Pageant of the Popes, by John Farrow, , at sacred-texts.com
The Austrian monarch desired that the new pontiff (Pius VII) should come to Vienna but Pius, flanked and fortified by his friend Consalvi, was determined he should take possession of his rightful capital, which at this time was garrisoned by the soldiery of the King of Naples and under the command of Sir John Acton, a Catholic Englishman.
[paragraph continues] The pope arrived in Rome during the hot summer of 1800 and as usual the citizens were profuse with their cheers and noisy acclamations. They thought this new sovereign a fine-looking fellow. He was handsome and did not look his sixty years. He had a reputation for generosity and tolerance and it seemed as though a happy reign might be commencing. A treaty was made with the Neapolitans and quickly the pontiff set about putting the affairs of his small territory in order although at the same time an anxious eye was turned to the North; for once again Bonaparte, audaciously dragging his cannon across the Alps, had defeated the Austrians, this time at Marengo. What would be the outcome of these continual French victories? Would there be a vaster and more terrible persecution of the Church? The pious trembled and all men wondered. Happily the answer was not long in coming. Bonaparte became First Consul, the supreme director of the French destiny, and in surveying his position his keen vision detected the plain fact that the structure of a tranquil and successful State is incomplete without religion. "I am aware that in no State," he said to the amazement of the Parisians, "can a man be truly virtuous and upright unless he knows whence he comes and whither he is going. Unaided reason cannot tell us these things. Without religion, we grope in the dark. But the Catholic faith throws a clear light upon the origin and the destiny of human beings."
The astonishment of Paris at the words of its Master can be readily imagined. The streets, the cafés, the salons, were agog, for this was the city which so recently had spawned the crimes and the obscenities of the Terror. Its churches still carried the stains of defilement and plunder and the great and ribald feasts which had celebrated the triumph of Reason over Superstition were a
close memory even to the youngest citizens. The Voltairian tradition set the conduct and moulded the standards of its schools, and did not the God haters of the world regard the city by the Seine as their capital? Now had come the shock. The Church was to return. The Mass was to go on. And it was the command of a man who was supreme, whose will could not be thwarted.
The new attitude was not a simple matter of faith. By now the grand ambitions held the Corsican, and Charlemagne's majestic pattern gave the size to his dreams. Superb strategist and soldier that he was he knew the value of the weapons at his disposal. And that was the meaning of the papacy to him, a weapon at his disposal, an instrument to be used when and how he pleased. "Catholicism kept the pope in being for me," he declared later, "and in view of my grip upon Italy, I continued to hope that sooner or later I should be able to bend him to my will. What immense influence I should then wield! What a means to have at my disposal in my dealings with Europe!"
No time was to be lost. The whole affair, plan and execution, was conducted with the usual speed of a Bonaparte campaign. The invitation was sent to Rome, a Legate hurried back and then it was Consalvi who came. He was ushered to the great man's presence by the limping apostate bishop Talleyrand, and there was much rattling of drums and clanging of arms by the Guards. Bonaparte had surrounded himself with a glittering array of uniformed councillors and functionaries and it was thus, already an Emperor in manner and bearing, that he received the cardinal. This man who had intimidated all Europe had made elaborate preparations to impress his scarlet-clad guest but as Emil Ludwig remarks of the occasion: "The shrewdest of worldly sages can find his master in the Vatican. When the consul wishes to browbeat him, the prince
of the Church smilingly stands his ground. What a spectacle for Talleyrand, who looks on in silence!"
After the first meeting an agreement gradually took shape and the grand attempt to achieve harmony between the Church and the Bonaparte regime resulted in the Concordat of 1802. Concessions had to be made by the Holy See but much was also gained. The seals were affixed and the signatures inscribed and a great ceremony of thanksgiving was arranged to be held in Notre Dame. The First Consul ordered his court, for it was that already, to attend. "We are going to Mass today," he said to his brother with a chuckle. "What will Paris say to that!"
Discord with the Holy See was not long in developing. It could not be otherwise with such a man, who insisted on being the Dictator in all things and who would not admit that the authority or office of any man or institution could counter his will. There were violations of the recent concordat and encroachments of privilege and protests. But before the final rupture the Pope, at the earnest behest of the warrior, came to Paris to officiate at the coronation service; for Napoleon now wished to wear the Imperial title. In Rome there had been a spirited discussion amongst the members of the Sacred College as to whether the invitation should be accepted or not and when, in the interests of peace, it was decided he should go several cardinals registered vigorous protests.
"Tu es Petrus" sung a large and superbly trained choir as the Pope went to his throne in the Cathedral of Notre Dame. A splendid sight of massed brilliance met his eye and outside the tall walls of the great edifice a light snowfall touched the usually grimy gargoyles with a glistening whiteness. An ocean of densely packed citizens darkened the boulevards and impatiently fidgeted and grumbled as they waited to glimpse Napoleon and his Josephine.
[paragraph continues] The Pope, the Ambassadors, the high functionaries of State, they waited and fidgeted too and it was a part of the proud Corsican's plan that they should do so. Everything was as he wished and timed to his plan; but it had very nearly not been so for soon after his arrival in Paris the pontiff, rather bewildered and half convinced already that he was being duped, had heard from Josephine herself that her marriage was invalid and that she had not been married by a priest. Pius listened gravely and saw that here was his chance to escape further indignity. He could not be expected to preside at the Coronation of such a pair.
So the Pope voiced his objection and waited the fury but from that man whose actions were so unpredictable there was merely a shrug and smile. The matter could easily be rectified. Candles were lit in the palace chapel. The Emperor's uncle, Cardinal Fesch, was summoned and a marriage enacted. The Coronation itself followed an elaborate plan and one bold piece of the glittering scheme was to startle the world. The solemn moment had come when the Emperor was to receive the Crown but instead of bending his knee before the Pope the audacious creature seized the anointed circlet and turning to the congregation and standing erect placed it firmly on his head. He had crowned himself. There was a murmur and excitement even amongst his puppets and all eyes turned to the Pontiff who said nothing and whose sad eyes showed no surprise. There was no movement or protest from his throne. Silent and pale and aloof his was the role of an onlooker of a masquerade but there came the time when he had to give the kiss of peace. "Vivat Imperator in Eternum," he said softly as he followed the ritual and his blessing was a gesture of compassion. In a loud voice the Emperor recited the oath of his office, swearing to protect
the State and respect Religion. But there was little hope in the heart of the Pope.
His apprehensions were soon fulfilled for next year Napoleon had a request to make and a story to tell of his brother, Jerome, later to be King of Westphalia, whom he had put in a ship to acquire the benefits of discipline and to learn the art of sextant and sail. Midshipman Jerome had crossed the seas and landing at Baltimore had immediately struck his flag to a local Miss Patterson. There was a quick marriage, there were hopes of a family, and when the Emperor heard of the alliance there was anger and trouble. He had loftier plans for his kin and the bride was not allowed to land in France. Once ashore her husband, set to calculation by his brother's bright promises, was ungallantly content that the separation should be permanent. The next step was to have the Pope dissolve the union by declaring it invalid; but Pius, after a careful scrutiny of the facts, was of the opinion that the marriage was indisputably correct and in a polite but firm epistle so informed the Emperor.
