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The Beatifications of Pope Pius IX and Pope John XXIII

 
Pope Pius IX
 

HISTORY

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 July 1870.

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 States.

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 1907.

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."[1]

[1] Archbishop Jose Saraiva Martins, Prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, on the commemoration of the 122nd anniversary of the Pontiff’s death.