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Wednesday, 2 April 2014

Pope Pius IX and the Italian Risorgimento - flight to Gaeta 1848

 The principal enemy of Pope Pius IX and the Church, from the 19th century onwards, was a group of doctrines and tendencies which can be grouped under the heading of 'Revolution'.
             "Fundamental difference between 'a revolution' and that which has been called 'the revolution' for a century now, is that 'the revolution' is not just a revolt, it is a revolt elevated into a principle and a doctrine. The character of 'the revolution' is not individual but essentially social, it is the revolt of society as society. From the religious point of view, 'the revolution' can be defined as the legal negation of the reign of Jesus Christ on earth, the social destruction of the Church."  (Mgr de Segur 1820-1881)

Another French writer dear to Pius IX, Mgr Jean-Joseph Gaume, defined 'the revolution' thus: 
           "If, stripping off the mask of  'the revolution', you ask, "Who are you?" she will say,  "I am not who you think I am. Many speak of me but few know me. I am not the Carbonari who conspire in secret, nor the uprising which howls in the streets, nor the change from monarchy to republic, nor the substitution of one dynasty for another, nor the sudden subversion of public order.  I am not the cries of the Jacobins, nor the furore of the Montagnards, nor the fighters on the barricades, nor plunder, nor arson, nor land laws, nor the guillotine, nor the noyades.  I am neither Marat nor Robespierre, nor Babeuf nor Mazzini nor Kossuth. These people are my sons, but I am not they. These are my works but I am not they. These men and these deeds are transitory facts and yet I am a permanent state.  I am the hatred of all religious and social order which man himself has not created, and in which he is not king and God together.  I am the proclamation of the rights of man against the rights of God.  I am the philosophy of rebellion, the politics of rebellion, the religion of rebellion. I am armed negation. I am the foundation of the social and religious state upon the will of man in place of the will of God.
In a word, I am anarchy. Because I am God dethroned and replaced by man, this is why they call me Revolution, that is confusion, because I raise up high that which, according to eternal law, should remain low, and I thrust down low that which should be on high."
(Mgr Jean-Joseph Gaume (1802-1879)

 (Continued from previous post)

The plot for the Pope’s  escape was planned with care, and executed with skill. The master-mind was Bavarian ambassador Charles de Spaur, ably assisted by Filipanni, the Pope’s valet in the Quirinal, and the French ambassador, the Duc d’Harcourt.   Spaur was to take the Pope to Gaeta, about 70 miles from Rome, and at that time within the Kingdom of Naples, from whence a Spanish ship would take him to the Balearic Isles, if he so wished.

  On November 24, 1848, Duc d’Harcourt visited the Pope and spent considerable time in the library, behind closed doors, reading out news in a loud voice, while in reality the Pope was otherwise engaged being dressed by Filippani in the clothes of a simple priest. Filippani then conducted Pius down a secret passage leading to a courtyard where a carriage awaited them, which was then driven to the church of SS. Pietro e Marcellino, where Spaur replaced Filippani. They then drove out past St John Lateran and through the Lateran gate, and made for the Alban hills where the Countess Spaur and her youngest son, and a monk, Liebel, were waiting.
          At Aricia, Countess Spaur and her son, in a large 'Berlin' coach, joined the Count and the Pope, whom they found chatting with an unsuspecting group of Carabinieri. The journey was then continued, with the Count and a servant up beside the driver, and the Pope and the Countess inside, with opposite them the monk and the boy. The Pope later disclosed that he carried on his person, the Blessed Sacrament in the same ciborium used by Pius VI when carried captive by Napoleon into France.

                        Gaeta Castle - residence of Pope Pius IX 1848-50

             Arriving at Gaeta, where they were joined by Cardinal Antonelli, the Pope and his friends could only find accommodation at the ‘Giardinetto Hotel’, a modest establishment where only the Pope had a room to himself. Count Spaur left to take word to King Ferdinand at Naples, while Antonelli with a companion, went off to see the governor of the castle. They were challenged by a German guard as to their identity, but neither was fluent in German, thus immediately arousing suspicion, resulting in the 'Giardinetto Hotel' being placed under police observation. Fortunately King Ferdinand and his suite arrived the following day, and offered the Pope use of the royal palace at Gaeta, which he was pleased to accept.        