The breach was to widen still further when Pius refused to cooperate in Napoleon's Continental System, which aimed to close all European ports to English ships and trade. This was too much opposition for the despot who had already written "Your Holiness is sovereign of Rome, but I am its Emperor. All my enemies must be yours." In the bivouac on the outskirts of Vienna it was decided to annex the Papal States. The maps were consulted and the instructions given. The bugles sounded, troops marched to a schedule arranged by undeniable genius, and on the sixth of July, 1809, the Pope was informed by a French general that his dominion had been taken and that he was no longer free. It was as simple as that. Soldiers rushed him to a carriage, he was whirled
away from Rome and conveyed to Savona in a manner painful to his age and health. The long way was made easier by the inhabitants of the countryside who tendered impromptu demonstrations of respect and devotion. But to these spontaneous displays the illustrious captive had but one message. Peace. There must be no bloodshed over his fate or person, that was his chief concern, and it was his victory.
There now commenced an ingenious campaign to bend the will of the Pope and to win him to the wishes of the Emperor. Continually it was emphasized that the measures taken against him had been levelled at his status as a temporal sovereign and then only because emergency had so demanded. Naught but reverence would ever be accorded the true Holy Father was the Imperial promise. An annuity of two million francs was settled upon him and a great show of respect to his rank and person was made by all in attendance, although no deference in speech or manner could disguise the fact that they were guards and he a prisoner. From the waking hours until the depths of the night there was always a persuasive voice ready to extol the Emperor's wisdom, to tell of his incomparable martial abilities, and to dwell on the great benefits that would gladden the world if Pope and Emperor would work together. This kind of propaganda was ceaseless but perhaps the most dangerous aspect of the papal captivity was his ignorance of what was happening in Rome. He was shut off from his counsellors and from his documents and any information that came to him was passed through the censor and flavored by the filter of his captor's opinion. Some prelates and churchmen were allowed to see him but they were all creatures of the Regime and to a man they pleaded the cause and talents of their master.
Twenty-seven French bishoprics were now vacant and
the ecclesiastical henchmen of Napoleon strenuously endeavored to receive from Pius his approval of the Imperial nominees and thus assure them of canonical investiture. But the old man remained firm in his refusal. Napoleon then convened a National Council and ordered the attending bishops to pass a resolution which would pronounce the papal approval unnecessary; but there were demurs and resistance to the proposal and because of unconcealed indignation and opposition some wearers of the mitre were arrested. It was not the way of the Emperor to let matters rest at such a stage. The churchmen were ordered to meet again and this time it was proposed that a metropolitan or senior bishop of a province could bestow in the name of the Pope canonical investiture after a see had been vacant for six months. The assemblage passed the measure but only on condition that it be approved by the Pope. Eight prelates of Napoleon's choosing waited on Pius and begged him in the interests of the Church in France to give his endorsement. Long and persistent persuasion had its effect this time and finally, after making a few changes, the Pope, now a very ill man, succumbed to the entreaties and gave his seal. But the proud and impatient nature of the Dictator was not satisfied. The victory was neither clear cut nor quick enough for him. And with his talent for sensing the thoughts and sympathies of the people he was conscious of a growing distaste on all sides at the treatment accorded the pontiff. He determined to settle the affair himself and he ordered that the Pope be brought to Fontainbleau.
But by the time the ailing old man arrived the exigencies of war demanded the Emperor should be with the Army. This time the march was to Moscow and the tragedy of that vain campaign with its long and corpse-strewn retreat was soon to startle the world. But the terrible energies
of its author were not yet stemmed nor had his ambitions dwindled. A new army must be trained. New battles must be fought. The Empire must and should survive. And while a fresh crop of lads were hurriedly bent to martial ways and more cannon beaten into shape the Emperor came to Fontainbleau to achieve a victory of a different kind. A great lethargy, the inevitable penalty of a long illness combined with the toll of age and despair, enveloped the Pope at this time and it was with but little interest or spirit of any kind that he received his visitor.
Napoleon made a great display of devotion and respect, talked in excited tones of the glory of a united Christendom, swore that his sword was at the service of the papacy. At first the old man heard these things without emotion or understanding but gradually the more extravagant phrases seemed to penetrate his torpor. A faint spark lit his weary eyes when the Emperor artfully talked of peace between State and Church, a peace that would be translated everywhere. The magnetic voice went on, painting in pleasing words great schemes of justice and charity and there came the time when a document appeared before the pontiff and a pen was held to his trembling fingers. His signature was traced while the jubilant voice of the Dictator filled the room with majestic promises. Napoleon could well afford to rejoice for by that tremulous scrawl Pius VII had agreed the papacy should henceforth be resident in France and that the Papal States should remain the property of his captors.
But it was a victory too preposterous ever to achieve the status of fact. Many of the restrictions surrounding the person of the pontiff were now removed and fortunately he was permitted to receive his cardinals. They emerged from their various places of detention with melancholy
faces and lost no time in telling him what he had done. A great anguish was his reaction to their woeful recital and the pangs of this emotion imbued him with the fire of a new spirit of opposition. Quickly the Emperor was informed that the papal signature was withdrawn and that an agreement made under such dubious conditions must be considered null and void. The reply to the pronouncement was awaited with calmness but also with apprehension. Tempestuous measures were certainly to be expected but they were never realized, for fortune was forsaking the Corsican on all sides now, and there were more desperate and bloodier combats to engage his energies and presence. Calamity was clouding his every horizon and his genius was being challenged as never before. There was no purpose to be gained in keeping the Pope a prisoner any longer and in fact the presence of so august a captive in his territories might make circumstances even more adverse. Gloomily he decided to allow Pius to return to Rome and in his letter to Prince Eugene telling him of the decision, he pathetically clings to the pompous magnanimity and dignity of his fast ebbing power. "I have given orders," he wrote, "that the Pope be sent to the Austrian outposts by way of Piacenza and Parma. I have made known to the Pope that, having asked, as Bishop of Rome, that he return to his diocese, I have permitted him to do so. Be careful, then not to pledge yourself to anything relative to the Pope, either as to recognizing him or as to not recognizing him."
After nearly five years of absence the Pope entered Rome and both he and the cardinals received a tremendous welcome. There were many things to do and the tangled reins of government and administration had to be gathered in order; but there could be little stability to any enterprises of a civic or national character until it
was certain that the era of Napoleon had definitely ended. His abdication had been proclaimed and he had gone to little Elba, apparently resigned to the emptiness of the title which he had been allowed to retain. But who could be confident that the proud and restless spirit was really broken? There were rumors and conjectures and within ten months the world was electrified but hardly surprised by the news that the Emperor was making another grasp at glory. The restored Bourbon monarch, Louis XVIII, ensconced in the Tuileries, was handed a sealed dispatch. He read it and calmly said, "Napoleon Bonaparte has disembarked on the coast of Provence!" His calmness was admirable but it soon vanished along with his royal person and once again it was Napoleon who occupied the Tuileries. A splendid and happy moment it was for the great soldier but it was only a moment, fleeting and brief. His destiny was not to be revealed in the halls of palaces but on the battlefield. This time the baton pointed at Waterloo and this time he was to hear the cry that he had boasted no man would ever hear. "The Guard is breaking!" Those proud veterans did break and there was rout and massacre and Waterloo was over. Napoleon's day was over too, utterly and inexorably, and there remained for him only the bitter and dismal end at St. Helena.
All Europe rejoiced and prepared for the comforts of long denied tranquillity as an English frigate carried the forlorn and beaten Emperor south to the lonely island. But much havoc had been done and many boundaries had been changed and these things demanded immediate adjustment and reparation. Could there be a complete return to the status quo of yesterday? The men who were given this complicated problem were a shrewd and brilliant company. There was Metternich of the Austrian Empire. There was Hardenburg of Prussia. Nesselrode represented
the idealistic Czar of Russia, Alexander I, when that monarch did not act for himself, and the wily Talleyrand served the new French sovereign with the same glib fidelity he had given to Napoleon. England had the ability of Castlereagh and the reputation of the Duke of Wellington to serve her interest and there were men of equal wit to speak for the smaller nations. Representing the Holy See in the long and complicated negotiations was the long standing friend of the Pope the Cardinal Consalvi, and all things considered, he did well. Except for Avignon which remained under the French flag and a small strip of land retained by Austria, the Papal States were restored to their pre-Napoleonic size.
