This is a continuation of my post on the pontificate of Pope Pius IX and the growth of the Italian Risorgimento. It is not, and cannot be an in-depth study, but I hope that at least, it paints an interesting and reasonably accurate sketch of a Pope and pontificate which had a profound effect on the growth and shape of the Church to come.
In March 1849 when Mazzini entered the Assembly in Rome, he declared, ‘After the Rome of Emperors, after the Rome of the Popes, now we have the Rome of the people …. with a new era arising, which admits neither Christianity nor the old authority.’
The first act of the republican government was to declare all ecclesiastical property to be ‘national property’. While the Constituent Assembly proclaimed freedom of religion and asked the people to pray for a republican victory, there began the occupation of convents, the profanation of churches, and the massacre of priests - the way of all revolutions!
Offers of help to the Pope had come from all over the world, but effective steps could only be taken by France, Austria, Piedmont, or Naples, and political fears and jealousies dictated their actions. The Pope had the sympathy of most European governments, none having accorded diplomatic recognition to the new republican Assembly. Queen Victoria wrote a personal letter to the Pope, the first addressed by any English sovereign to a Pope since the time of Queen Elizabeth the First.
The same month, the Piedmontese army, acting on the militant 'anti-Austria' policy of their government, attacked the Austrian army at Novala, but were heavily defeated, leaving Austria in a dominant position in Northern Italy. Urged on by powerful French Catholic opinion which was genuinely concerned for the Pope's welfare, and by the political desire to anticipate any Austrian intervention in Rome, Louis Napoleon Bonaparte, the French President, authorised the use of French troops to assist the Pope, and on 25 April, General Oudinot and his force landed at Civita Vecchia, reaching Rome five days later.
General Oudinot (1791-1863)
In the meantime Mazzini’s forces, reinforced by Garibaldi and his legionnaires, and the Bersaglieri from Lombardi, had established themselves in Rome, where contrary to expectations, they inflicted a heavy defeat on Oudinot’s army, taking some 400 prisoners. During May and June fierce fighting continued, and the end result remained in the balance until the French government, humiliated by their earlier defeat and determined to restore national honour, sent substantial reinforcements. Garibaldi declared that future resistance was hopeless, and in spite of bitter opposition from Mazzini, the Assembly capitulated on 30 June, was dissolved on 3 July, and on 15 July the pontifical banner was raised on the Castel Sant’Angelo and on the tower of the Campidoglio on the Capitol, accompanied by one hundred and one cannon blasts announcing the re-establishment of the legitimate authority of the Pope. Both Garibaldi and Mazzini avoided capture, Garibaldi withdrawing with his legion before the French entered the city, and Mazzini escaping a short time later to Civita Vecchia.
On 20 April 1849 Pope Pius IX had issued the allocution ‘Quibus Quantisque’, in which he re-iterated the outrages carried out by the republican revolutionaries on himself and the monasteries in the so-called 'name of the people', and he denounced the spoliation of Church property and effects, and the persecution of clergy and religious. He openly condemned the proposition that the Church would benefit from the loss of its temporal power, repudiating the revolution and stating that he would not accept any pre-conditions to his return to Rome.
“Who does not know that the city of Rome, the principal seat of the Catholic Church, has now become a jungle full of quivering animals, full of men of all nations, apostates, heretics, masters - as they say, of Communism or of Socialism? Animated by the most terrible hatred of the Catholic truth, they dedicate themselves, with all their might, whether by the spoken or the written word, or by whatever other means, to the teaching and dissemination of pestilent errors of all kinds, and to the corruption of the hearts and minds of all, with the intention that, in Rome itself - as if this were possible, the Catholic faith will collapse, together with the unchangeable rules of the faith.”.(Quibus Quantisque).
He included details of his requests to Catholic powers for help in fighting the machinations of Freemasonry and the secret societies, and explicitly rejected the calumny, which his enemies had spread, that he had himself been affiliated to the ‘sects of perdition’ which, ‘with our supreme apostolic authority, we condemn, prohibit and forbid.’
When news of the French success in Rome reached Gaeta, the Pope responded with the following message:-
“To our most beloved subjects: from Heaven, God lifted high His arm, and to the tempestuous sea of anarchy and impiety He said: you shall go no further. He guided the Catholic arms to sustain the assaulted rights of humanity, of the belaboured faith, of the Holy See, and of our Sovereign Authority. Eternal praise be to the Lord, who even in the midst of His wrath, forgets not His mercy.”
