1902 Encyclopedia > Pope Pius IX

Pope Pius IX




PIUS IX. (Giovanni Maria Mastai Ferretti), pope from 1846 to 1878, was born 13th May 1792 at Sinigaglia, near Ancona, the fourth son of Count Jerome and the Countess Catherine Vollazi of the same place. The family of Mastai is of ancient descent, and its representatives have frequently filled the office of mayor in Sinigaglia. The title of count was first given to its head by Prince Farnese, duke of Parma, towards the close of the 17 th century. Somewhat later the elder branch, having become allied by marriage with the last representative of the family of Ferretti, assumed its second name. From the age of eleven to sixteen Giovanni received his education at the college of Piarists at Volterra, in Tuscany; a liability to epileptic fits precluded, however, much application to study. On one occasion, when thus attacked, he fell into a lake and was only saved from drowning by the intervention of a herdsman who observed the occurrence. A handsome lad, with a certain charm of expression and demeanour which characterized him throughout his life, he frequently attracted the attention of visitors to the college. On leaving Volterra, he conceived an attachment for a lady (afterwards a duchess), and the non-requital of his passion is said to have been a main cause of his resolu-tion to enter the church. In 1818 he was invited to accom-pany Monsignor Odescalchi, a prelate attached to the ponti-fical court, on a visitation tour in his native province. On returning to Rome, he was encouraged by Pius VII. to persevere in his design of entering the church, was admit-ted (18th December 1818) to deacon's orders, and cele-brated his first mass at the church of S. Maria del Falignani on Easter Sunday 1819. His benevolent dis-position had led him about this time to interest himself in an orphanage, familiarly known by the name of " Tata Giovanni," and he was now appointed by Pius to preside over the establishment, and continued to fill the post for five years. In 1823 he accompanied the apostolic delegate, Monsignor Muzi, to the republic of Chili, and remained at Santiago for two years, actively engaged in missionary labours. In 1825 he returned to Rome, was made a canon of S. Maria in the Via Lata, and appointed to preside over the hospice of San Michele,—a vast charitable insti-tution for destitute children. Here he remained somewhat less than two years, being promoted 21st May 1827, by Leo XII., to the archbishopric of Spoleto. His residence in that city was marked by many acts of benevolence, and especially by the foundation of a large orphanage where poor children were maintained and educated and also taught some mechanical art. Here, as at Rome, his genuine kindliness and conciliatory disposition made him deservedly popular, but his defects were also not less apparent. He had allowed the hospice to become financi-ally embarrassed, and after succeeding to the episcopal office showed himself incapable of duly regulating his own expenditure.

During the insurrectionary movements which followed upon the election of Gregory XVI. to the papal chair, headed by Menotti and the two Napoleons—Charles Louis (afterwards emperor of the French) and his brother— Archbishop Mastai did his best to protect the insurgents. He disapproved of the reactionary policy of the new pope, and strongly resented the oppressive rule of the Austrians. When Napoleon (against whom sentence of death had been pronounced) fled to Spoleto, the archbishop, to whom he applied for help, obtained for him the services of an officer who conducted him beyond the frontier to a place of safety. In the following year (1832) he was translated to the bishopric of Imola, and a few years later was elected a cardinal, being reserved in petto in the consistory of 23d December 1839, and proclaimed cardinal 14th December 1840. It was not until overcome by the persuasion of others that Gregory XVI. consented to bestow this dignity on his future successor. He is said to have expressed his conviction that Mastai's liberal tendencies and impulsive disposition unfitted him for power, and that if he should ever become pope he would be the ruin of the church. During the tenure of his bishopric at Imola, Mastai gained additional reputation by the foundation of various philan-thropic institutions and marked simplicity of life.

On the death of Gregory XVI., he repaired to Rome, and on the evening of 16th June 1846 was elected to the papal chair as Pius IX., having chosen this name out of respect for his predecessor in the see of Imola, Pius VII. His election, at the final scrutiny, proved to be unanimous, the cardinals Patrizzi and De Angelis throwing all their influence in his favour. On the following morning, when it was too late, the Austrian ambassador received instruc-tions from his Government to veto the new pope's elec-tion.