The rapid changing of fortune had brought Pope Pius better health and an increased vigour and well it was for there was much for him to do both within and without his frontiers. One of his first deeds was an act of long awaited justice. By formal announcement the Suppression of the Society of Jesus was revoked. Separate Concordats were made with the various nations and each of these processes demanded long discussion and study. The national Colleges in Rome were restored and the Congregations were set in full motion again. Institutions and laws which had been established by the Napoleonic regime and which had proven successful were wisely retained and with superb charity it was the Pope who gave a gracious and dignified asylum to the mother of the Corsican and to other members of his family. He bore no malice towards Napoleon and in fact pleaded with the British Government that gentler treatment should be given the famous prisoner. He bore no malice and proved his forgiveness but he never forgot the dark days of his own captivity. When he died at the age of eighty-four during the late summer of 1823 his last words, ejaculated in the
Pius VII. Reigned 1800 to 1823.
Click to enlarge
Pope Pius VII
This is the man from whom Napoleon took the crown. See pages 317 to 329.
accents of the final agony, were Savona! Fontainbleau!
The great and significant changes in society which were taking shape during the American and French Revolutions were a disturbing factor in the thoughts of this generation. Men, whether they were aristocrat or peasant, merchant or intellectual, when gathered for discussion were usually sharply divided into two opinions. Either sympathy for the new ideas as in some form or a determined rejection of liberalism under any guise. So it was with the Cardinals when they met in the Sistine Chapel to select a successor to Pius, and it was the conservatives who were in the majority. After three weeks their candidate, the Cardinal Severoli, was about to be declared pontiff, but a veto from the Austrian monarch prevented his elevation. Acting quickly before another such missive could be received he and his party produced the necessary ballots in favor of Annibale della Genga, the Cardinal-Vicar of Rome, who was genuinely horrified at the swift swing of circumstances which thrust the honor to him. He protested his inadequacy and pleaded his ill-health with tears but to no avail. He was made Pope and with reluctance and apprehension he took the name of Leo XII.
There was cause for his honestly expressed lack of confidence, for his health was indeed bad and while he was a good man his record as prelate and diplomat was devoid of outstanding achievement or success in any form. He was one of those correct characters who all their lives eschew gaiety of any kind: even in adolescence they adopt the more sombre moods of their seniors and studiously avoid the light hearted joys, however innocent, of their comrades. At sixty-three, his age at his election, he seemed much more ancient, and in place of the alert and progressive Consalvi, he installed an eighty-year-old
crony as the Secretary of State. The two dour and sickly old men held conference and decided that the best way to fight the evils of liberalism would be the imposition of austerity and severity. The most stringent and extraordinary regulations were put into effect and spies were set to report their observance. The sale of wine was restricted in the Papal States and a great gloom descended upon the traditionally festive taverns of Rome. The strictness of the Pope even disapproved of the realism of historic works of art and much to the general indignation he caused some of the ancient ornaments to be removed from the public gaze and in others ordered a covering to be put over the anatomical portions he deemed offensive. An intense unpopularity was of course the result of such harsh tactics but Leo XII cared little for the opinion of his subjects as long as he was convinced duty was being followed.
Unrest and dissatisfaction became prevalent throughout his domain and membership rapidly increased in the forbidden secret societies whose aims were revolutionary in character even though anarchy might be the sinister cost. He expired, this unloved Pope, in the sixth year of his reign because of clumsy surgery and this time the liberal cardinals succeeded in winning the tiara for their candidate, the popular Cardinal-Bishop of Frascati, Francis-Xavier Castiglione. The new pope had enjoyed the favor of Pius VII and in his honor he chose to be called Pius VIII. He was popular and with his accession a more gentle and sensible application of the laws was immediately perceptible, but he was also seventy years old and his health was no better than that of his predecessor. Most of his problems and decisions were therefore passed to the jurisdiction of his Secretary of State. The Holy See, so desperately in need of a vigorous and energetic leadership, had once again been failed by the cardinals.
The happiest news of this reign, and certainly not of the Pope's making, was the Catholic Emancipation Act of Great Britain which brought a newer and wider freedom in the practice of their religion to the Catholics of that kingdom who hitherto had been harassed by unjust legal restrictions. Less gratifying and significant of the current mood everywhere was the report from France that once again the forces of Revolution had triumphed in that country and although the disorder was less bloody than before, the legitimist king, Charles X, was replaced by a constitutional monarch, Louis Philippe. This news was encouragement to radicals in the Papal States and through the well-organized activities of their secret societies a violent campaign of noisy objection and resistance to legitimate authority now began. There were open skirmishes with the police. There were loud demands for a united Italy and a new form of government, and of course there were the usual cries and promises of Liberty and Equality. In 1830, Pius VIII died. But even though the poison and violence of rebellion seethed on their every side it took the cardinals seven weeks before they could name a successor to Pius VIII. He was a cardinal but not yet a bishop and he was from the ranks of the ancient congregation known as Camaldolese monks. His name as a cardinal and a monk was Dom Mauro Cappellari and as pontiff, Gregory XVI. He was sixty-three years of age and had been a successful abbot and canonist. He had won considerable renown as a scholar and theologian but proportionate distinction was not to be his as a pope. The situation to greet him was alarming and the future was a promise of even worse. Active revolution broke out as he took his throne and he was forced to accept the help of Austria. Regiments came and steel was bared until there was a semblance of order; but the parade of a foreign soldiery
within a state is no healthy antidote for trouble and faces remained sullen and conspirators continued to meet and plot. The obnoxious doctrines of the extremists found audiences of increased size because there were undoubtedly some reasons for grievances amongst the people. They were exasperated at being ruled by the priesthood in all things, for in the papal territories few laymen held important offices or were allowed to sit in the grand councils. Rule of the most absolute type prevailed although almost every other nation had seen fit to make concessions of some form to the advancing spirit, diluted and perverted though it might be, of what was called democracy. The Pope, who once had written a work entitled The triumph of the Church against the Assaults of Innovators, and the old men around him refused to bow in any way to the popular and prevailing trend. It was their opinion that chaos and confusion would result in changing the methods of yesterday and modern tendencies were regarded with horror as having been born of the violence of the French Terror and the irreligious teachings of Voltaire.
But this was a time when the bulk of the people everywhere considered the idea of parliaments and such bodies from the ecstatic viewpoint of idealism. Romans of a later generation might cheer lustily at the appearance of a Dictator but in the second quarter of the XIX Century the same precincts had echoed just as loudly with enthusiastic shouts for the liberal way. The Pope, while wishing to be charitable, resolutely set his face against Liberalism with the result that revolt flared for a second time and again the Austrians, fearful of a general insurrection, marched to the rescue. This ready assistance alarmed the French who suspected the Austrian garrisons might be in
[paragraph continues] Italy for other purposes than suppressing rebellion. So they too despatched regiments to the papal property of Ancona and neither power withdrew until several years later.
