On the Civil Oath in France

Author: Pope Pius VI

CHARITAS (On The Civil Oath In France)

Pope Pius VI

Encyclical promulgated on 13 April 1791.

To Our Beloved Sons, the Cardinals of the Holy Roman Church, to Our Venerable Brothers the Archbishops and Bishops, and to Our Beloved Children the Capitulars, Clergy and People of the Kingdom of France.

Beloved Sons, Venerable Brothers and Beloved Children, We give you greeting and Our Apostolic Blessing.

1. Love, which is patient and kindly, as the Apostle Paul says, supports and endures all things as long as a hope remains that mildness will prevent the growth of incipient errors. But if errors increase daily and reach the point of creating schism, the laws of love itself, together with Our duty, demand that We reveal to the erring their horrible sin and the heavy canonical penalties which they have incurred. For this sternness will lead those who are wandering from the way of truth to recover their senses, reject their errors, and come back to the Church, which opens its arms like a kind mother and embraces them on their return. The rest of the faithful in this way will be quickly delivered from the deceits of false pastors who enter the fold by ways other than the door, and whose only aim is theft, slaughter, and destruction.

2. With these divine precepts in mind, We have just learned of the war against the Catholic religion which has been started by the revolutionary thinkers who as a group form a majority in the National Assembly of France. We have wept in God’s presence, shared Our sorrow with the cardinals, and proclaimed public and private prayers. Then We wrote to King Louis, on July 9, 1790, and repeatedly encouraged him not to confirm the Civil Constitution of the Clergy which would lead his people into error and schism. For it was intolerable that a political assembly should change the universal practice of the Church, disregard the opinions of the holy Fathers and the decrees of the councils, overturn the order of the hierarchy and control the election of bishops, destroy episcopal sees, and introduce a worse form into the Church after removing the better.

3. We sent two briefs on the following day to the archbishops of Bordeaux and Vienne who were with the King, urging them in fatherly fashion to advise the king that if he lent his authority to this Constitution, his kingdom would be in schism; furthermore We would regard any bishops appointed in accordance with its decrees as schismatic and lacking all ecclesiastical jurisdiction. To remove all doubt that Our concern was solely with matters of religion and to silence the enemies of this Apostolic See, We gave orders that the collection of taxes from French revenues should be discontinued, although these taxes were due for Our services from unbroken custom and earlier agreements.

4. The king would certainly have refrained from approving the Constitution, but the National Assembly finally forced him to lend his authority to the Constitution as his letters to Us on July 28, September 6, and December 16 attest. He besought Us insistently to approve five, and later seven, articles at least provisionally. These articles were so similar in tenor that they formed a comprehensive summary of the new Constitution.

5. We saw at once, of course, that We could approve or tolerate none of the articles since they were at variance with canonical regulations. However, We did not want to give Our enemies an opportunity to deceive the nations by claiming that We were opposed to every sort of negotiations: therefore We told the King in Our letter of August 17 that We would consider the articles carefully and consult with the cardinals, who would meet to discuss every aspect of the proposal. After the cardinals had met on September 24 and December 16 to discuss the first two articles, they decided unanimously to request the opinions of the French bishops on these articles in case they could show some canonical reason for approval. Such a reason was not easily imaginable at this distance from France, as We had said earlier in other letters to the King.

6. In the meanwhile, We were greatly consoled when a majority of the French bishops firmly opposed the Constitution and attacked every point in it which referred to the government of the Church. Our consolation was increased when Cardinal Rochefoucauld, the archbishop of Aix, and thirty other archbishops and bishops appealed to Us for assistance in meeting such great dangers. On October 10 they sent an explanation of the main points contained in the Constitution of the Clergy and requested Our help and advice.

We were further consoled because many other bishops joined the thirty in accepting this explanation. Only four out of one hundred and thirty-one bishops dissented. A great number of capitulars and most of the parish priests and lower clergy also joined the bishops. So this explanation, accepted with harmonious unanimity, should be regarded as the teaching of the entire French Church.

7. We Ourselves immediately engaged in the task of examining all the articles of the Constitution. The Assembly, although it heard the unanimous views of the French Church, did not abandon its design, but tried all the more to destroy the firmness of the bishops. But it knew well that none of the metropolitans or the senior bishops would agree to ordain new bishops who were elected in the municipal districts by laity, heretics, unbelievers, and Jews as the published decrees commanded. It also understood that this foolish form of Church government could nowhere survive, for without the bishops the entire appearance of the church would vanish. As a result the Assembly considered publishing other even more foolish decrees, and did so on November 15 and 27, 1790, and January 3, 4, and 26, 1791. These decrees, with the king’s approval, provided that any bishop from a different district could consecrate the elected persons if the metropolitan or senior bishop refused to do so.