Pius's first act in his new capacity was to proclaim a general amnesty for political offences, whereby thousands of unhappy beings who had dragged out weary years in prison or in exile, ignorant, many of them, even of the offences with which they were charged, were restored to society. With genuine catholicity of feeling he visited and relieved even the poor Jewish population in the city. He authorized the construction of railways, organized a civil guard, and considerably modified the restrictions on the press. In order to develop further reforms he instituted a commission largely composed of laymen; and in 1847 he brought forward his scheme of a Consulta, or council of state, designed to assist him in the general temporal government. But, notwithstanding these concessions, the supreme power remained in the hands of ecclesiastics, and no measure passed by the council could acquire validity until it had been examined and approved in a conclave of cardinals. Hence, although both MAZZINI (g.v.) and Garibaldi were among his avowed supporters, the liberal party were still far from satisfied. His policy was regarded, on the one hand, with extreme dissatisfaction by Austria, and on the 17th July 1847 that power sent a force of 1500 men into Ferrara, where she was entitled by the treaty of 1815 to maintain a garrison. To this direct menace Pius replied by counter demonstrations and an indignant protest, but hostilities were ultimately averted. His policy was viewed with not less dislike at the court of Naples, but by the rest of Italy and throughout Europe he was at this time regarded as the champion of the national rights of his countrymen. Such was the posture of affairs when the revolution in Paris (February 1848) fanned into flames the already smouldering elements of insurrection throughout Europe. The Austrians were driven out of. Milan ; a republic was proclaimed in Venice (see ITALY, vol. xiii. pp. 488-89); and a "free Italy" became the general cry. At first Pius, who felt but little sympathy with the views represented by the son of Philippe Égalité, seemed disposed to head the movement. He dismissed his state-secretary, Gizzi, an irresolute and timorous politician, and appointed Cardinal Ferretti in his place. On 14th March 1848 appeared the Statuto Fonda-mentale, a more complete scheme for the reorganization of the temporal government of the papal states. By this two deliberative assemblies were created,—the first, the high council, the members of which were to be nominated by the pope himself for life ; the second, the council of depu-ties, to be elected by the people, and to be entrusted with the chief voice in all questions relating to taxation. Over both these bodies, however, the college of cardinals retained the supreme authority ; without its consent no measure could acquire legal validity. Liberty of the press was promised, but the ecclesiastical censorship was to be retained. A new ministry was formed, which, with two exceptions (Antonelli and Morichini), was composed of laymen. But at this juncture Pius began to waver. Although he had hitherto shown no sympathy with the Jesuits, he endeavoured to protect them against the measures now brought forward with a view to their expul-sion, and when his general, Durando, crossed the Po with-out his orders, and denounced the Austrians as " the enemies of the cross of Christ," he disowned, in an allocu-tion (29th April), all intention of participating in an offen-sive war for the purpose of rectifying the boundaries of Italy, and at the same time disavowed all complicity in the schemes then in agitation for creating an Italian federal republic, with himself as the nominal head. This apparent desertion of the national cause,- at a time when the public mind had been roused to the highest pitch of excitement by the course of events at other centres, created an irreparable breach between Pius and the people. His new chief minister, Mamiani, who wished to see him a constitutional monarch, advocated further concessions— the handing over of the political government to the new assemblies and a responsible ministry. But after the Austrian successes in the north and Radetsky's entry into Milan (5th August), Mamiani was dismissed, and his place was filled by Count Rossi, the French ambassador, a states-man of signal ability and intrepid character, but of conser-vative views. On the 15th November 1848, as Rossi was alighting at the steps of the house of assembly, he was assassinated in broad daylight. It was an ominous symptom of the prevailing temper of the capital that this atrocious act elicited no expression of disapproval in the assembly, and drew forth no marks of sympathy with the victim's family. Two days later a numerous mob, largely composed of disbanded soldiers, assembled in the square of the Quirinal, and proffered fresh demands, at the same time intimating their intention, if these were not conceded, of commencing a general massacre of the inmates, excepting only the pope himself. After his secretary, Palma, had been shot by a bullet, Pius, in order to avert further bloodshed, made the requisite concessions,- and assented to the formation of a new ministry, while he him-self was made a virtual prisoner. On the 24th November he effected his escape, with the connivance of the French Government, to Gaeta, disguised as a dependant of Count Spaur, the Bavarian minister. Thus terminated what has been described as " the first and only attempt of a pope to govern in a liberal spirit."

From Gaeta he published a formal protest against the violence to which he had been subjected, and whereby his latest enactments had been extorted from him, at the same time declaring all measures decreed in Rome during his absence null and void. Gioberti, the Sardinian minister, endeavoured without success to gain his concurrence in a new scheme for the formation of an Italian federation of princes. In the following February it was resolved in a consistory of cardinals to appeal to the chief Catholic powers (France, Austria, Spain, and Naples) for their aid in bringing about the re-establishment of the temporal sovereignty. About the same time (3d February 1849), as if to mark his undisturbed sense of his spiritual supremacy, Pius himself addressed an encyclic to the superior Catholic clergy throughout the world, enjoining that on appointed days of the year the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception B.V.M. should be preached through-out their dioceses. The decisive defeat of the Sardinian forces at Novara by Radetsky (23d March 1849) encouraged the papal party now to demand that Pius should be rein-stated at Rome without any conditions being attached to his restoration. This demand created a divergence of opinion among the above-named powers; eventually General Oudinot landed at Civita Vecchia with 10,000 French soldiers, and De Tocqueville, the French minister for foreign affairs, sought to induce Pius to resume his sovereignty on the basis of the Statuto Fondamentale. This he resolutely refused to do, and after the occupation of Rome by Oudinot's forces he was permitted to return (12th April 1850) unfettered by any condition whatever.