Prince von Metternich, the great Austrian statesman, convinced Pope Gregory that many of his troubles could be rectified by the appointment of a new Secretary of State and thus the stern and haughty Cardinal Lambruschini was given the position. His remedy for social unrest was severity and so matters grew worse instead of better in the temporal territories of the Church. It must not be thought that the struggle for wider political freedom was confined to laymen alone. Many a churchman was sympathetic to the new ideas and the journal Avenir, edited by the brilliant and enterprising Abbé de Lamennais, earned the particular disapproval of the Pope because of the support it gave liberalism and in fact it resulted in the encyclical Mirari vos which was a hearty condemnation of the new trend. It would seem indeed that Gregory XVI had little use for anything of the coming age and that his appreciation in all things was confined to the past. Under his patronage scholarship was given impetus in Rome but his doctors and students must survey only what had been. He founded a rich museum which exhibited the ancient Etruscan and Egyptian glories, but with thunder in his voice he forbade the building of a railroad within his domain.
But while there might be trouble in Rome and discontent in Italy and change throughout Europe the great machinery of Church organization, lubricated by devotion and fueled by the fires of faith, continued to function smoothly and progressively. A new hierarchy on a new continent was being established in Australia and vicariates were springing into existence throughout the wide areas of the South Seas. The Mass was being sung
by missionaries in the distant corners of most of the dimly known places, China, Tibet, Africa. The trudge of the persevering priest, the glitter of his upraised chalice, was known in all these lands, and in both South and North America the ancient faith, long established, was flourishing with mounting energy and assured permanency.
Death came to Gregory XVI on the first day of June, 1846, and a fortnight later the cardinals met with the knowledge that the grave conditions of the time demanded a speedy election. And yet, to their own surprise and not quite according to plans of the various parties, there was a pope within the next forty-eight hours. This was because the Austrian faction had pressed immediately and heavily for their candidate, the stern ex-Secretary of State, Cardinal Lambruschini, and in a quick move to thwart the unpopular design the other cardinals, actually not yet fixed on their own choice, cast their ballots for the cardinal Bishop of Imola not thinking that a decisive majority would be forthcoming. But the result was a heavy majority in his favor and though the Viennese court made haste to send a veto it was too late. By the time it arrived the name of the new Pope, Pius IX, had been recorded and proclaimed.
In most ways the new pontiff differed from his predecessors. He was much younger, being only fifty-four, and he had travelled extensively, even to South America where he had served on the staff of the Delegate to Chile. He had enjoyed a distinguished career as a diplomat and as an administrative prelate and he had made no mistakes. His family was proud of its quarterings and in his youth it was intended he should wear the impressive uniform of the Noble Guard; but ill-health killed these hopes and later had come a vocation and the cassock. His full name was Giovanni-Maria Mastai-Ferretti and he was a man of
imposing and handsome presence who was not alarmed at the new order and as a sovereign was willing to negotiate and indeed quite anxious to make concessions to liberalism. Only thirty days after his installation he was given the salutes and plaudits of a popular ruler as a series of wise actions made for the public good will. A general amnesty was proclaimed for all political exiles and prisoners of whom there were about two thousand from the previous reign. It was announced that railroads, noisy symbols of progress, would be permitted within the papal territories and that henceforth there would be few or no restrictions to prevent the publication of newspapers. A layman, Count de Rossi, was made Prime Minister. Plans were put in motion to have representative non-clerics form a Government Council and other laymen were given posts hitherto occupied by churchmen. But while there were easy cheers on the Roman streets for these measures they failed to win the favor of the more dangerous and stubborn of the plotters who were firmly resolved not to make peace with any wearer of the tiara. It was their idea that the temporal power must be vested in secular hands, and circumstances were so shaping that this objective seemed not unobtainable: for revolution was flaring again in those countries which were bound to the Papal States by geography and treaty. In Paris there was high excitement in the streets, the bourgeois Louis Philippe hastily abandoned his sceptre, and soon the Second Republic, from which was to emerge the unimpressive figure of another claimant to the Imperial title, Louis Napoleon, nephew of the great warrior, was in existence. The contagion of change spread to Austria and the Emperor Ferdinand raced from the throne accompanied by his minister, the haughty Metternich. Later the young Francis Joseph was given the crown and order was restored but
meanwhile there were gunfire and cries for liberty in all directions. The Hungarians rose in revolt but lost their strength because of fierce dissension between Magyar and Slay. The Milanese and Venetians took to arms and were aided by the King of Sardinia who, like the rulers of Tuscany and Naples, had been forced to grant his people a constitution amidst tumult and clamor.
The Papal States did not remain exempt from the prevailing fever. Pius met the mood with an offer of constitutional government but he refused to sanction war against Austria and this refusal provided the alert insurrectionists with a weapon to destroy his popularity. The inciters and rumor-mongers went to work and from obscure corners the whisper of "traitor" grew to hysterical shouts and accusations outside the Quirinal. The Prime Minister, Count Rossi, was assassinated, the Pope's secretary shot by his side, and in the uncertain darkness of an autumn night Pope Pius IX was forced to flee his city. He went to Gaeta and there was given the protection of the King of Naples whilst great disorder and confusion prevailed in Rome. Pius appealed for assistance to the Catholic nations and in Paris the shrewd Louis Napoleon, as yet wearing only the title of President, reacted favorably, not so much from motives of charity or pity, but because he saw that in occupying the Papal States with French troops he would gain strategic advantage against Austria. So French soldiers invaded Italy and were engaged by the Army of Garibaldi who had some success until reinforcements arrived from France. Rome was besieged and won and Garibaldi retreated while the other leader of the Italian nationalists, Mazzini, fled to Switzerland. A triumphant flourish of French trumpets declared the Roman Republic to be at an end and the Pope was invited to return. He displayed no great haste in doing so
and, disillusioned by the results of his overtures and concessions to the liberals, he put, for the time being, the affairs of his temporal government in the hands of three cardinals who gained notoriety as the "Red Triumvirate." These three were of a breed and viewpoint which would have earned the approval of the stern Leo XII. They acted swiftly and with little mercy and soon the courts were filled and the gaols crowded. The Pope made Cardinal Antonelli his Secretary of State and this man, the last cardinal not to be a priestfor he was only possessed of deacon's ordersproved as severe as his three colleagues. Indeed his ruthlessness and domineering character quickly earned him a high unpopularity with both clergy and laity.
The Pope turned to his ecclesiastical tasks and found much to do. The Catholics of England, who up to this time like a missionary province were under the care of vicars apostolic, were given back their bishops. Westminster was created the Metropolitan See, twelve suffragan dioceses were designated, and thus the dignity of the hierarchy, the hierarchy which was so illustriously studded with the names of martyrs and saints and scholars, was restored. John Patrick Wiseman was made a cardinal and became Archbishop of Westminster. There was great rejoicing in Catholic circles but a howl of protest and alarm was heard from that unfortunate element of the English population which scents a sinister purpose every time the name of their country is inscribed by the papal pen. "I agree with you," Lord John Russell wrote from Downing Street to the Anglican Bishop of Durham, "in considering the late aggression of the Pope upon our Protestantism as insolent and insidious . . ." A member of the Upper House of Parliament declared that war should be made upon the Pope and from his pulpit an Anglican
clergyman stated: "I would make it a capital offence to administer the Confession in this country. Transportation would not satisfy me. Death alone would prevent the evil. This is my sober conviction."