Furthermore, to instantly disperse all faithful bishops and parish priests, the decrees provided that all pastors should swear unequivocally that they would observe the Constitution already published and the one which was to be published later. Those who refused were to be considered expelled from their office, and their sees and parishes were to lose their pastor. When the lawful pastors and ministers were driven out, by force if necessary, the municipal districts could set about electing new bishops and parish priests. Upon election these men were to disregard the metropolitans and senior bishops who had refused the oath, and to go to the Assembly Executive which would appoint some bishops to ordain them.

8. These later decrees have immeasurably renewed Our sorrow. Moreover they made it more difficult for Us to send the bishops the answer which We were then preparing, since We then had to take account of these developments.

They caused Us to proclaim public prayers to beseech God for help. New pastoral letters to their flocks were published by the French bishops who had already begun the attack on the Constitution of the Clergy with remarkable astuteness. Now they devoted all their efforts to oppose the provision on the deposition of bishops, the vacating of episcopal sees, and the election and ordination of new bishops. They agreed that these civil oaths should be regarded as perjury and sacrilege, unbefitting not merely the clergy but any Catholic; all actions which are based on these oaths should be seen as schismatic, null, void, and liable to severe censures.

9. These praiseworthy statements of the French clergy have been put into effect. Almost all the bishops and most of the parish priests have refused the oath with unconquerable firmness. The enemies of religion then realized correctly that their vicious plans would come to nothing unless they persuaded some bishop, either by appealing to his ambition or his stupidity, to take the oath to observe the Constitution and to undertake sacrilegious consecrations and so, to initiate a schism. Among those who have been overcome by this wicked deceit the first was Charles bishop of Autun, the greatest enthusiast for the Constitution; second was Jean-Joseph bishop of Lidda; third was Louis bishop of Orleans; fourth, Charles bishop of Viviers; fifth, Cardinal de Lomenie, Archbishop of Sens; and a few wretched pastors of lower rank.

10. As regards Cardinal de Lomenie, he tried to excuse himself for taking the oath in a letter to Us last November 25. He stated that it was not to be regarded as mental assent and claimed that he was quite undecided on the question of ordaining bishops who had been elected. (He had not yet done so.) Since it was most important that none of the bishops should consecrate those elected and so broaden the road to schism, We decided to postpone a little Our answer to the bishops, which was near completion; instead We wrote to the cardinal without delay on February 23. We pointed out to him the error of his opinion in taking the oath, and the canonical penalties which with sadness We would be obliged to apply, stripping him of the rank of Cardinal unless he removed the public scandal by a timely and appropriate retraction.

As to his indecision about ordaining those elected, in answer We commanded him not to ordain new bishops for any reason whatsoever, and so join new rebels to the church. For the right of ordaining bishops-belongs only to the Apostolic See, as the Council of Trent declares; it cannot be assumed by any bishop or metropolitan without obliging Us to declare schismatic both those who ordain and those who are ordained, thus invalidating their future actions.

11. When We had completed this business, We resumed the task of replying to the bishops. This task had become more troublesome and time-consuming because of the many new developments which subsequently affected it. After examining all the articles in order to make clear to everyone that in the judgment of this Holy See, which has been sought by the French bishops and is eagerly awaited by French Catholics, We declared that the new Constitution of the Clergy is composed of principles derived from heresy. It is consequently heretical in many of its decrees and at variance with Catholic teaching. In other decrees it is sacrilegious and schismatic. It overturns the rights and primacy of the Church, is opposed to ancient and modern practice, and is devised and published with the sole design of utterly destroying the Catholic religion. For it is only this religion which cannot be freely professed, whose lawful pastors are removed, and whose property is taken over. Men of other sects are left at liberty and in possession of their property. We pointed all this out clearly, but We stated mildly that We had hitherto refrained from excommunicating the authors of the ill-omened Civil Constitution of the Clergy. It was Our duty, however, to emphasize that We would be obliged against Our will to declare schismatic all who did not reject the errors We had revealed (the customary procedure of this Holy See in these cases). This threat applied to the authors of the Constitution as well as to those who swore to observe it, whether they supervised the election of new bishops, consecrated those who were elected, or accepted this consecration. For none of these would have either a lawful appointment or be in communion with the Church.

