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The announcement yesterday that Pope Francis will not be moving to the Apostolic Palace “for now”, but will remain living in the suite at the Domus Sanctae Marthae where he moved immediately to following his election has been presented as quite a break with tradition. And in a way it is, but a cursory glance at the history of the papacy reveals it’s not that big a deal as some would have us think.
The Apostolic Palace is located to the right of the facade of St. Peter’s Basilica and includes the Papal Apartments at the top right corner. Popes have been using the Palace as their official residence since the 17th century, although they didn’t actually live there at the time. Their residence was the Quirinal Palace, which now lies outside the borders of Vatican City and is the home of the President of Italy. The Papal Apartments were used the official residence of the Popes in their capacity as Supreme Pontiff. The Quirinal Palace served the same purpose for their role as temporal ruler of the Papal States.
The Papal States were conquered by the Italian unification armies in the 1870s and Blessed Pope Pius IX became a “prisoner in the Vatican”. The Apostolic Palace was the only part of the Papal States not occupied by the Italians.
So the Apostolic Palace has only served as the fulltime residence of the Popes since 1870. That’s not a long time in the entire history of the Church. But to say that the Popes did not live in some form of (relative) luxury before 1870 is not true. There was the Quirinal Palace, and before that several residences attached to basilicas in Rome and the Lateran Palace, going back to the 4th century. And Pope Francis, in refusing to move to the Apostolic Palace, hardly makes a choice for poverty. The Domus Sanctae Marthae is a very adequate personal residence, although it admittedly has a far smaller surface area than the Papal Apartments.
In his current residence, Pope Francis has the use of a sitting room, a study (pictured), a bedroom and a private bathroom. There are also a shared dining room and four chapels. Comparing that to the Papal Apartments: that features a chapel, an office for the Pope and one for his secretaries, a bedroom, a dining room, a kitchen and rooms for two secretaries and the household staff. Most of these spaces will continue to see use, as Pope Francis will pray the Angelus from one of its windows and receive guests in the building’s library. Undoubtedly, the secretaries’ office will also continue to be used.
Pope Francis’ choice not to relocate to the other side of St. Peter’s Square effectively allows him some more freedom and keeps him in touch with the people working at the Vatican, something he greatly values.
Almost 62 years ago, on the first of November 1950, Pope Pius XII published Munificentissimus Deus, the Apostolic Constitution by which he declared what we celebrate today to be a dogma. It became a binding teaching, something that we are required to hold as Catholics. It goes so far that if we don’t agree with it, we can’t properly call ourselves Catholics. It’s like claiming that Jesus Christ was not the Son of God and still calling oneself Catholic. One of the identifying markers of one’s ‘Catholicity’ is missing, so whatever the person in question is, he is not Catholic [MD 45, 47].
This may all sound negative, focussing on what we must and what the consequences are if we don’t, but in essence a dogma is a positive. A reading of Munificentissimus Deus shows that the dogma we mark today, the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, grew organically from the heartfelt desires of many faithful and from the earlier dogmatic teaching of her Immaculate Conception, as defined by Blessed Pope Pius IX in 1854 [MD 6-9]. This dogma is then not something imposed from above, but a confirmation of what many had long held to be true. It is also a confirmation that the Assumption of Mary has always been “contained in the deposit of Christian faith entrusted to the Church” [MD 8].
The Venerable Pope Pius XII offers an extensive list of historical examples of this faith, even conviction, that the Blessed Virgin was assumed into heaven [MD 14-38], and then presents the official declaration of the dogma as such:
For which reason, after we have poured forth prayers of supplication again and again to God, and have invoked the light of the Spirit of Truth, for the glory of Almighty God who has lavished his special affection upon the Virgin Mary, for the honor of her Son, the immortal King of the Ages and the Victor over sin and death, for the increase of the glory of that same august Mother, and for the joy and exultation of the entire Church; by the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ, of the Blessed Apostles Peter and Paul, and by our own authority, we pronounce, declare, and define it to be a divinely revealed dogma: that the Immaculate Mother of God, the ever Virgin Mary, having completed the course of her earthly life, was assumed body and soul into heavenly glory. [MD 44]
Once more, the positive nature of this dogma, and others as well, is outlined a bit earlier in the Apostolic Constitution:
We, who have placed our pontificate under the special patronage of the most holy Virgin, to whom we have had recourse so often in times of grave trouble, we who have consecrated the entire human race to her Immaculate Heart in public ceremonies, and who have time and time again experienced her powerful protection, are confident that this solemn proclamation and definition of the Assumption will contribute in no small way to the advantage of human society, since it redounds to the glory of the Most Blessed Trinity, to which the Blessed Mother of God is bound by such singular bonds. It is to be hoped that all the faithful will be stirred up to a stronger piety toward their heavenly Mother, and that the souls of all those who glory in the Christian name may be moved by the desire of sharing in the unity of Jesus Christ’s Mystical Body and of increasing their love for her who shows her motherly heart to all the members of this august body. And so we may hope that those who meditate upon the glorious example Mary offers us may be more and more convinced of the value of a human life entirely devoted to carrying out the heavenly Father’s will and to bringing good to others. Thus, while the illusory teachings of materialism and the corruption of morals that follows from these teachings threaten to extinguish the light of virtue and to ruin the lives of men by exciting discord among them, in this magnificent way all may see clearly to what a lofty goal our bodies and souls are destined. Finally it is our hope that belief in Mary’s bodily Assumption into heaven will make our belief in our own resurrection stronger and render it more effective. [MD 42].