Despite such sentiments a great revival of the old religion was taking place in the island kingdom. The hierarchy was restored in 1850 and during the year following among the large number of converts there were no fewer than thirty-three Anglican ministers, including Edward Manning who was to be the successor of Cardinal Wiseman. The hierarchy was also re-established in Holland and once again to the sweet thunder of the ancient chant an Archbishop stepped to his throne in the historic see of Utrecht. In every direction Pius IX showed how seriously he regarded his title as Father of the Universal Church. Great efforts were made to win the loyalty of the Eastern schismatics and success of this kind was had at Goa. In Jerusalem the Latin Patriarchate was re-established and the long fidelity of the Irish was acknowledged by the bestowal of the Red Hat upon the Archbishop of Dublin, Dr. Cullen, the first time that an Irish prelate was so honored. The New World was not ignored or neglected and in the United States alone, despite the ravages of a terrible civil war in which brother fought against brother and religion proved no better cement than the ties of blood, there was the erection of forty-six new dioceses or vicariates, and a North American College was approved for Rome. A few years later Archbishop McCloskey of New York was raised to the scarlet and before this event full and comprehensive concordats had been made with the Central and South American nations. New treaties were also made with Spain and Portugal and Austria, although there were fresh anxieties and long vexations to the Catholic interest in Germany and Switzerland
and in Russian-dominated Poland which required delicate negotiation and manipulation. All these things and many more, so different and so full of detail and problem, received the attention and the direction of the Pope during the thirty-two years of his pontificate, but they dwindled to littleness in comparison with the importance of two great dogmatic pronouncements which were made in this reign. After profound consultation with hundreds of theologians and wise men of the Church he provided another beacon to light the way for the faithful amidst the storms of cynicism and rejection and doubt which were characterizing his era. Just before the Christmas of 1854 the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception was defined as an article of Catholic belief and in the majestic confines of St. Peter's an audience of over two hundred bishops and many other dignitaries heard the solemn words. "We declare, pronounce, and define that the doctrine which holds that the most Blessed Virgin Mary was, in the first instant of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege of Almighty God, in virtue of the merits of Christ Jesus, the Saviour of the human race, preserved free from all stain of original sin, is revealed by God, and on that account is to be firmly and constantly believed by the faithful."
Fourteen years later Pope Pius was to summon a General Council of the Vatican, an event which demanded and received immense preparation and care. Such a call had not been heard in the Church for three centuries and when the Fathers, at one time to number nearly eight hundred prelates, did assemble it was with the painful knowledge that the temporal power of the papacy had again suffered a severe setback. After the return of the Pope to Rome from his flight to Gaeta the security of his State had depended upon the presence of French troops but eventually Count
[paragraph continues] Cavour, the Piedmontese premier, whose ambition it was to mould Italy into one nation under a constitutional and monarchical form of government, had struck a bargain with Napoleon III. A Franco-Italian war against Austria followed in which the latter power was vanquished. Then the spoils were shared and, regardless of mutual accusations of treachery amongst the allies, Nice and Savoy went to France and four-fifths of the Papal domains were annexed to Sardinia while the protests of the Pope were lost in the clamor of the new Italian nationalism and patriotism. All that remained to the pontiff now was one province and his temporal rule of the small strip of land was only guaranteed by a French garrison which the French Emperor had the grace to leave in Rome. Once indeed these troops were withdrawn and immediately an army, under the command of the audacious Garibaldi, attacked Rome. It was beaten off and the Frenchmen, because of Catholic sympathy in France, were then returned.
On the eighth day of December, 1869, the Twentieth General Council gathered in the Basilica of St. Peter. It was the largest-attended synod in the history of the Church and an almost complete unanimity was to mark its decisions although in the preliminary discussions there were periods of hot dispute and bitter words. There were important matters of doctrine and faith and discipline to be discussed but the main subject, the thing that was on all lips and in all thoughts, was the proposed definition of Papal Infallibility. Violent controversy raged both within and without the Council over this question and the newspapers of the world became filled with the noise of the argument. The Pope kept aloof from the debate and so too, surprisingly enough, did most of the national rulers who, although there was powerful influence to provoke their intervention, preferred to follow the example of Bismarck who wisely declared that the
affairs of the Council were affairs of religion alone and that there would be no interference, diplomatic or otherwise, from him. An aggressive leader of the non-Infallibilists was another German and one of the Church's most learned historians, Dr. Döllinger of Munich, and because of his fierce opinions he chose the road of schism rather than bow to the will of the majority. It is difficult to understand his attitude. Sincere Catholics had always accepted the dogmatic pronouncements of a pope without question and such obedience was acknowledgement of infallibility. But now that it was proposed to make it a formal article of faith the very meaning of the word itself became confused and was challenged. Infallibility was mistaken for impeccability and it vas erroneously assumed and widely believed that if the definition were adopted infallibility would be claimed for the conduct and actions of the Pope at all times. Nothing could be clearer than the graceful prose of Cardinal Manning's translation. "We teach and define that it is a dogma divinely revealed: That the Roman Pontiff when he speaks 'ex cathedra,' that is, when in discharge of his office of Pastor and Doctor of all Christians, by virtue of his supreme Apostolic authority, he defines a doctrine regarding faith or morals to be held by the Universal Church, by the divine assistance promised to him in blessed Peter, is possessed of that infallibility with which the divine Redeemer willed that His Church should be endowed for defining doctrine regarding faith or morals: and that therefore such definitions of the Roman Pontiff are irreformable of themselves and not from the consent of the Church."
There existed a party of prelates who while not doubting the truth of Infallibility were of the opinion that the time was inopportune to declare the definition and because of this fifty-five bishops remained absent on the day of the final vote, which was July 18th, 1870. Five hundred and
thirty-five of their brethren did attend and of this number five hundred and thirty-three voted their favor and only two, Bishop Riccio of Sicily and Bishop Fitzgerald of Little Rock in the U.S.A., gave the answer of objection, non-placet. But after the doctrine of Infallibility had been officially promulgated the two bishops along with their absent colleagues withdrew their dissent and with admirable and prompt docility made submission of obedience and agreement.
In all corners of the world the decision of the Council had been awaited with eagerness but now another excitement, the explosion of cannon, intervened to occupy the popular attention. For on the day following the promulgation Napoleon III chose at last to challenge the growing military strength of Germany. War was declared and the armies marched; and finally, after the terrible meeting at Sedan, Napoleon glumly offered his sword in the traditional gesture of defeat and surrender. Defeat in Paris was no less a disaster in Rome for the French garrison was hurriedly evacuated and the city became destitute of defence except for a small corps of brave but inadequate volunteers and guards. King Victor Emmanuel II of the new kingdom of Italy sent an envoy to Pius who begged that the pontiff should bow to the inevitable, but he steadfastly refused to make terms and a few months later, after but a brief display of resistance on the part of the Papal troops, the Italian army took possession of Rome. Much to their dismay Pius had ordered his soldiery to put down their arms and as the invaders entered the city he addressed some diplomats who had come to his side, anxious for his safety. He was serenely unafraid. "I have written to the King," he told them calmly, "I do not know whether my letter has reached him. But, whether it has or not, I have now no hope of touching his heart, or of arresting his ungracious proceedings . . . Bixio,
the notorious Bixio, is here at our doors, supported by the Italian army. He is now a Royal General. Years ago, when he was a simple Republican, he made promise, that should he ever get within the walls of Rome, he would throw me in the Tiber . . . Only yesterday I received a communication from the young gentlemen of the American College, begging, I should say demanding, permission to arm themselves and to constitute themselves the defenders of my person. Though there are few in Rome in whose hands I should feel more secure than in the hands of these young Americans, I declined their generous offer with thanks . . . I would be glad, gentlemen, to say that I rely upon you and upon the countries you have the honor to represent. . . But times are changed. The poor old Pope has now no one on earth upon whom he can rely. Relief must come from heaven."