12. We are ready to show as much favor to the French people as We can without prejudicing the teaching and universal practice of the Church. Thus We have followed the advice of the Cardinals whom We consulted on this matter, repeating the message which We sent by letter to the King. We have urged the bishops who are living in the midst of these developments to inform Us of any other possible method of action which is not in opposition to Catholic teaching and universal practice, and to submit it for Our consideration. We have mentioned Our intentions to the King and have sent him a copy of Our answer to the bishops. We have also urged him to take the wiser bishops into his counsel in order to apply an appropriate remedy to the disease which derives in part from the royal authorization. Finally We have informed him that out of pastoral duty, We will take the same measures against those who remain obstinate in their error as Our predecessors took when faced with a similar necessity.

13. Our March 10 letters to the King and to the bishops were both entrusted to an express messenger who left early the next day. On the 15th a regular messenger arrived from France, and We learned from many sources that the schism had been completed in Paris on February 24th. For on that day the bishop of Autun, already stained with perjury and guilty of desertion for relinquishing his church into the hands of laymen on his own authority, defied his chapter, by joining with the bishops of Babylon and Lidda. The bishop of Babylon had received the honor of the pallium from Us and temporal aid as well, but he showed that he was a worthy successor of another bishop of Babylon, Dominicus Varlet, notorious for the schism of Utrecht. The bishop of Lidda was also guilty of perjury, and had incurred the hatred and abhorrence of good men for his dissent from the correct teaching of the bishop and chapter of the church at Basel of which he is a suffragan.

So on that day the bishop of Autun, with the assistance of these two bishops, rashly and sacrilegiously consecrated Alois Alexandre Expilly and Claude Eustache Francois Marolles, in a church of the priests of the Oratory without permission of the Ordinary. They had received no commission to do so from the Apostolic See; they omitted the oath of obedience to the Pope; they neglected the examination and confession of faith which are prescribed in the Roman pontifical which should be observed universally; and they broke and despised all laws. They did this even though they must have known that the former candidate had been wrongly elected bishop of Quimper against the serious and repeated objections of the chapter, and that the latter was far more wrongly given as bishop to the church of Soissons since this church has a lawful pastor alive and well, Our venerable brother Henry Joseph Claude de Bourdeilles. He consequently considered that it was his duty to attack violently this great act of profanation and to provide ready help for his diocese. His letter published on the following day, the 25th, attests that he did so.

14. At the same time We learned that the bishop of Lidda had piled sin on top of sin. For on February 27, with the assistance of the new spurious bishops Expilly and Marolles, he rashly and sacrilegiously in the same church consecrated the parish priest Saurine as bishop of Aix, although this flourishing church rejoices in its own bishop, Our venerable brother Charles Auguste Lequien. Perhaps in appreciation of these actions, the bishop of Lidda, Jean Joseph Gobel, was elected archbishop of Paris, while the archbishop there was still living. He is following the example of Ischyras, who was proclaimed bishop of Alexandria at the Council of Tyre as payment for his sinful service in accusing St. Athanasius and ejecting him from his See.

15. This sad and burdensome news overwhelmed Us with sorrow. But uplifted by hope in God, We again summoned the assembly of the Cardinals on March 17 to learn their views on this important development. While We were engaged in consultation with the cardinals on the 21st, another messenger from France brought Us word that the bishop of Laye had grown even more evil. With the assistance of the spurious bishops Expilly and Saurine, he had on the 6th in the same church and with the same sacrilege consecrated as bishop of Beauvais the parish priest Massieu, a deputy of the French Assembly; as bishop of Evreux another deputy, the parish priest Lindet; as bishop of Moulins the parish priest Laurent, also a deputy; and the parish priest Heraudin as bishop of Chateauroux.

They dared to do this, even though the first two of these churches have their own lawful pastors and the other two have not yet been created episcopal sees by Apostolic Authority. The proper view regarding men who allow themselves to be elected and consecrated for churches whose bishops are still governing and administering, was well expressed by St. Leo many years ago. In a letter to Julian, bishop of Cos, (chap. 4), he attacked a certain Theodosius who had occupied the see of Bishop Juvenal while he was still alive. "The nature of the deed leaves no doubt about the character of a man who usurps the place of a bishop in his lifetime. It is perfectly clear that he is wicked, since he is loved by the enemies of the faith."