           On leaving Rome, the Pope had left a written note accepting full responsibility for his escape and exonerating his personal staff from any blame, explaining that his departure had been necessary in order that he be free to perform the duties of his Pontificate. He directed that the Government be put in the charge of Cardinal Castracane and six others, five of them laymen, which included General Zucchi.
              The Premier Galletti, refused to accept the legality of Castracane’s position,  and with others, set up a Junta on December 12, which published a decree on December 29 calling for a Roman Constituent Assembly, comprising two hundred members, to be elected by direct and universal suffrage, which was to meet at Rome on February 5. Thus was put into effect the doctrine of 'popular sovereignty', the sovereignty of the will of the people, taught by Rousseau, and practised first by the French Revolution in 1792. It was part of the dogma of Mazzini, whose party, through the political clubs, was daily becoming more powerful in Rome.
            The Junta offended many of the moderates, and all except one of the Governors of the Papal States resigned. According to a British naval Commander, Commander Key, in Rome at that time, there existed, 
“a nearly universal desire for the Pope’s return. The feeling now existing against the Constituent, though but little expressed in the provinces from want of union, and in Rome for fear of the troops, is not the less general, and is very evident from the sullenness with which it has been received, and the refusal to join in any rejoicings for its adoption.”
            The Pope’s reply to the proclamation was swift and sweeping, condemning those responsible for the violence, the sacrileges, and the proclamation, as  ......
‘that same gang of madmen which is still tyrannising, with a barbarous despotism, over Rome and the States of the Church’, and excommunicating those leaders of the Risorgimento who had participated in the elections called by the provisional government for the Constituent Assembly in Rome. Furthermore the Pope laid ‘a strict inhibition upon you, of whatever class or condition, against taking any part in any meetings which may audaciously be held for the nominations of persons to be sent to the Assembly we have condemned.”
            The result of this inhibition was reflected in the poll, although in Rome 23,000 out of 60,000 voted, far fewer voted in the provinces. At Sinigaglia, the Pope’s birthplace, only 200 voted out of 27,000.  Overall, apparently the votes cast included some for the Pope, some for the General of the Jesuits, and some for St Peter.
The down-side of the Pope’s condemnation was that loyal Catholics and political moderates were now estranged from government, with the way left open for an influx of Mazzinians.

         The initial meeting was held on February 5, 1849, followed by a second meeting on February 9,  when the Assembly voted  to end  the temporal power of the Pope, and to establish  a ‘pure democracy’ to be called the Republic of Rome. 
         On February 18, Cardinal Antonelli issued from Gaeta, on behalf of the Pope, a formal appeal to France, Austria, Spain and Naples, to intervene to restore the rule of the Supreme Pontiff.

                                                                         Pope Pius IX

 The Catholic powers were slow and reluctant to move, especially as the two most likely to become involved, France and Austria, were at enmity with each other. On the other side, Republicans from all over Italy were pouring into Rome. Garibaldi with his legion, the Polish legion of revolutionaries from Lombardy, the Lombard ‘Bersaglieri’, and other disparate groups, making Rome the rallying place for what would today be called the ‘International Brigade’.
             Garibaldi’s men were mistrusted and feared.  Garibaldi himself had little political sense, and was animated primarily by a fanatical hatred of what he conceived to be tyranny, and of the Church. However he was not an inspirational leader, and for that the Assembly turned to Giuseppe Mazzini, who  on February 12, was granted Roman citizenship, with a further  decree that all  laws and proclamations should be issued ‘in the name of God and the People’ – Mazzini’s own motto.
                                                      Giuseppe Mazzini  (1805-1872)

 By March 29, Mazzini had been elected Triumvir of Rome. The historian Farini, witness to events, records that -
“though the people, of course, continued sovereign, and the Assembly was called sovereign too, the Triumvirs were made sovereigns over both, or rather in fact Mazzini became the autocrat. In the end of March, then, began the absolute sway of Mazzini …. the Roman revolution evolved a new form, or rather took on its preconceived and true form; it became incarnate in Mazzini
    Those who contend that the issue fought out between Mazzini and Pope Pius at Rome in 1849, was not a religious struggle, a struggle between the Church and her enemies, because it was concerned only with the political fate of the Papal States, ignore the attitude of the principal protagonists on either side in the drama. These were the Pope with Antonelli; and Mazzini with Garibaldi.

    The Pope’s refusal to separate the spiritual from the temporal sovereignty,was based on the conviction that the States of the Church were the patrimony of St Peter, the material means given to the Papacy by God to defend its spiritual independence. He was convinced of his religious duty to hand on the patrimony, unweakened, to his successor. 
In his allocution of April 20, 1849, (Quibus Quantisque) issued from Gaeta, he explicitly condemned those who suggested that the abrogation of the temporal power would serve the liberty and good of the Church.

    Equally certainly Mazzini held no merely political view of the contest. For him a political reawakening or revolution assumed a religious significance which he made clear on being chosen as First Triumvir, when he announced that the Roman Republic was,
 “to prove to Italy and to Europe that our cry of ‘God and the People’ is not a lie; that our work is eminently religious, a work of education and morality”
    However, less than a month later, replying to a message of congratulation from the new Republican Assembly at Paris, he wrote, 
‘You citizens, have understood all that is great, noble and providential in this flag of regeneration floating above the city that encircles the Capitol and the Vatican, a new consecration of eternal right; a third world arising upon the ruins of two worlds extinct’. 
 The first of these two extinct worlds was the Roman Empire, and the second was the Catholic Church. 

                                         Flag of the Roman Republic 1849

Mazzini conceived Progress as evidence of God’s working in Humanity.  To him the Mission of Catholicism had been accomplished by the time of the Reformation, that of Protestantism by the time of the French Revolution. The French Revolution had been the supreme affirmation of the free individual human spirit. The Faith of the Future was a collective faith in the destiny of Peoples, freely united as Nations.
     It was a persistent delusion of Mazzini’s that he could win over the priests.  It was not that the clergy were  conservative by inclination,  it was simply that they were Catholic, that Mazzini’s  ‘religion’ made no appeal, and that so far as Rome and the Papal State was concerned, they were quite sure that those lands belonged inalienably to the Church.