There was a deep and solemn silence after this pathetic speech for the diplomats knew well that the pontiff had spoken truly. No help could be expected from the Governments they represented. As though reading their thoughts the Pope suddenly spoke again: "Still, gentlemen, remember the Catholic Church is immortal!"
No objection to the seizure of Rome came from any of the nations save a solitary protest from the small and distant Republic of Ecuador. The Italian Government, in a legislation known as the Law of Guarantees, promised to safeguard the independence of the Holy See and to give extra-territorial privileges to such premises as the Vatican Palace and the Basilica and to provide an annual payment to the pontiff of three and a quarter million lire but he ignored all such overtures and refused to countenance or accept in any way the usurpation of his temporal power. He retired in full dignity to the confines of the Vatican Palace and its gardens and remained there, a voluntary prisoner, until his death some eight years later and it was
an example which was followed by his successors until the signing of the Lateran Treaty in 1929. But though Pius chose to be a prisoner he was no hermit nor did idleness eat his time. Great numbers of pilgrims came yearly to present their professions of respect and devotion and to his end he was occupied with administrative duties and problems.
Further trouble came to sadden his remaining days when Germany was disturbed by the struggle between Church and State which was known as the Kulturkampf movement. Prince Bismarck was imbued with the fear that the strength and influence of Catholicism within his country constituted a menace to that Teutonic unity which was his dream, so a highly organized attack to obliterate the influence of the Church was commenced. Antagonistic Protestant officials were appointed to supervise Catholic ecclesiastical and educational affairs. The Jesuits and then many of the other religious Orders were expelled and laws were made to regulate the training of the clergy and to limit the powers of the episcopacy. Severe restrictions of different varieties but all with the one purpose, the crushing of the Church, were imposed and enforced but it was all in vain. Their sees and parishes might become vacant, their bishops and priests could be slandered and sent to exile or prison, but German Catholics remained true to pledge of baptism and faith. The inglorious campaign of their Government was a failure and eventually Bismarck was convinced of his mistake; but such news never came to gladden the heart of Pius for by this time he had been carried to his grave. And even during this last sad journey, which by request of the Italian Government was made under cover of the night darkness, his name and dignity were not spared insult and humiliation. Gangs of ruffians, hired by those whose interest it was that there should be no demonstrations of papal popularity, accompanied
Benedict XV. Reigned 1914 to 1922.
Click to enlarge
Pope Benedict XV
This is the death mask of the man who said when he died, "We offer our life to God in behalf of the peace of the world." See pages 365 to 373.
the mourners and intruded upon their sorrow with jeers and threats to hurl the corpse into the Tiber. Their ferocious promises were not fulfilled and Pope Pius IX was honorably buried amidst the echoes of sincere lamentations in the church of San Lorenzo, outside the Walls. He had lived eighty-six years and his pontificate of thirty-two years was the longest on the long roll.
One of the many burdens carried by the successor of St. Peter is the fact that the many centuries have accumulated a legacy of significant and traditional ceremonial which haunt every major and most of his minor acts. Even when death approaches there are prescribed rites and, no matter how great his agony or torture, witnesses within sight of his deathbed; and when finally his spirit leaves his frame there is again no escape from the rules of the tradition. That high official who is called the Camerlengo (or Chamberlain) of the Church has to verify the death of the Pontiff according to an historic formula, for this, in addition to supervising the property and revenues of the Holy See and managing the convention of a Conclave, is one of his traditional duties. He advances to the corpse and addresses the dead man three times, calling him by his baptismal name, and three times also he taps him gently on the forehead with a silver hammer. Then, after the sad and solemn silence, he makes the official announcement that the pontiff is dead. The prelate who so officiated over the remains of Pius IX was a thin and pale faced cardinal of aristocratic and ascetic appearance named Vincenzo Gioacchino Pecci. The next time it would be his head that would receive the touch of the silver hammer for a few days later a conclave of sixty-one cardinals, after three quick sessions of voting, chose him to be Pope.
He took the name of Leo XIII and one of his first gestures was a display of initiative and independence: to show
that he was of the same mind as his predecessor towards the Italian Government he broke with tradition and instead of giving his first blessing, Urbi et Orbi, to the City and the World, from the outside of St. Peter's, the famous words were uttered from the inner loggia. That friendly relations were never to be restored with the Italian Government during his reign was not due to any stubborn hostility or sullen resentment on the part of Leo XIII. He was not that kind of man. It is true he adhered to the policy he had inherited, remained within the Vatican, and at certain times forbade Catholics to participate in the municipal and parliamentary elections; but he also let it be known that agreement was not impossible. It was the continued anti-papal actions of various Italian officials which prevented any formation of a reasonable and tranquil arrangement. There were anti-clerical legislations and even the Pope's seclusion within the Vatican was at times violated by the noise of coarse demonstrations, celebrating the end of the temporal power of the papacy, which were permitted and indeed encouraged by the secular authority.
Because of his vigorous championship of the rights of the working man Leo XIII was to be called the Socialist Pontiff in an age when the majority of society scented anarchy in any attempt to foster social justice. Yet he was no product of the oppressed but was from the nobility. His father was Count Ludovico Pecci and his mother was born of an ancient and illustrious line. From his early years the young Pecci had seemed marked for the great things. At the age of eight along with his elder brother, he was entrusted for education to the Jesuits, first at Viterbo and then at the Roman College, and at both places he displayed an astonishing aptitude for scholarship, taking honors in all subjects. Experience in government came to him early, for after his reception into the priesthood Rome saw fit, after
a brief apprenticeship, to employ him as an administrator in the provinces. He gained both distinction and popularity in this role and then, in his early thirties, he was made an Archbishop and despatched to Belgium as Nuncio, a highly important diplomatic assignment, for the King of that country, Leopold of Coburg and uncle of Queen Victoria of England, was considered to be one of the most astute of Europe's sovereigns. The youthful Nuncio remained in Belgium for three years and then was called back to Italy and given the ancient See of Perugia which he occupied with distinction and grace for the following thirty-two years. During this period he established all manner of charitable institutions and colleges and hospitals but he seldom ventured to Rome for, although he possessed the favor of Pius IX, the Papal Secretary of State, Cardinal Antonelli, held little liking for him. But after the death of Antonelli the Pope summoned him and soon he was given the important office of Camerlengo.
With the donning of the tiara this man, who was destitute of temporal power, found himself involved in the great struggle with Bismarck who already had declared he would "never follow the road to Canossa" and that the Church in Germany would be forced to his terms. Leo inherited the problems of the Kulturkampf and he dealt with them not only with courage and principle but with a masterful and tactful diplomacy which amounted to genius and which attracted the attention and admiration of the chancelleries of Europe. A passive resistance on the part of the Catholics in Germany was the answer to Bismarck's schemes and he countered with ruthless methods. Hundreds of priests were imprisoned and so too were the bishops and archbishops, but the principle of "Render unto Caesar" was given a rigid obedience. The Catholics of Germany would suffer no intrusion upon their spiritual rights but neither would they
offer disloyalty to the State. "We appeal to Your Majesty's magnanimity in the hope of obtaining a restoration of peace and repose of conscience for a great number of your subjects," wrote the Pope to Emperor Wilhelm, "and the Catholic subjects of your Majesty will never fail to show themselves, as the faith which they profess ordains that they should do, with the most conscientious devotion, respectful and faithful towards your Majesty . . ." The royal hand was guided by Prince Bismarck in reply. "The cordial words of Your Holiness leads me to hope that you will be disposed to put in operation the powerful influence that the constitution of your Church gives you over its ministers, in order that those among them who have refused to follow the example of the population confided to their care may submit themselves to the laws of the country which they inhabit."