16. The Church has at all times rightly rejected men elected by a low mob of the laity, men who share the same wrong opinions as their electors. This is abundantly proved by the pastoral letter of "Bishop" Expilly brought by the same messenger. It was published on February 25 to deceive the simple-minded, and obviously aimed at rending the seamless garment of Christ.

This man first mentions the oath (that is, the perjury) he has sworn, and introduces all the principal assertions of the French Constitution which he copies almost word-for- word. In accord with the statements of the Assembly, he attempts to prove that Christian dogma is not affected by this Constitution, while a better form of Church order is introduced which is closer to the purity of early centuries. He states that this is particularly true of the section which restores ecclesiastical elections to the people and consecrations to the metropolitans; but he established his claim only by former decrees of the French Assembly. The better to impress the simple-minded, he mentions his letter to Us of November 18, 1790, as if he enjoyed communion with this Apostolic See. He then addresses the different groups in the diocese and admonishes them all to receive him as their lawful pastor and to embrace the Constitution unreservedly.

17. Woe to the wretch! We purposely pass by matters relating to the civil government, but how rash he was to try to defend a Constitution concerning the affairs of the Church which nearly all the bishops of the French Church and many others of the clergy condemned and rejected as opposed to Church teaching and completely at variance with common practice, especially in regard to the election and consecration of bishops! Not even he could have concealed the evident truth, if he had not carefully avoided any mention of the most recent foolish decrees to come from the Assembly. For alongside other wickedness, these decrees go so far as to give the right of consecrating to any bishop at the discretion of the Assembly Executive.

18. Let this unfortunate man, who has advanced so far along the road to perdition, read Our answer to the French bishops; he will see the truth which he hates shining clear in every article, for at the start We have refuted the amazing errors contained in his letter. Meanwhile let him be aware that he has pronounced sentence on himself. He claims that the one elected must be consecrated by his metropolitan to obtain his lawful title in accordance with the ancient practice deriving from a canon of Nicaea; this right of the metropolitans derives from the right of the Apostolic See. If this is true, then how can Expilly think that he is lawfully and canonically installed since he owes his consecration not to the archbishop of Tours to whom the church of Quimper is suffragan, but to other bishops? For even if these men by their rash sacrilege could confer the rank of bishop on him, they certainly could not give him a jurisdiction which they themselves do not possess in accordance with the practice of every century, since they belong to different provinces. Moreover, this power of giving jurisdiction as a consequence of a new practice established now for several centuries and confirmed by general councils and even by concordats, has returned to its point of origin and does not belong in any way to metropolitans, but resides solely in the Apostolic See. So today the Pope as a duty of his office appoints bishops for each of the churches, and no lawful consecration may take place in the entire Catholic Church without the order of the Apostolic See (Trent, session 24, chap. 1, de Reformat.).

19. His letter to Us, far from relieving his plight, worsens it, and must be called schismatic. For that letter makes a mere pretense of establishing communion with Us, since it does not even mention the confirmation which We must give; it simply informs Us of the unlawful election as provided for in the French decrees. Hence, following the precedent of Our predecessors, We did not consider answering his letter; rather We gave orders that he should be warned to proceed no further, since We expected that he would attempt to do so. The bishop of Rennes indeed, of his own accord, had given him similar warning when he refused him the confirmation which he was insistently asking for.

Therefore, instead of accepting him as their pastor, the people should reject him with abhorrence as an intruder. For he has failed to profess the truth which he must acknowledge; he has begun to put his so-called pastoral duty to bad uses; and lastly he has become so presumptuous as to relax the Lenten observance commanded by the Church, at the end of his pastoral letter. So "he is an imitator of the devil and does not stand firm in the truth, but makes bad use of the appearance and name of the office he has attained," as St. Leo the Great wrote to some Egyptian bishops concerning a similar intruder.

