DAILY CATHOLIC    CHRISTMAS-NEW YEAR'S ISSUE     December 24, 1999 - January 2, 2000     vol. 10, no. 245

from a CATHOLIC perspective

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Somewhat Forgotten in Contrast to John XXIII?

        VATICAN CITY, DEC 22 (ZENIT).- Pius IX, the last Pope to hold temporal power, will be beatified in the year 2000. His dramatic reign occured at the time of the birth of the Italian nation, and was marked by serious persecutions by the Freemasons. Nonetheless, he is something of a mysterious figure among the new blessed, overshadowed by the image of the "good Pope," John XXIII.

        Pius IX's cause for beatification was one of the longest and most difficult in Church history. It wus begun under Pius X on February 11, 1907, and was re-launched by Benedict XV, without much success, and later by Pius XI. After the Second World War, the process was re-initiated by Pius XII on December 7, 1954. The cause advanced during Paul VI's pontificate. The collection of the acts of the canonical process (i.e. "positio") was completed, including the analysis of the candidate's life, questioning of the witnesses and evaluations by historians and theologians.

        The decree on the heroic exercise of theological and cardinal virtues was finally promulgated by the Congregation for the Causes of Saints on July 6, 1985, and approved by John Paul II, allowing his proclamation as "Venerable." Among Pius IX's most outstanding virtues were his unconditional love for the Church, his charity, and his high regard for the priesthood and for missionaries. The miracle attributed to Pius IX, which was verified by the Medical Commission on January 15, 1986, and definitively proclaimed on Monday of this week, was the inexplicable cure of a French nun.

        Pius IX, born Giovanni Maria Mastai Ferretti on May 13, 1792 in Senigallia, Italy, was elected Pope on June 16, 1846. His election raised the hopes of patriotic and liberal circles of Catholics; one of his first acts was to promulgate an amnesty for all political prisoners. In addition, he supported several reforms in the Papal States, which included central Italy, and several outlying areas, such as Assisi. During his first two years in the Chair of Peter, he gained a reputation for being a liberal, patriotic, and reforming Pope.

        In April 1848, when it became obvious that International Masonry organizations were supporting attacks, revolutions and disorders against the Papacy and traditionally Catholic nations, Pius IX distanced himself from the more radical Italian patriotic factions. When insurrections broke out in Rome, Pius IX moved to Gaeta; shortly thereafter, in 1849, the Roman Republic was proclaimed in the Eternal City by Giuseppe Mazzini, Carlo Armellini and Aurelio Saffi. Churches were pillaged, and Mazzini seized works of art, which were Church property, to repay British Freemasons the loans that helped to fund the capture of Rome.

        Thanks to the intervention of French troops, the Roman Republic fell and the Pope was able to return to the capital in 1850. But it was at this point that Pius IX began a policy of intransigence ("Non possumus") toward the secular power; the Pope had become the most formidable adversary of Masonry's anti-clerical wing.

        In 1854, Pius IX proclaimed the dogma of the Immaculate Conception and, during Vatican Council I (1869-70), the dogma of papal infallibility. In 1864 he promulgated the encyclical "Quanta Cura," with the "Syllabus" appended -- a list of prohibited doctrines, with which the Church condemned all liberal and Enlightenment thought. With the unification of Italy, the last Pope-King successively lost the regions of Romagna (1859), Umbria and the Marches (1860) and finally Rome itself in 1870, with the taking of the Porta Pia on September 20, marking the end of papal temporal power.

        Since then, Italian Masonry has celebrated its own annual feast on September 20, in memory of the victory against the Church. Throughout his pontificate, Pius IX wrote or approved some 124 documents against the Masons -- 11 encyclicals, 61 brief letters, 33 addresses and allocutions, and documents of various Curial offices. According to Pius IX, all the evils that fell on the Church and society at that time originated in the atheism and scientism of the 17th century, articulated by Freemasonry and upheld by the French Revolution. In the encyclical "Qui Pluribus" (1849), Pius IX wrote about "men linked by an evil union" who corrupt customs and combat faith in God and Christ, postulating naturalism and rationalism and, above all, initiating the conflict between science and faith. Another error attributed to this circle of thinkers was their mythical appreciation of progress in opposition to faith.

        In face of these precise accusations, Masonry reacted with violent scorn. In the first instance, a "Masonic Anti-Council, Freethinkers Assembly" was convoked with the idea of leading an international movement dedicated to the ceaseless persecution of the Vatican. Among the writings that were distributed at this meeting, one stated: "The Anti-Council desires light and truth, science and reason, not blind faith, fanaticism, dogmas, or burning at the stake. Papal infallibility is a heresy. The Roman Catholic religion is a lie; its Kingdom is a crime."

        In this atmosphere of constant belligerence, Pius IX did not lose courage and continued his work of consolidating the Church on the principle of unity. He placed much emphasis on popular spirituality, relations with the saints, especially Mary through the recognition of the apparitions at La Salette and Lourdes. He supported processions, pilgrimages and all popular forms of devotion. In 1870 he established a new way of electing bishops and prelates, chosen no longer from among notables, but among ordinary priests, where pastoral merits were evident. His popularity grew enormously. He was obstinate in his determination not to come to an arrangement with the Italian State.

        Pius IX died on February 7, 1878, but Freemasonry continued to persecute him even after his death. On the night of July 12-13, 1881, his casket was transferred from the Vatican to Rome's Verano cemetery. Masonry organized an irreverent protest, including blasphemies, vulgar and obscene songs, and throwing of stones against the funeral procession, which responded by praying the Rosary, reciting Psalms, the Office of the Dead, and pious ejaculations.

        The protest reached a climax when the funeral procession crossed the Tiber near Castel Sant'Angelo. To the cry, "Death to the Pope! Death to priests!" a group of protesters attempted to throw the corpse into the Tiber. Catholics, however, encircled the Pontiff's remains and managed to overcome the opposition.

        Thus the choir of the Blessed will gain a new voice during the Jubilee year, that of a man of great human depth and a great Pope, champion of the Immaculate Conception and the rights of the Church. ZE99122205

Articles provided through Catholic World News and Church News at Noticias Eclesiales and International Dossiers, Daily Dispatches and Features at ZENIT International News Agency. CWN, NE and ZENIT are not affiliated with the Daily CATHOLIC but provide this service via e-mail to the Daily CATHOLIC Monday through Friday.

December 24, 1999 - January 2, 2000       volume 10, no. 245


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