Leo answered courteously but suddenly another element intervened to change the policy of the German Government. A small anti-monarchial party, wild and radical and atheistic, was growing within the country and two attempts were made to assassinate the Emperor. He escaped and his answer to congratulations upon doing so was significant. "This only shows," he said, "how we must take care that the people shall not lose their religious scruples." A great number of Catholic clergy were either in exile or gaol at this time but soon Bismarck was telling Parliament: "It is the part of a brave man to fight when the conditions demand it, but no real statesman desires to make combat a permanent institution." It was an admission of defeat and gradually the laws against the Catholics were relaxed. Diplomatic relations were resumed between the Holy See and Berlin, and the German Prince Imperial paid a cordial visit to the Pope. Then to astonish the world came a request from the German Government, petitioning Leo to act as arbitrator in a
dispute with Spain over the possession of the Caroline Islands. It was a return to the ancient respect and a gracious and splendid acknowledgment of papal impartiality and Leo did not fail the trust. He refused to arbitrate but he would mediate and his scheme of settlement, an example of justice, was accepted cheerfully and with gratitude by both States.
A crisis also confronted the Church in France where the Government was markedly anti-clerical and where all those in opposition to the Republic, the Monarchist and Conservative elements, persisted in identifying their political activities with the interests of the Church. Leo, with his splendid detachment from prejudice, perceived that such a state of affairs was wrong. Continental Republicanism, particularly in France, had hitherto been antagonistic to the Church: but that was in the past and the present, and the Pope, with far seeing vision, was thinking of the future. He summoned and conferred with his friend Cardinal Lavigerie, and shortly afterwards this prelate, who was the influential Archbishop of Algiers, upon welcoming a group of French naval officers to his See, made a speech in which it was emphasized that the Catholics of France should resign themselves to the existing Government. His declaration excited all France and threw the conservatives into consternation. One bishop wrote to the Papal Secretary of State, at this time the capable Cardinal Rampolla, asking for definition and guidance. Which form of rule did the papacy endorse? Republic or Monarchy? The reply came quickly and to the effect that the Church "whose mission is divine, and embraces all times and places" was against no system of government and that the Vatican was aloof from the struggles of dynastic and political factions. Later, in 1892, the Pope addressed an Encyclical to the French people in which the same principle was reiterated. "The Catholic,
like every other citizen, has full liberty to prefer one form of government to another, where none of those political or social forms is opposed by its very nature to the teachings of sound reason or maxims of Christian doctrine." But, explained the Pope, "Governments must change. No one can consider any form of civil government as so definite that it must remain for ever immutable. In societies purely human, all history shows that time works great changes in their political institutions. These changes may modify partly or totally the form of government; these changes often come as the result of a violent crisis to which succeeds anarchy and the breaking up of laws. In such conditions a social necessity is imposed on a nation. It must without delay provide for its own security. That social necessity justifies the creation and the existence of new governments whatever form they take, if these new governments are necessary to public order, all public order being impossible without some recognized form of government. . . In practice the character of the laws depends more on the character of the men in power, than on the mere form of that power. The laws will be good or bad, according as the lawmakers have minds inspired by good or bad principles, and allow themselves to be guided by political prudence, or by partisan passion."
A representative of the Petit Journal of Paris was received by Leo who, unlike many contemporary sovereigns and statesmen, well realized the power and the wide audience accorded the Press in a modern world. The journalist was told: "My conviction is that all French citizens ought to re-unite on constitutional grounds. Each one, of course, can keep his personal preferences, but when it comes to political action, there is only the government which France has given herself. The Republic is a form of Government as legitimate as any other. . . The United States, in the republican
form of government, despite the dangers of a liberty almost boundless, grow greater and greater every day, and the Catholic Church has developed itself there without having any struggles to sustain against the State . . ." With the same clarity further instruction and advice came in a later Encyclical: "Accept the Republic, that is to say, the power constituted and existing amongst you; respect it, and be submitted to it, as representing the power that comes from God. All political history furnishes, without cessation, examples of unexpected changes in form of government. These changes are far from being always legitimate in their origin. It would be vain to expect that it should be so. Nevertheless, the supreme advantage of the common welfare and of public tranquillity imposes on us the acceptance of those new governments established de facto in place of former governments, which de facto are no more."
Leo XIII might be a sovereign without cannon or fleets but the impact of his influence was felt everywhere. In Africa an infamous commerce was being renewed. The savage crack of the slave driver's whip was becoming louder and more audacious and the pitiful processions, the self-propelled freight, fettered and handcuffed, of the desert caravans, were becoming longer and commoner. The misunderstanding and jealousy which had marked the relations of the European powers in their intrusion and exploitation of Africa's wide regions and fabulous riches had resulted in a stimulation of the slave trade which was conducted by Arabs but which was protected by profit-sharing scoundrels of all races and creeds. The suspicion with which each nation regarded the activities of a rival power on the so-called Dark Continent prevented any effective action against the vile traffic and so it flourished without hindrance and with increasing boldness. In Brazil slavery, although under far more humane conditions, existed also, and to the
hierarchy of that country the Pope sent instructions, exhorting them to work for immediate abolition rather than the gradual process of liberation which had been suggested in other quarters. To the credit of the Brazilians, the Pope's suggestion was adopted very quickly. Meanwhile, acting with his friend Cardinal Lavigerie, Leo embarked upon a campaign to break the abominable power of the Arab traders. "Since Africa," he said, "is the principal theatre of this traffic . . . we recommend to all missionaries . . . to consecrate their strength, and even their lives, to that sublime work of redemption. We recommend them also to ransom as many slaves as it may be possible for them to do. . ." A gift of 300,000 francs accompanied these words while Cardinal Lavigerie preached a crusade throughout all Europe and the nations bestirred themselves to a Conference on the subject. In England, which had produced such champions of human liberty as Wilberforce and Clarkson, a great movement was already under way and publicly the Pope complimented the country "which had so well and for so long a time proved her interest in the cause of negroes." The slave traffic was gradually abolished but the lot of the negroes was to remain hard and unjust in many countries. With the vision that he exhibited in all matters, Leo foresaw and deplored such conditions and in an attempt to change them he stressed the age old fact that color and racial prejudices were no part of Catholic dogma and he urged that vocations should be encouraged amongst the liberated slaves and their sons and that they should be given every facility to train for the priesthood.
As the years of his pontificate mounted the justice and philanthropy of Leo XIII was universally acknowledged and the result was an enormous popularity. Many of the old prejudices and antagonisms, hitherto existing in the Protestant countries, were lessened. In him the Uniate Catholics
of the East found an intelligent and zealous patron and as a consequence there was a great revival of religion and scholarship in their ranks. The non-Catholics of the East were impressed by a spirit of cooperation and understanding which was neither clumsy nor presumptuous and which did much to efface long-standing feuds and enmities. During his reign two hundred and forty-eight episcopal or metropolitan sees and forty-eight vicariates were established and a new respect was given the Nuncios and Apostolic Delegates whom he sent to the capitals of the world. In England the stream of conversions which had begun in the previous reign continued and High Church circles, in which the first Viscount Halifax was a predominant figure, were stirred by hopes and agitation for a return to Rome. Leo acknowledged and encouraged such aims by a special letter, Ad Anglos, in which he stated: "The time cannot be far distant when We must appear to render an account of Our stewardship to the Prince of Pastors, and how happy, how blessed should We be if We could bring to Him some fruit, some realization of these, Our wishes. . . Difficulties there may be for us all to face, but these are not of a nature which should delay. . . No doubt the many changes that have come about, and time itself, have caused the existing divisions to take deeper root. But is that a reason to give up all hope of remedy, reconciliation, and peace?" The appeal caused no anger in England even amongst those who were always on guard against the devices of "Papistry," for it was patently no haughty summons or subtle enticement but merely a sincere and gently worded prayer. But despite such a tolerant reception and despite the strong yearnings of the High Churchmen the time had not yet arrived for the Return and this was made plain by the Archbishop of Canterbury who in a letter to his clergy displayed no resentment
but nevertheless was firmly of the opinion that as yet there was no chance of a practical agreement.
