 June 1869, he issued the
Bull Aeterni Patris, convoking the First Vatican Council,
which he opened on 8 December 1869. The doctrine of papal
infallibility was defined as dogma in the fourth session, 18
The health and growth of the
Church in his pontificate was largely due to his appointment of
men of piety and learning to important ecclesiastical positions.
In 1850, he restored the Catholic hierarchy to England, erecting
the Archdiocese of Westminster with twelve suffragan Sees, and
in Holland, erecting the Archdiocese of Utrecht and four
suffragan Sees. He created over forty new dioceses in the United
His pontificate, 32 years, was
the longest in history. He is buried in the church of San
Lorenzo at Rome. His process for his beatification was begun in
On the eve of his beatification,
charges of anti-Semitism have been leveled against Pius IX, to
which the Vatican has responded by noting that it was he who
liberated the Jews from their ghetto in Rome, abrogated the
undignified tasks they were forced to carry out, and had their
streets patrolled to protect them from a popular uprising
against the ghetto’s emancipation.
"As priest, bishop, and
Pontiff, the servant of God, seemed to be, and really was, a ‘man
of God’—a man of assiduous prayer who had no other desires
than the glorification of God, the good of the Church, and the
salvation of souls; he sought only to fulfill the will of God,
no matter how great the sufferings he had to endure."
 Archbishop Jose Saraiva
Martins, Prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints,
on the commemoration of the 122nd anniversary of the Pontiff’s