                 Abbe Lamennais (1782-1854) - French Catholic priest, one time leader of Liberal-Catholics, separating from the Church late in life.

 Mazzini believed that,
'in our epoch, humanity will forsake the Pope, and have recourse to a General Council of the Church - that is to say of all believers- a council which will be alike, Council of the Church and Constituent Assembly’ (letter to Abbe Lammenais)

    Writing later to an acquaintance, he  criticizes Lamennais for his earlier strong loyalty to the Church, suggesting that if he had not worn himself out in the process, he .... 

‘would have been led by the force of his logic and of his instincts to deny the divinity of Christ and thus to bring back Christ into humanity, and not humanity in to Him; that is the first approach to the Faith of humanity, in which I believe.”
    In the above letter, Mazzini defines the difference between his own revolutionary faith, with its Saint-Simonian,  Carbonari, and Masonic origins, and the Christian revolutionary faith of the Liberal-Catholics of his generation.

                                                     Vincenzo Gioberti   (1801-1852)

 Vincenzo Gioberti, at this time the foremost of  Italian Liberal-Catholics, was born in Turin, and although an ordained priest, had in 1833 resigned as chaplain to  the Piedmontese King, Charles Albert, because his philosophical statements had given rise to doubts about his orthodoxy.  He nevertheless remained loyal to the Church until his death in 1851.

As a young man, his zealous patriotism and his acquaintance with Mazzini and Young Italy’, a new society plotting revolution in Piedmont and the Romagna, led him to be exiled from Italy in 1833, not returning until 1848 when the political situation became more favourable.
Shortly after the Pope’s flight to Gaeta,  Gioberti  became Premier of Sardinia-Piedmont, but his views  on ‘Risorgimento’ had changed. He believed in liberty, but he saw the Church as the surest guarantee of this. He wanted an Italian civilisation emancipated from the arbitrary tyranny of the Princes, and of Austria; but an Italy free from the sovereignty of the People, that notion which Mazzini had inherited from Rousseau. He saw the Church and the Papacy as the ‘chief glory’, almost the ‘raison d’etre’, of Italy, and to them she must look for regeneration. Through the Church, Italy had civilised the west; the Papacy was her richest asset, the closest bond of union between all Italians. If Italy was to become a political reality, it was inevitable that the Pope should take the lead.

He made a desperate attempt to reconcile Pope Pius with the revolutionaries at Rome, hoping to forestall Mazzini and lay the basis for an Italian federation. He sent two envoys to Gaeta to offer the Pope his services, but it was too late.  The Pope had not forgotten that the Piedmontese ambassador had chosen to remain in Rome after he had fled to Gaeta, also that the Piedmontese government had earlier opposed his own plans for an Italian federation. The political instability at Turin created uncertainty, and the request for assistance to those governments trusted by the Pope, and Turin was not included, was already in hand.

Gioberti thus found himself estranged from Mazzini, from the Pope, and from the military party at Turin, and in desperation, in February 1849, endeavoured unsuccessfully to persuade King Charles Albert to back a Piedmontese military intervention in Central Italy. Gioberti was driven as much, if not more by his ideal of a united federal Italy, than by his loyalty to the Pope, although his loyalty to the Church was not in question. Failure forced Gioberti's  resignation, thus ending all hope of a federal Italy with a President-Pope, and all hope of solving the Italian problem in accordance with the tenets of Liberal-Catholicism. 

'Pio Nono' by E.E.Y.Hales.  London 1954 Eyre and Spottiswoode.
'Pius IX' by Roberto de Mattei.  Gracewing Publications

(to be continued) 

Sunday, 9 March 2014

Pope Pius IX and the Italian Risorgimento - baptism of fire 1846-48.

This post concentrates  on the papacy of Pope Pius IX, (21 June 1846 - 7 February 1878),  with the exception of St Peter, the longest reign ever, and surely one of the most complex. It is impracticable to offer anything other than a fairly brief resume of the main events, which of necessity, will be the subject of continuing posts.   I hope that you will find these of interest.

                                                 Immaculate Conception - Rubens
Pope Pius IX was born Giovanni Maria Mastai Ferretti, in Senigallia, Italy, on 12 May, 1792, the son of influential and respected parents, minor nobility, and the youngest of nine children. (In this post he is referred to as Mastai - a family name by which he was commonly known)
He was educated privately up to the age of eleven, when he was sent to the College of St Michael, Volterra, under the strict and high standards of the Piarist Fathers (‘Scolopes’), where he remained until 1809. Religious instruction and practice occupied an important part of the curriculum, with daily Mass and recitation of the Rosary and Litany of the Saints.  Education was planned over a seven year term, with three cycles, 'grammar', 'humanities', and 'rhetoric', which together provided a sound basis in mathematics, science, literature, languages which included Latin and Greek, history and geography. Optional subjects included music, singing, painting, drawing, architecture, and dancing. Mastai learned to play the flute and the cello, and also taught himself French. There were public performances of plays and ballets at the College, also music recitals. Whilst school discipline was strict, it did not consist only in the observance of a detailed rule, but insisted that behaviour was imbued with dignity and poise, stipulating that all should treat each other with the greatest civility, neither must they use nicknames or other improper terms, nor show too much familiarity. A priest was in charge of discipline, assisted by 'prefects' chosen from among the most dependable boys. Mastai was a prefect for several years.