Strong differences existed within the Church of England regarding ritual and rite. In some parishes the, sight of candlesticks on an altar was sufficient to incite irate cries of "Popery" but other churches were ornamented with the Stations of the Cross, and in such premises the Confessional functioned and a fully vested clergy, to the swing of thurible and drift of incense, followed the forms of the old practice. Amongst Anglicans of this liking there were often qualms, invoked by the memory of Cranmer and Cromwell, as to the sacramental powers of their clergy. Cleavage with the Holy See does not necessarily mean invalidity of clerical orders and Rome acknowledges that the Apostolic succession is carried on by the schismatic Churches of the East. Leo XIII appointed a commission to examine the complicated and delicate question as to whether the succession was possessed by the Church of England. After a dispassionate and thorough scrutiny the commission gave judgment that the sacred continuity had been broken during the reign of Queen Elizabeth. The adverse decision, even if not accepted by many whom it concerned, was received peacefully enough in England and so too was the establishment of hierarchies in Scotland and Wales. A few years earlier the latter procedure in England had been greeted by excessive alarm and storm but now, thanks to the charm and graceful diplomacy of Leo XIII, there was but little objection and between Queen Victoria, who was supposed to have shown great anger when Pius IX named an Archbishop of Westminster, and the Pope there were nought but messages of esteem and good wishes.
This amity was regarded with little enthusiasm in unhappy Ireland where a long suffering tenantry was showing signs of organized revolt against an intolerable system
which amongst other evils permitted absentee and uncaring landlords to put their affairs in the hands of agents whose methods were often terribly brutal and notoriously unscrupulous. An organization known as the Land League was formed to combat unjust conditions. Its leaders were promptly gaoled by the English but to the amazement and indignation of Irish Nationalism the Land League Plan of campaign was also condemned by the Vatican as being illegal opposition to constituted authority and thus contrary to the principles of social law. To many it seemed as though the influence of Whitehall had formed the opinions of the Pope's advisers and for a time there was excitement and extravagant talk among a minority of rebellious spirits. But the cloud passed by. Dr. Walsh, a cleric noted for his courageous efforts to secure justice for the Irish peasant, was appointed Archbishop of Dublin, and the papal blessing went to gladden the nuptials of a Land League leader who had suffered imprisonment. These, and many similar acts, soon convinced the most ardent of Irish Nationalists that the Vatican had not fallen victim to English guile. The strength of Irish Catholicism was proven again, and the sturdy faith that had endured for nigh on fifteen centuries, the faith that was the pride and glory of a race, flowed on with unabated strength and undimmed lustre.
Leo XIII was keenly aware of the rapid growth of Catholicism in the United States and his interest and observance of the affairs of the Republic was unflagging and thorough. Upon despatching the young ex-Rector of the American College, Bishop, later to be Cardinal, O'Connell, to his new See he advised him that: "There is no room today in the bishop's chair for a mere mystic. The bishop of today, in America in particular, must be a man of high and keen intellectual vision, thoroughly in touch with conditions that affect the public and spiritual welfare of his
diocese and his nation. . . He must be a man of action. That is his particular duty as a bishop . . ." When it was proposed to Leo that a Catholic University be founded in Washington his approval came quickly for, in addition to his other talents, he was a scholar and a patron of scholars. Indeed his enthusiasm and direction brought revival of Scholasticism and in a special Bull he urged that the philosophy of St. Thomas Aquinas be stressed in the schools. With his consent for the erection of the institution in Washington went the wise admonition that it should be: "directed by American intelligence, and if, for the moment, you have to ask for your faculties the help of foreign professors, it must be done with the intention of developing the national talent, and training professors capable of forming, by degrees, native faculties worthy of the name that is borne by your university." Between the hierarchy of the United States and the Pope there always existed an extraordinary sympathy and understanding, and the dangers that so easily could have been products of the phenomenally rapid spread of the Church in the wide expanses of the young Republic never materialized. Once indeed, a French author in writing of the activities of the zealous founder of the Paulist Order, Father Hecker, penned a picture in which Rome detected a theological concept which could be construed as error and innovation. A letter went to the American episcopate and promptly there was returned a model reply of filial agreement and assurance. Orthodoxy was in no danger in the United States. The Pope had bestowed the red hat upon the popular and distinguished Archbishop of Baltimore, Cardinal Gibbons, and this prelate was given earnest attention when he vigorously upheld the rights of the "Knights of Labour" which was in reality a trades union and not, as its high flown title had led some churchmen of lesser perception
to believe, a secret society of the continental type, dominated by anarchistic aims.
Of all the triumphs, and there were many, which gave fame to the memory of Leo XIII, the greatest was achieved in the field of sociology. For he was, in advance of his generation, acutely aware of the hardships and injustices inflicted upon the working man by the capitalistic system. Always a protector of human dignity he deplored the humiliating serfdom which had grown with the industrial age, the base system in which labor was just a commodity to be bought cheaply, used and abused until exhaustion, and then discarded abruptly, the ignoble system in which the employer was all powerful and his laborer without voice or right. It is the passing of time which either dissipates or endorses a claim to greatness and as the years go by it is significant that the pronouncements of Leo XIII on social justice loom with increasing importance. Not only did he lament and protest against the condition of his day, but he foresaw the dangers that such evils were forming for the future. In his famous encyclical, Rerum Novarum, On the condition of the Working Classes, he offered a plan which while it received attention and applause was not given practical support. The established system was too firmly established for an immediate change. Trial of the proposed plan meant smaller profits, the risk of being overwhelmed by competitors. It was all very well for the Pope to be idealistic and talk of justice but in the world of cold fact who wished to think of future and problematical troubles at the cost of smaller dividends? So reasoned those who had it within their power to give trial to the papal ideas.
Leo XIII was considered to be an old man when he was elected for he could already count sixty-eight years to his life, but he ruled until he was ninety-four and to the end he was active in thought and constant in achievement. His
encyclicals and pronouncements form the lengthiest series in the long story of the papacy and always they were clear and easily understood by the humblest of his flock. Typical of the force and simplicity of his prose is his explanation of the Church's objection to divorce: "Because of divorce, the nuptial contract becomes subject to fickle whim; affection is weakened; pernicious incentives are given to conjugal infidelity; the care and education of offspring are harmed; easy opportunity is afforded for the breaking up of homes; the seeds of discord are sown among families; the dignity of woman is lessened and brought down and she runs the risk of being deserted after she has served her husband as an instrument of pleasure. And since it is true that for the ruination of the family and the undermining of the State nothing is so powerful as the corruption of morals, it is easy to see that divorce is of the greatest harm to the prosperity of families and of State."
He wrote continuously and even when the final weakness came he called for pen and paper and composed a Latin sonnet on the death that was surely approaching. His illness lasted two weeks and then, on July 30th, 1903, after receiving the Sacraments he died with serenity. As he expired there arose a spontaneous chorus of mourning and tribute from a world which already was aware of the prestige and lustre he had brought to his office.