20. From this series of sins schism is being introduced and spread in the kingdom of France, which is so dear to Us and has served religion so well; for the same reason pastors of first and second rank are being everywhere elected as the days go by, legitimate ministers are ejected from their positions, and ravening wolves are put in their place. We are certainly saddened by this sorrowful situation. Therefore to hinder the spread of schism from the start, to recall to their duty those who have strayed, to fortify the good in their purpose, and to preserve religion in that prosperous kingdom, We follow the advice of the Cardinals and answer the prayers of the entire group of bishops of the French church. Imitating the example of Our predecessors, We proclaim that each and every cardinal, archbishop, bishop, abbot, vicar, canon, parish priest, curate and member of the clergy, whether secular or regular, who has purely and simply taken the Civil Oath as ordered by the National Assembly is suspended from the exercise of his office and will act irregularly if he exercises his office unless he abjures his oath within forty days from this date. For the oath is the poisoned source and origin of all errors and the chief cause of the sorrow of the French Catholic church.

21. Furthermore, We declare specifically that the elections of the said Expilly, Marolles, Saurine, Massieu, Lindet, Laurent, Heraudin, and Gobel as Bishops of Quimper, Soissons, Aix, Beauvais, Evreux, Moulins, Chateauroux, and Paris are unlawful, sacrilegious, and utterly void. We rescind, efface, and abrogate them, as well as the recent creation of the so-called dioceses of Moulins, Chateauroux, and others.

22. We similarly declare and decree that their consecrations were sinful, and are illicit, unlawful, sacrilegious, and at variance with the regulations of the sacred canons; since they were rashly and wrongfully elected, they lack all ecclesiastical and spiritual jurisdiction for the guidance of souls, and have been suspended from all exercise of the episcopal office.

23. We declare likewise that Charles, bishop of Autun; Jean-Baptiste, bishop of Babylon; and Jean-Joseph, bishop of Lidda have been suspended from all exercise of their episcopal office as sacrilegious consecrators or assistants; all who gave them help, consent, or counsel at those accursed consecrations have been suspended from the exercise of their priestly, or other, office.

24. We therefore severely forbid the said Expilly and the other wickedly elected and illicitly consecrated men, under this punishment of suspension, to assume episcopal jurisdiction or any other authority for the guidance of souls since they have never received it. They must not grant dimissorial letters for ordinations. Nor must they appoint, depute, or confirm pastors, vicars, missionaries, helpers, functionaries, ministers, or others, whatever their title, for the care of souls and the administration of the Sacraments under any pretext of necessity whatsoever. Nor may they otherwise act, decree, or decide, whether separately or united as a council, on matters which relate to ecclesiastical jurisdiction. For We declare and proclaim publicly that all their dimissorial letters and deputations or confirmations, past and future, as well as all their rash proceedings and their consequences, are utterly void and without force.

25. We also command and prohibit under the same punishment of suspension both the men consecrated and their consecrators from illicitly conferring the sacrament of confirmation or of orders, or exercising in any way the episcopal office from which they have been suspended. Consequently anyone ordained by them should realize that he is suspended and will be guilty of irregularity if he exercises the orders he has received.

26. However to prevent greater evils, We decree and declare by this letter and Our authority that all other elections by the electors of municipal districts to French cathedral and parochial churches, whether vacant or occupied, whether old-established or recently and unlawfully created in accordance with the said Constitution of the Clergy, have been, are, and will be void, unlawful, sacrilegious, and utterly null, and We hereby rescind, efface, and revoke them. We therefore declare that men who have been or will be elected wickedly and wrongfully, whether to cathedral or parochial churches, lack all ecclesiastical and spiritual jurisdiction for the guidance of souls and that bishops who have been or will be illicitly consecrated are suspended from all exercise of their episcopal office; parish priests who have been or are to be invalidly appointed are suspended from their priestly ministry.

Accordingly We prohibit severely both those who have been or are to be elected as bishops from rashly accepting episcopal consecration from any metropolitan or bishop as well as the spurious bishops and their sacrilegious consecrators and all other archbishops and bishops from daring to consecrate on any pretext those who have been or are to be wrongfully elected. Furthermore, We command those who have been or are to be elected, to behave in no way as archbishops, bishops, parish priests, or vicars nor to call themselves by the name of any cathedral or parochial church, nor to assume any jurisdiction, authority, or faculty for the care of souls under the penalty of suspension and invalidity. None of those who have been named can ever be freed from the punishment of suspension, except by Us or by delegates of the Apostolic See.

27. With the greatest possible kindness, We have declared the canonical penalties imposed until the present in order that the evil deeds already accomplished may be corrected and prevented from spreading abroad. We hope in the Lord that the consecrators, the intruders in cathedral and parochial churches, and all the authors and supporters of the published Constitution will recognize their error and return repentant to the fold from which they were seduced by treacherous deceit.