After leaving college in 1809,  he went to Rome to continue his studies with a view to the priesthood,  but was forced to leave when the city fell under the control of Napoleon's troops. He returned to Serraglio and enlisted in the PiusVII Dragoons in which he remained for two years. As a result of an epileptic fit, one of many experienced by him during late adolescence, he was  obliged  to abandon his military career, and interpreting this as God's Will, decided to concentrate on his spiritual advancement. Over a few months, his epileptic condition improved to the extent that he was admitted to the Roman College and Ecclesiastical Academy, and Rome University, to study for the priesthood.

On 10 April 1819, in Rome,  he was ordained to the priesthood, and the next day Easter Sunday, he celebrated his first Mass in the church of Sant'Anna dei Falegnami, annexed to the Ospizio Tata Giovanni, a children's home where over many months, he  had spent many hours instructing the children. In the ensuing years he maintained this apostolate, as well as being in great demand as a preacher for retreats and missions. 
       From July 1823 until November 1825, as 'auditor' he accompanied Mgr Muzzi,  on an Apostolic Mission to Chile, with the third member of the party Don Salusti, as the official 'secretary'. On arrival, they found a new masonic government in power - a result of a 'coup d'etat'. In spite of certain difficulties, the Mission was able to journey throughout Chile, instructing and teaching the Catholic faith, with many confirmations by Mgr Muzzi, assisted by the two priests, who themselves were fully occupied with providing Mass and the Sacraments. Their final departure from Chile saw them travelling overland into Argentina, from whence they eventually set sail for home.
       On his return more than two years later, Mastai was so worn-out by his missionary work in Chile, and exhausted by the long and dangerous journey by sea and land,  that he was ordered by his superiors to take a complete rest. The memories and experience gained however, were to remain with him throughout his life.

On 3 June 1827, he was consecrated Bishop of Spoleto, governing that city during the revolutionary riots of 1831 adopting a successful policy of moderation and peace.

On 17 December 1832 he was moved to the diocese of Imola and was made Cardinal by Pope Gregory XVI.

‘Mastai,’ writes Mgr. Balan,(Italian priest, writer, and historian - contemporary of Mastai) who draws a flattering portrait of him,’ was a man of singular virtue, of great piety and purity, and of a mild and compassionate character. But he was also firm and a great expert in political matters; he had a deep understanding of the sad conditions of our society, he had personal experience of numerous upheavals and of the artfulness of the sects, and he was well versed in ecclesiastical discipline. He was eloquent, sober, temperate, with an attractive personality, kindly, a stranger to any undeserved favour towards his relatives, generous in giving his help and protection, affectionate, of a singularly delicate conscience, and he had a great devotion to the Virgin Mary. But in very stormy times he became Pope.’

                               Pope Pius IX (1846) - year he was elected Pope

Pope Pius IX was consecrated on 21 June 1846, followed by celebrations and public acclamations that went on into the night in the city of Rome. ‘People are always careful, to separate the Pontiff from the man; however everywhere people shouted “Long live Pius IX!” and nowhere did they shout “Long live the Pope!” (Viscount d’Arlincourt - Charles Victor Prevot, French novelist) 

The personality of the new Pontiff, whose fundamental traits of goodness and candour could seem like weakness and naivety; the reformist tendencies of his own family; the fact that he had been elected Pope in preference to the intransigent Cardinal Lambruschini, Secretary of State to Gregory XVI; combined with his first public acts as Pope; could lead people to think that the time had come when the Church and the Revolution would be reconciled.

His first action was to grant an amnesty to 400 political prisoners and exiles, the victims of the strict anti-liberal policy of his predecessor Pope Gregory XVI, who were granted  pardons simply by signing a declaration of loyalty. As far as Pope was concerned his gesture of clemency had no political implications, but in fact the amnesty proved to be the spark which was to set the whole of Italy and much of Europe alight, it was the beginning of a collective madness in public opinion, partly spontaneous and partly artificially created, which came to a head in the European revolutions of 1848. 
“We will use the physical tears of the families and the physical of exile, to make out of the amnesty a popular weapon. We will always ask for it, happy to obtain it as late as possible, but we will ask for it with a loud voice” (Nubius, head of the Alta Vendita  ‘political’ club)

It is not difficult to find in the part which was artificially created, the cause of the ‘collective madness of public opinion’ which from July 1846 to July 1848 was to create, around the name of Pius IX, the myth of a ‘liberal Pope’. This myth was in reality the fruit of a ‘systematic exploitation’ of the Pope’s initiative, and its purpose was to bring about the historic ‘embrace’ between the Church and the principles of the French Revolution.