Pius returned an altered man in relation to his state policy, in which, in fact, he was from this time guided almost entirely by Antonelli. A certain profession of a design to reform abuses was indeed made, but the former ecclesiastical ascendency in the government was re-established, while the pope entered into the closest relations with the Jesuit party. Notwithstanding his specious dis^ claimers of any desire to take revenge for the past, the Documenti Officiali, published in 1860, prove that little mercy was shown to those who were suspected of disaffection. As, however, the continuance of the French occupa-tion relieved him from any anxiety with respect to the maintenance of order, Pius was enabled to devote his attention chiefly to the objects which undoubtedly lay nearest to his heart,—the more complete definition of Roman dogma and the enhancement of the prerogatives of his office. In this direction his views had never been characterized by any liberality, as is sufficiently shown by his encyclic of 9th November 1846, his letter to the arch-bishop of Cologne (3d July 1847), and his allocution of 17th December 1847, in which all the modern tendencies to a more philosophic interpretation of doctrine are visited with unqualified condemnation. He now proceeded skilfully to avail himself of the reaction that began to set in, especially in Germany and in England, after the repression of- the revolutionary movements, by taking, as the burden of his allocutions, the essential connexion between political innovation and freedom of scientific or religious thought. The activity of the Jesuits was studiously encouraged; the " beatification " of several eminent deceased members of their order was proclaimed ; and lives of the saints, full of marvellous and legendary incidents, were widely circulated among the poorer laity. A combination of circumstances, at this period, largely contributed to the success of these efforts both in Europe and in America. By the bull "Ineffabilis Deus " (8th December 1854) the doctrine of the immaculate Conception was formally "defined," as a dogma binding on the acceptance of all the faithful, and in pamphlets favourable to the assumptions of the curia it was pointed out that the supreme pontiff had thus defined the doctrine icithout recourse to any council. In 1862 the canonization of six hundred and twenty missionaries, who had met with martyrdom in Japan some two centuries and a half before, was made the occasion of an imposing ceremonial. In a letter (11th December 1862) to the archbishop of Munich, the teaching of Frohschammer, a distinguished professor of philosophy in the university in that city, was singled out for severe reprobation. The famous encylic Quanta cura, and the Syllabus, or list of prevalent errors calling for especial reprobation, appeared in December 1864.
The war between France and Austria and the treaty of Villafranca (8th July 1859 ; see ITALY, vol. xiii. p. 490) seemed at one time likely to result in placing the temporal power on a basis somewhat resembling that indicated in Gioberti's pamphlet of 1843, and the ultramontane party waited with lively expectation the assembling of the congress. Among the inhabitants of the Romagna them-selves, however, discontent with the political administra-tion was intense. The papal rule had become almost as oppressive as that at Naples; and the prisons of Rome were filled with inmates against whom no more definite charge could be brought than that of suspected disaffection towards the Government. The manner in which the currency had been tampered with was alone sufficient to produce the gravest discontent, and the lira papalina, was eventually accepted at the money-changers' only at a heavy loss to the holder. When, in the spring of 1857, Pius visited central Italy, it was observed that, while in other provinces he was greeted with enthusiasm as the pope, in his own dominions he was received with sullen coldness. A pamphlet published at Paris in December 1859 (ascribed to imperial inspiration), after describing the condition of the Romagna, openly raised the question of the continuance of the temporal power, and suggested that it would at least be desirable that it should be restricted to the capital itself. Pius replied in an encylic issued on the 19th of the ensuing January—a document since widely known as his Non Possumus. His obstinacy proved of no avail. The Romagna was occupied by Sardinia, and the Central-Italian states shortly afterwards formed themselves into a league to prevent its reoccupa-tion by the pontifical forces. Antonelli rejoined by raising a motley force, composed of French, Belgians, Bavarians, and Irish, who were placed under the command of Lamori-ciere, an able French officer who had seen active service in Algiers. There can be no doubt that, in making this apparently hopeless effort, the curia was deluded by the belief that, if matters proceeded to extremities, France would intervene in its behalf. After a stubborn resistance at Ancona, the superior forces of Sardinia prevailed, and in September 1860 the whole of the States of the Church, with the exception of the patrimonium, Petri (see POPEDOM), were annexed to the kingdom of Victor Emmanuel.