For this reason, We insistently urge them to retire from their ministry, to draw back from the way to perdition on which they are traveling at full speed, and never to allow strange doctrines which are opposed to the teaching of Christ, the tradition of the Fathers, and the law of the Church to be spread among the people by men inspired by the philosophy of the present age. However, if Our mild manner of action and paternal warnings come to nothing-may God prevent this!-they should be aware that We do not intend to spare them those heavier penalties to which they are liable under the canons. They may be quite certain that We will anathematize them and proclaim them as such to the whole Church, since they are schismatic and cut off from communion with the Church and with Us.

For it is very fitting "that as each one chooses to lie in the mud of his own foolishness, so the laws should stay firm, and he should have the same lot as those whose error he has followed," as Leo the Great says in his letter to Julian, bishop of Coensum.

28. We now address you, who with few exceptions know your duty to your flocks, and publicly professed it, disregarding human calculations. You judged that the greatest care and labor should be given to counter the greatest dangers. We apply to you the lavish praise given by Leo the Great to the Egyptian Catholic bishops in Constantinople: "Although I heartily share your loving labors for the observance of the Catholic faith, and I regard the attacks of the heretics on you as attacks on my person, I realize that your invincible constancy by the strength of the Lord Jesus Christ in the evangelical and apostolic teaching is reason for joy rather than for sorrow. And when the enemies of the Christian faith removed you from the sees of the churches, you preferred to endure the evil of travel than to be defiled by any contact with their impiety." Indeed as We consider you, We are consoled and strongly urge you to stand fast in your purpose. To this end, We remind you of the bond of spiritual marriage which unites you to your churches and which only death or Our Apostolic authority can dissolve, according to the provision of the canons. Stay with your churches, then, and never leave them at the bidding of ravening wolves whose plots you have condemned in holy zeal as you unhesitatingly performed the tasks of lawful authority.

29. Next We address you, beloved sons, canons of excellent chapters.

Subject to your archbishops and bishops, as is right, you form one clerical body as limbs which are united with their head, which the civil power is unable to destroy or overthrow. You have won great praise in following the remarkable example of your prelates: never turn aside from the right road, on which you are set, and never allow anyone in false bishop’s garments with a company of subordinates to take possession of your churches. For if the churches are deprived of their bishops, they will be your concern alone, despite all new plots hatched against you. Therefore, united in mind and counsel, keep as far from you as possible all intrusion and schism.

30. We also address you, beloved sons, parish priests and curates, who in great numbers and firm virtue have performed your duty far differently from your colleagues who, overcome by weakness or swept away by the tide of ambition, have gone over to the service of error. We hope that these men will soon return to their duty on receiving Our admonition. Press on bravely with the work you have begun, and bear in mind that the appointment you received from your lawful bishops can be taken from you only by them. Consequently, even if you are removed from your place by the civil power, you will still always be the lawful pastors, in duty bound as far as you are able to keep off the thieves who try to sneak into your place with the sole aim of destroying the souls entrusted to your care, whose salvation you will have to account for.

31. We address you too, beloved sons, priests, and other clergy and ministers of France. Since you have been called to the Lord’s work, you ought to stay close to your lawful pastors and be firm in faith and doctrine. Above all, avoid and condemn the sacrilegious intruders.

32. At length We beseech you all, beloved Catholic children, in the kingdom of France; as you recall the religion and faith of your fathers, We urge you lovingly not to abandon it. For it is the one true religion which both confers eternal life and makes safe and thriving civil societies. Carefully beware of lending your ears to the treacherous speech of the philosophy of this age which leads to death. Keep away from all intruders, whether called archbishops, bishops, or parish priests; do not hold communion with them especially in divine worship. Listen carefully to the message of your lawful pastors who are still living, and who will be put in charge of you later, according to the canons. Finally, in one word, stay close to Us. For no one can be in the Church of Christ without being in unity with its visible head and founded on the See of Peter.

To inspire all to fulfill their duties more ardently, We implore the heavenly Father to send you the Spirit of counsel, truth, and constancy. As a pledge of Our paternal love, beloved sons, venerable brothers and beloved children, We impart to you the Apostolic blessing.

Given at Rome in St. Peter’s under the Ring of the Fisherman on April 13, 1791, in the 17th year of Our pontificate.

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