‘The positive and conscious acts of the Pope were manipulated by means of  public agitation and of those who directed it taking advantage of Pius IX’s concessions, magnifying them in order to change their significance and keeping up constant pressure to obtain new ones  …….. The Risorgimento (the revolutionary movement for the unification of Italy) was directed against the Pope but it could not say so openly: for this reason, some believing Catholics contributed to it and even participated in it.’(Salvatorelli - Italian historian, 1886-1974)

                               Pope Pius IX - painting by Theodor Breidwiser
The public demonstrations supporting the new  Pope were so enthusiastic that the Pope himself was both surprised and disturbed, and he asked the people to show restraint. Although he was not against civic progress, he was totally against the breaking-up of the Papal States and Italian unification, preferring the concept of a federation of States with the Pope as President. In spite of his protestations, he was acclaimed as a reformist and ‘liberal’ prince symbolizing and supporting the aims of  the Italian Risorgimento.
‘The Roman Pontiff who for a long time had been the object of rancour, of spite, of anger and of the fury of evil men, became in Pius IX the delight and love of all peoples, the idol of Catholics, the wish of Protestants, and the object of admiration of Muslims’(Aubert)

On 15 March 1847 he granted freedom to the press on administrative and political matters. The main purpose of this was to minimise the problem of a clandestine press, but in practice it had the opposite effect, with an increase in clandestine publications provoking demonstrations and anti-government protests, 
‘The government was irresolute, the censor incapable of putting a brake on excesses, and the Press largely in the hands of the radicals’ (Giacomo Martina SJ - Professor of Ecclesiastical History at the Gregorian University, Rome) (late 20th century)

On 5th July the Pope created the Civic Guard, composed of Italian citizens resident in Rome between the ages of 21 and 60, divided into fourteen battalions, corresponding to the fourteen rioni or boroughs of Rome. On its coat of arms, Religion and Liberty were depicted extending to one another one hand, while holding a crucifix in the other. Cardinal Gizzi, the Pope’s Secretary of State, opposed the creation of the Civic Guard, protesting , 
‘If Your Holiness puts arms into the hands of the people, you will become the laughing stock of the multitude.  And when Your Holiness becomes tired of the excess demands of the people, you will meet resistance and you will be hounded out of Rome with the very same guns which you are now giving the people for their defence. Since I do not wish to be responsible for the consequences of such an act, I prefer to resign.’

His resignation aroused great concern throughout Europe. In the words of Metternich, the Austrian Chancellor, 
‘The resignation offered by Cardinal Gizzi, and accepted, can only be considered as a phase in the drama which unfolds daily in the Papal States - an eminently serious drama of which only Providence knows the conclusion. What has happened in the Papal States is a revolution – masked as a reform’


                                        Prince Metternich - Austrian Chancellor

On 1st October 1847, in a Motu Proprio, the Pope instituted the Municipal Council and the Senate of Rome, and on 14 October he created the Council of State, something which had previously been rejected by Pope Gregory XVI. The College of Cardinals became the Senate of the new regime, while two legislative bodies were instituted, the High Council and the Council of Deputies. Bills required the sanction of the Pope to become law. 
'The Council of State was regarded as ‘a social revolution, which is no superficial matter but instead an attack on the very foundations. It is the fulfillment of the celebrations and cheers of the crowd, of the tears and the joys and the fraternal embraces’(Sterbini – leader of the Risorgimento in Rome).

The revolutionaries’ goal was to transform the Council of State from a consultative body into a genuine parliamentary legislature. Metternich predicted the inherent dangers of this new organisation, observing that 
‘the Council of State contains the germ of a representative system which is as incompatible with the sovereign authority of the head of the Catholic Church as it is with its constitution.’
The Council of State led to the formation of a government composed of nine ministers which placed its authority alongside that of the Pope. The government was chaired by Cardinal  Ferretti, who within six months had resigned when he realised that he could not control the situation.

On 23 February 1848, with the fall of the monarch Louis Phillipe, and revolution in Paris spreading  to Vienna, Berlin, Frankfurt, Milan, Parma and Venice,  the Communist Manifesto was published in London by Marx and Engels, commissioned by the so-called ‘League of the Just’.

On 13 March, Prince Metternich resigned as Austrian Chancellor.
In various Italian States, liberal constitutions were proclaimed, and on 14 March the Pope conceded the ‘Fundamental Statute for the Temporal Government of the States of the Church’. There was widespread enthusiasm in the streets, 
‘this is not a revolution, it is a political and social cataclysm. The Pope and the Pope alone may perhaps be able not only to save himself, but also to become a moderating force over the events' (Massimo D'Azeglio  (1798-1866)- Italian statesman, novelist and painter.)

When the day of the opening of Parliament came, less than a quorum (49 out of 100 deputies) turned up. The whole situation was artificial, for neither the Pope nor his ministers nor the deputies had any real knowledge as to how this new political system worked, and there was  little sense of mutual responsibility.  The effective power now rested on the one hand with the Pope, and on the other with the ‘political’ clubs of the Risorgimento, and victory depended upon which could control the populace, and in particular which had the support of the new Civic Guard.

On July 19, Mamiani resigned as premier, and the Pope concluded that the only thing to do was to appoint the one powerful and able man in Rome, Count Rossi, to succeed him. Rossi was yet another revolutionary who over the previous 33 years had been involved in various political movements in Italy, Switzerland and France, culminating in his role as French ambassador to Rome in 1846. Despite his reputation as a free-thinker, and his marriage to a Protestant wife, he became a close friend of the Pope. With the revolution in Paris in February 1848, he ceased to be the French ambassador, but chose to remain in Rome.