From the reduction of Ancona to the year 1870 Pius was maintained in Rome only by a French garrison. The emperor of the French was reluctant to appear altogether to desert the papal cause, while Cavour was unwilling, in like manner, to proceed to extremities. After the capture of Garibaldi at Aspromonte, however, Victor Emmanuel felt himself strong enough to put in a formal claim for Rome; and it was eventually arranged, by the convention of 15th September 1864, that the French should withdraw from the city before the end of 1866. This stipulation was duly observed, and on the 11th December 1866 the last of the French forces quitted the capital. The engagement was, however, virtually violated by the entry, in the following year, of the Antibes legion, and for some time longer the French soldiery continued to ward off both the daring assaults of Garibaldi and the more insidious approaches of Ratazzi. In this manner, at the outbreak of the war of 1870, France had come again to be looked upon as the ally of the papacy; and the overweening claims put forward by Pius in convening a general council to proclaim the dogma of Papal Infallibility were generally interpreted as in a certain sense correlative with the aggressive designs of France on Protestant Germany. The dogma was decreed in the Vatican on the 18th July, but not without strenuous opposition on the part of some of the most distinguished members of the Catholic episcopal order, who, at the same time, were staunch supporters of the temporal power (see OLD CATHOLICS). At nearly the same time the occupation by the French came definitively to an end. Their forces were withdrawn from Civita Vecchia at the outbreak of the war, when the Due de Gramont announced that his Government relied on the convention of 1864, whereby Italy was bound not to attack the papal territory. That territory being now, however, again exposed to the dangers of revolution, Victor Emmanuel, on receiving the tidings of the battle of Gravelotte, notified to Pius that " the responsibility of maintaining order in the peninsula and the security of the Holy See" had devolved upon himself, and that his army must enter the pontifical dominions. This intimation was received by Pius with demonstrations of the liveliest indignation, but the appearance of the Sardinian troops was hailed by his own subjects with enthusiasm. On arriving outside Rome, General Cadorna summoned the garrison to sur-render, and after a short bombardment the white flag was hoisted. On the following day (21st September 1870) the Zouaves, some nine thousand in number, after receiving, as they stood massed in the square of St Peter's, the pontifical blessing, marched out of Rome, and the temporal power of the pope had ceased to exist.

For the rest of his days Pius IX. remained unmolested at the Vatican, while the king resided at the Quirinal. The pontiff was virtually a prisoner; and his position, although viewed with comparative indifference in Rome, was regarded with not a little sympathy by the Catholic world at large. The tribute of Peter's Pence was revived in order to supply, in some measure, the loss of his alienated revenues; and numerous pilgrimages, in which dis tinguished and wealthy individuals took part, were made to St Peter's from all parts of Catholic Christendom, and especially from England. His advanced years, fine pre-sence, dignified demeanour, and elasticity of spirits (unbroken by his adverse fortunes) combined to invest both the person and the office of the pope with a kind of fascination for devout minds, which those about him well understood how to turn to the best advantage. Occasion-ally, however, his naturally impetuous temper still mani-fested itself. The complicity of the Roman Catholic clergy with the Polish insurrection of 1863 had been punished by Russia with excessive rigour, and, on receiving the Russian deputies who came to offer the customary felicitations on New Year's Day 1866, Pius so far forgot the proprieties of the occasion as to himself address them in terms of reproach. A suspension of diplomatic relations ensued; and Russia now eagerly availed herself of the pretext afforded by the promulgation of the new dogmas to aim a severe blow at Roman Catholic influence within her dominions, by annexing to the Russian Church the bishopric of Chelm, with a population of over 300,000 souls. Pius showed his resentment by espousing the side of Turkey in the struggle of that country with the Russian power. On the 3d June 1877 he celebrated the fiftieth anniversary of his consecration to the archbishopric of Spoleto, and the event was made singularly memorable by the spectacle of numerous deputations, bearing costly offerings, from all parts of the world. Pius died on the 8th of the following February, and was succeeded by Cardinal Pecchi as Leo XIII.

The life of Pius has beeu written by the late J. F. Maguire (2d ed., 1878), and by Leopold Wappmannsperger, Leben und Wirken des Papstes Pius des Neunttn (Ratisbon, 1878). Both authors write from the ultramontane point of view, but the latter much more in detail, giving original documents and information respecting events subsequent to 1870 not to be found in English sources. Nippold's Handbuch der neuesten Kirchengeschichte, vol. ii., supplies an outline of the papal policy in connexion with other contemporaneous l'eligious movements; and a concise but more impartial sketch will be found in Ranke, Die römischen Päpste (7th ed.), ii. 162-208. The literature connected with the Vatican Council is given under OLD CATHOLICS. (J. B. M.)



The above article was written by: J. Bass Mullinger.



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