It was to be nearly a year, 12 April 1850 to be precise, before the Pope returned to Rome amidst great jubilation by the people, where for the next twenty years he was to exercise his dual role as Head of the universal Church and that of Sovereign of the Papal States.
A census taken in 1853 revealed that the Papal States, which covered a surface area of more than 41,000 sq. kilometres, had a population exceeding 3.1 million, which made it the third most populous Italian state, after the kingdoms of Naples and Sardinia.
Pope Pius IX ( from an early photograph) reproduced from e-book 'Italian letters of a diplomats wife' by Mary Waddington (1905)
The conditions for the new Papal government were difficult, for the Republican government had left it bankrupt, and as a matter of urgency a new policy of economic improvement and administrative reform was introduced by the Pope and his Secretary of State, Cardinal Antonelli. Taxes were not increased but over a few years a deficit of more than 2 million scudos was cleared .
A glance at the number of public works achieved over these years is more than sufficient to refute the myth that the Papal States lagged behind the times.
Cardinal Antonelli - reproduced from e-book 'Italian letters of a diplomats wife' by Mary Waddington (1905)
From 1850 onwards, and over the next 20 years, a great number of municipal works were undertaken. These included:- draining the swamps of Ostia and the Pontine marshes; building embankments for all the waterways in the Papal States; improvements to the ports, and lighthouses built at Ancona, Citta Vecchia, Anzio and Terracina ; improving and increasing the railways and main roads with the construction or repair of some twenty viaducts, including the huge one between Albano and Arrichia; modernising the telegraphic services so that by 1860 all the principal towns in the Papal States were inter- connected.
The industrial revolution brought change and development world-wide. The Papal States were no exception, with the creation and development of foundries and mechanical workshops, mills for cotton, silk and wool; paper mills, sugar refineries, machines for husking rice, and industrial plants for processing wood, chemicals and cement, all providing primary materials for a flourishing manufacturing base.
Viaduct between Albano and Arricchia - built by papal government of Pope Pius IX - reproduced from e-book, 'Italian letters of a diplomat's wife' by Mary Waddington (1905)
Charitable and medical services were provided for; the city’s biggest hospital, the Hospital of the Holy Spirit, had 1600 beds, a school for clinical medicine, and even its own Bank.
Whilst the Pope was on his way back to Rome, the first issue of ‘Civilta Cattolica’ was published in Naples. This influential and important journal, written and published by the Jesuits, was published at the Pope’s request and constituted his principle theological support. It made a decisive contribution to the Pope’s drafting of the ‘Syllabus of Errors’(1864), to the organisation of the First Vatican Council in 1870, and to the restoration of Thomist philosophy, which he encouraged.
Significant advances were made in the historical and archeological fields, with the discovery and excavation of ancient Roman and Christian sites.
In January, 1852,the Papal government, together with Florence, Parma, and Modena, was one of the first to introduce postage stamps.
First postage stamp issued by the Papal States 1852
In his unique role as successor of St Peter and spiritual head of the Catholic Church on earth, the work to which Pius IX devoted all his strength, was the struggle against the secularisation of society. Internationally, one of his main weapons was the creation of Concordats, intended to protect the Church and the Faith against the onslaught of Protestantism and secularism. These included concordats with Russia (1847), Tuscany (1851), Spain (1851), Baden (1853), Austria (1855), Portugal (1857), Wurtemberg (1857), and several S.American countries between 1851 and 1863, of which the one signed with Gabriel Moreno, the President of Ecuador, in November 1863, can be considered the most perfect.
His achievements on a national level were substantial and will be considered in our next post.
Nicholas, Cardinal Wiseman - installed Archbishop of Westminster 1850
In similar vein, one of the Pope’s first acts on his return from Gaeta was the re-establishment of the Catholic hierarchy in England with the papal Bull ‘Universalis Ecclesiae’ dated 29 September, 1850. With this, the Pope constituted thirteen dioceses under the authority of the new Archbishop of Westminster, Nicholas Wiseman, who was made a Cardinal at the same time. This first challenge by Pius IX to a Protestant and Freemasonic England which, under the leadership of the trio, Palmerstone, Russell and Gladstone, was to be one of his principal enemies, stands alongside the three great acts of his pontificate: the definition of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception (1854), the proclamation of ‘the Syllabus of Errors’(1864), and the celebration of the First Vatican Council (1870).
(to be continued)
'Pio Nono' by E.E.Y.Hales, published by Eyre & Spottiswood, London, 1954.
'Blessed Pius IX' by Roberto de Mattei, published by Gracewing 2004.
Project Guttenberg - access to e-book 'Italian letters of a diplomat's wife'.