                                                    Pellegrino Rossi - murdered 1848
Rossi was a realist, contemptuous alike of the conspirators in the political clubs and of the politicians in the chambers, and he determined to take the necessary practical steps to save the Papal State, which was falling into chaos. The most urgent need was to enforce order, and Rossi appointed a veteran of the Napoleonic wars, Zucchi, in charge of the disorganised and demoralised Papal army, under whose leadership the rule of law was noticeably re-established. Particularly effective was the decision to disarm all those who were not members of the Civic Guard, a decision not calculated to make him popular, as neither was the Napoleonic discipline which he imposed on the army.

Political confusion was not confined to Rome; the future of all the Italian States was in the melting pot, as indeed was the future of Italy. But Rossi had a policy for Italy as well as for Rome, based on the policy of the Pope and Vincenzo Gioberti, Italian priest, philosopher and politician, which was aimed at a federation of States with the Pope as President. The liberal-minded religious philosopher Antonio Rosmini, lent his support to this plan, but at the critical moment a newly elected Turin government determined not upon federation, but upon an offensive alliance against Austria, with which the Pope would have nothing to do. Rosmini resigned his mission rather than pursue the war-mongering policies of Turin, and  remained in Rome.

Turin demanded a kingdom in the north which could never be part of a federation, but would dominate the whole peninsular, to the real apprehension of every other Italian State. Had Rossi been able, as he and the Pope both hoped and intended, to proclaim from Rome the summoning of a Constituent Assembly, comprising official representatives of the Italian states, to draw up the constitution of the new Italian Confederation, it is possible that the ground would have been cut from under the feet of the revolutionary republican ‘fusionist’ party of Mazzini, and that Pope Pius IX would never have subsequently been forced to flee from Rome.

By the end of June 1847, the tone of public demonstrations had become ominous, with the mob leaders determined to win the Civic Guard, and the Pope becoming disillusioned and depressed. His initial popular appeal in Rome was fading, and physically he was described as having aged ten years since his accession a year previously. A crisis was reached on December 27, 1847, when he was presented with thirty-five miscellaneous demands, some verging on the insolent. As a result the Pope decided that the giant demonstrations which the political ‘clubs’ were organising for News Year’s Day should be called off, with troops confined to barracks and the officers of the Civic Guard kept at their quarters.  As it happened the Pope decided to drive out through the streets the next afternoon, as a conciliatory gesture to his many devotees, resulting in his carriage being stopped and surrounded by a vast cheering crowd, causing the Pope real distress.

The note of menace behind the enthusiasm, with such banners as ‘Justice, Holy Father, for your people which is on your side’; ‘Down with the Police’; and ‘Death to the Jesuits’; mingling with the Vivas; fanatical faces in the poor Trastevere quarters, staring into his carriage; revealing their fear that he, the hero of the populace, was weakening.

This dangerous mob pressure increased monthly during the year 1848. Public disappointment because the Pope would not lead the war against Austria, frustration and job-hunting in the Assembly, the notion that somehow the ordinary people had been tricked and cheated by the Jesuits outspoken in their criticism of the 'risogormenti', of an utopian social transformation, combined to make the political clubs even more powerful. It must be remembered that Mazzinian schemes for the summoning of popular constituent assemblies to unite Italy on a democratic basis were being implemented elsewhere in the autumn of ’48, with Florence taking the lead with extremists gaining control.

                                                         Pope Pius IX - in later years

If Rossi’s plans for preserving the Princes and federating the existing constitutional governments were allowed to prevail at Rome, the popular uprising everywhere would be checked. Not surprisingly he had many enemies. Nevertheless, in spite of threats to his life, he attended the opening of the Chamber at the Palace of the Cancellaria on November 15th, where, in the courtyard immediately after alighting from his carriage, he was attacked by a group of men – ostensibly a ‘guard of honour’, receiving fatal stab wounds in his throat and dying within a few minutes. The onlookers began to fraternise with the Carabinieri, and it was clear that this was the beginning of a revolution which had been carefully planned. From now on all decent and moderate reformers were estranged from the leaders of the movement. The Dutch ambassador to Rome, de Liedekerke, a Protestant, a constant critic of the Papal government but an admirer of the Pope, in a letter dated 24 November, wrote, ‘I think that never has a Sovereign, so worthy of the love and devotion of his subjects of all classes, found himself so basely and so completely abandoned as at the present time.’

The Pope reacted quickly, appointing a new Premier in the person of Montanari. This had little effect for by midnight his cabinet had all resigned having discovered that the Carabinieri and the soldiers were both siding with the revolution. The ‘Clubs’ controlled by Sterbini, himself strongly suspected of involvement in Rossi’s murder, intended a giant demonstration for the next morning, when they were to demand:-

1) the summoning of a Constituent Assembly to Rome, 
2) the proclamation of Italian nationality, 
3) authority for the Chamber to declare war, 
4) separation of the spiritual and temporal powers i.e. the end of the Papal State, and 
5) the adoption of Mazzini’s programme.

The Pope had no intention of agreeing, and anticipating the demonstration, summoned representatives from the Chamber and the Council to be with him early the next day. A vast crowd was on its way up to the Quirinal, the Civic Guard and the Carabinieri had thrown in their lot with them, and the Papal troops were fraternising. 
Inside the palace there were only one hundred Swiss Guards, with the Pope joined by Cardinal Antonelli, Bishop Palma, and a few priests and courtiers, and the ambassadors of France, Spain, Bavaria, Portugal, Russia, Holland, Brazil, Belgium and Prussia. The crowd made their five demands, which the Pope flatly refused. They then rushed off to arm themselves, and within an hour there were some six thousand armed men in the piazza. Shots were fired and Bishop Palma was shot dead at his window. The Civic Guard brought up a field gun, and the Pope made his formal protest to the ambassadors, 
‘I protest before you all against the force which is being used towards me; and I wish to say that do what they will, I do not consent.’

Finally the Pope was forced to accept a Cabinet, but regarding the five demands he would only agree that they be discussed in the Chamber, thus postponing the matter. The crowd regarded their victory as complete, and departed. The next day saw the disbanding of the Swiss Guards and the installing of the Civic Guards in the Quirinal.

                                                         Cardinal Antonelli

The Pope was now a prisoner under constant surveillance by the Civic Guards. He was accompanied by his loyal Under-Secretary of State, Cardinal Antonelli, a source of encouragement  and strength. It had become useless and indeed harmful for the Pope to remain in Rome, he could do nothing to help his friends, and he would be compelled to put his signature to the five point program, which his conscience would not allow. The stage was set, and the plot for his escape was planned with care, and executed with skill………………….. (To be continued)

Ack. 'Pio Nono' by E.E.Y.Hales.  London1954 Eyre and Spottiswoode.
         'Pius IX' by Roberto de Mattei.  Gracewing Publications
         'Pope Pius IX. The Man and the Myth' by Yves Chiron.
Angelus Press. 


'Herod was delighted to see Jesus Christ in his court; he hoped that Our Lord would perform some miracles in his presence. Hence he proposed many questions to Him, but Jesus remained silent and gave no answer, thus reproving the vain curiosity of the haughty ruler. Miserable the soul to whom the Lord speaks no longer!'
(Thoughts from St Alphonsus)

Monday, 27 January 2014

'Mary, Mother of God and mother of mercy, pray for us and for the faithful departed'

This post is taken from the writing of  Rev. James McNally, who in his book ‘Make Way for Mary’, explores the Gospels of the Sundays of the year, emphasising  the role of Mary in guiding us along the path to her divine Son. 

 Mary will walk to Confession with us.  (3rd Sunday after Epiphany)

    ‘When the Son of God came down upon this earth, He was sent by His eternal Father for a purpose. God’s friendship with man had been lost, and readjustment was necessary.  Man did not incur the penalty of abandonment, for God promised him a Redeemer.  In God’s favoring design the Redeemer appeared.  He came in the form of a Child, like any man.  But His Mother was a virgin.  That made Him different.  Had Jesus Christ been just a human child, the very fact that He was born of Mary would have made Him greater than all other offspring.  His Mother had been the confidante of God the Holy Spirit.
    For thirty years Christ lived a private life, in play, in work, in prayer.  Then rose the sun of just another day and, out from the tender influence of Mary, Jesus came preaching the Gospel of the Kingdom of God.  Magnetically He moved among men, and persuasively called twelve of them to follow Him.
    No more were they to spend their time in worldliness.  Their lives were dedicated now to Jesus and His teachings.  In time they would assume His work, and carry on when He would leave.  Sin had left its scar upon the brightness of creation, and they were the physicians who must heal that scar.  Friendship between God and man was severed in the lanes of Paradise; they were the ones who must regain that friendship.  Through three turbulent and thrilling years Christ trained them for the work which they would do, and then He gave them power – a power that could strike the core of heaven, and have God confirm their every act!  A power that could raise man from a level that means death, to a parapet so high that heaven is its consequence!  Yes, the twelve apostles could regain the friendship lost, and heal the scar, for Christ had breathed on them the Holy Spirit.  He gave them power yet unheard of, when He said, “Whose sins you shall forgive, they are forgiven them; and whose sins you shall retain, they are retained.”
    In the Gospel we read of a leper whose leprosy was cleansed.  Leprosy is a loathsome disease, and is repellent.  But so is sin to God, to Mary and the saints.  We cannot stand the presence or the sight of leprosy, and so we isolate its cases.  But Jesus bears the sight of sin, and even frees us from it.  “Go, show thyself to the priest,” Jesus said to the leper, and Christ still says the same to us today who have contracted the malady of sin.
    Jesus is God and could forgive sin.  This He very definitely proved with a miracle, when He healed the man sick of the palsy.  The Jews, who admitted that God could forgive sin but did not accept Christ as God, were witnesses to this miracle.  Yet even then the Jews would not recognise His claim to divinity.
    There is a difference between conviction and conversion!  Now this power of forgiveness Christ conferred upon His apostles.  Else what other meaning to the words, “Whose sins you shall forgive, they are forgiven them; and whose sins you shall retain they are retained”?  If Christ, when He used these words, did not mean what He said, then why say them?  If He did mean what He said, then to what purpose the power, if men could ignore it?

 The last General Absolution of the Munsters at the Rue du Bois  1915  (from the original painting by  Fortunino Matania)

"At this place (or site) on the evening of Saturday 8 May 1915
The 2nd Royal Munster Fusiliers, commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Victor Rickard
Received from its chaplain the Reverend Father Gleeson
A final absolution
Before entering the battle of the Aubers heights

Where Colonel Rickard met his death with a great number of his men.
Let us remember them in our prayers"


The term  confession  has nearly always been a stumbling block to our friends who are not Catholics. To them it denotes distasteful, dire things.  It seems to them unnatural, this laying bare a soul unto a man.  We can appreciate their attitude.  Centuries of isolation from Saint Peter have taken their toll.
    To Peter and the other apostles was given the power to forgive sins or to retain them;  and when so many in Christendom determined to ignore Peter, they were forced also to ignore the sacrament of mercy.  Today the Sacrament of Penance has assumed immense, inimical proportions to those outside the body of the Church of Christ.  That which was disdainfully cast aside in the mad scramble to escape from Peter’s authority has now become a main obstacle in a return to Peter’s guidance.  We Catholics agree that confession is not the easiest task at times; but we do know with a vivid faith that annihilation of the guilt of sin is worth its price in mere humiliation .
    Is it really to a man that divulgence of our sins is made? Well, we Catholics know the answer.  Jesus, even in today’s Gospel, draws a definite distinction between the priest and other men.  “See thou tell no-one, but go show thyself to the priest.”  The priest was once himself a little boy, just like other little boys;  but along the way of life God touched the heart, and the heart of the boy was never the same any more.  The boy went on through years and grew to manhood;  and through those years he was apart from men,  living in the crucible of discipline and prayer, imbibing knowledge at the feet of present day apostles, learning how to love with all his heart a Lady from the realm of heaven.
    The Lady charmed him with her nearness and her beauty;  she whispered in his soul at chapel prayer; she greeted him each day at dawn’s awakening, and watched him hold her rosary in his hand at night; she walked with him through seminary corridors, and stayed with him for solace in the shelter of his room; she led him up to God each morning, and through that God made him fall all the more in love with her.  The Blessed Virgin told him how Christ loved the sinner, and how he must do the same;  told him never to be unkind to sinners, although from the pulpit he should condemn the sin.  The Virgin told him how very weak was human nature, and how even the cedars of Lebanon could fall;  and she reminded him to be gentle even as she was in the days when she had to mingle with a Thomas who would not believe, and a Judas who would betray.  The Virgin told him that he took the place of God, and that what was done on earth by him would be ratified in heaven.

'I am not only the Queen of Heaven, but also the Mother of Mercy'

That is why today we can take hope and courage. “Go, show yourself to the priest.”  There is nothing that he will not understand, for the Virgin Mary has told him everything already.  True, he may be tired, sometimes irritated, even at times somewhat harsh. But he will understand and will forgive. The Blessed Mother will see to that.  And, after all, forgiveness is the important thing.  Sometimes we may be at home, and quite disturbed.  It may be during the hours of our business day, and we are quite disturbed. It may be during play and innocent amusement, but we are still disturbed.  Disturbed because perhaps we are away from God, and somehow the fear of returning almost shuts our mind to reason!  We forget that Jesus is a God of mercy,  and that He will remain that God of mercy until the end of time. Mary knows the fear that can upset our soul.  She knows the perturbation that may shatter our relationship with Christ.  If confession is difficult, just ask the Virgin, and she will walk to the door of the confessional with us.’

Ack. ‘Make Way for Mary’ by Rev James McNally.
Published by Joseph Wagner, New York. 1950. (Imp. Francis Cardinal Spellman).   


'Mary, Mother of God and mother of mercy, pray for us and for the faithful departed'

Monday, 30 December 2013


                     Adoration of the Magi - Pieter Bruegel (1525-1569)

‘A cold coming we had of it,
Just the worst time of the year
For a journey, and such a long journey:
The ways deep and the weather sharp,
The very dead of winter.’
And the camels galled, sore-footed and refractory,
Lying down in the melted snow.
There were times we regretted
The summer palaces on slopes, the terraces,
And the silken girls bringing sherbet.
Then the camel men cursing and grumbling
And running away, and wanting their liquor and women,
And the night-fires going out, and the lack of shelters,
And the cities hostile and the towns unfriendly
And the villages dirty and charging high prices:
A hard time we had of it.
At the end we preferred to travel all night,
With the voices singing in our ears, saying
That this was all folly.

Then at dawn we came down to a temperate valley,
Wet, below the snow line, smelling of vegetation;
With a running stream and a water-mill beating the darkness,
And three trees on the low sky,
And an old white horse galloped away in the meadow.
Then we came to a tavern with vine-leaves over the lintel,
Six hands at an open door dicing for pieces of silver,
And feet kicking the empty wine-skins.
But there was no information, and so we continued
And arrived at evening, not a moment too soon
Finding the place; it was (you may say) satisfactory.

All this was a long time ago, I remember,
And I would do it again, but set down
This set down
This: were we led all that way for
Birth or Death? There was a Birth, certainly,
We had evidence and no doubt. I had seen birth and death,
But had thought they were different; this Birth was
Hard and bitter agony for us, like Death, our death.
We returned to our places, these Kingdoms,
But no longer at ease here, in the old dispensation,
With an alien people clutching their gods.
I should be glad of another death.

                              'Journey of the Magi'  - T. S. ELIOT (1927)


'Thou canst not apprehend that Jesus Christ will stretch out His hands to chastise thee, since His Mother is occupied in swathing them in linen bands.'

Thoughts from St Alphonsus.


'Wishing one and all a very happy and blessed New Year'