And in the meantime, a happy feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin to all!
I am back from two days (and a bit) at the latest edition of the Credimus Bootcamp, an undeservedly shortened edition this time. Next year is the fifth edition, and this potentially week-long camp of Catholic catechesis, culture and enjoyment will hopefully have a record number of attendants then. I will certainly be there again.
This year’s speakers were a diverse bunch, even though the general theme was that of the shepherd: the Good Shepherd that is Jesus Christ, but also our every day shepherds, the bishops, the shepherd of the world Church, the pope and some of his predecessors, and the shepherd’s duty of taking care of his sheep.
There was Deacon John van Grinsven speaking about his work with the homeless and addicted; Brother Ignatius Maria of the Community of St. John, who led a Bible study on the imagery of the shepherd in the Gospel of John (and also the OT books of Ezekiel and Zechariah); Fr. Floris Bunschoten who introduced us to the bishops’ task of sanctifying their flock; and Fr. David van Dijk, our host, who took us through the popes from Blessed Pius IX to our current Holy Father. Quite a variety of topics, which were supplemented by unscheduled conversations with visiting clergy and communal dinners, prayer and Mass (in both forms of the Latin rite).
Personally, I enjoyed the two days in the parish of St. Mary Magdalene, Diocese of ‘s Hertogenbosch, as a welcome immersion in Catholic life. The rhythm of prayer, the sharing of knowledge and ideas, the enjoyment of the company of fellow faithful all made for a bootcamp that really deserves more attention, attendance and publicity. Next year is the fifth edition, so let’s hope and pray that it may turn out to be the best edition yet!
With the release of the new website the Credimus Bootcamp program is fleshed out a bit more. Announcements of speakers have been published on Twitter and Facebook before, but are now gathered online on the site which also offers practical information and a rousing invitation to sign up and join the bootcamp for its fourth installment:
Do you like good conversation while enjoying a good Trappist beer, but the silence that grabs you by the throat in an old church?
Are you curious about the tradition that is the foundation beneath the culture of which you are a part every day?
Do you want to take a peek at the power which keeps everyone and everything in existence for every second of every minute?
Then you are probably CATHOLIC (or you really need to become one).
Three priests and a deacon have been confirmed to speak under the banner of this year’s topic: Shepherds. Father David van Dijk, who also hosts, will speak about the eleven popes from Pius IX onwards; Deacon John van Grinsven will discuss his work with homeless people, founded in the Gospel; Fathers Marcel Dorssers and Floris Bunschoten will speak on topics that are yet to be announced. Fathers van Dijk and Dorssers wil join the bootcamp for the fourth and third time respectively.
Father Bunschoten celebrates Mass in both forms, and he has been training priests and seminarians in the Extraordinary Form at the Tiltenberg seminary. I expect he will also offer Mass in that form at bootcamp. There will also be Masses in the ordinary form, offered by Father van Dijk and other priests.
The Credimus Bootcamp will take place from 16 to 22 July, and will cost 90 euros to attend (or less if you plan to visit for less than the full week).
Over the past days I have been blogging less than usual, and the reason is due to this man: Msgr. Athanasius Schneider, auxiliary bishop of the Diocese of Karaganda in Kazakhstan. In orthodox circles his name is not unknown, being the author of the book Dominus Est (It is the Lord) in which he powerfully advocates a return to Communion on the tongue. His is an educated and eloquent voice, very much the seminary professor (which he, in fact, is).
His latest work, which has made a moderate impact in the Catholic blogosphere, is an address he held in December at a conference about the Second Vatican Council seen in the light of the Tradition of the Church.
I have been working on a Dutch translation of that address, of which you may find an English translation here. In it, Bishop Schneider, expands on seven points dealing with the pastoral theory and practice, points which are listed on the Council’s Decree on the Sacred Liturgy Sacrosanctum Concilium, which I’ll quote here:
The Church announces the good tidings of salvation to those who do not believe, so that all men may know the true God and Jesus Christ whom He has sent, and may be converted from their ways, doing penance [Jn. 17:3; Lk. 24:17; Ac 2:38]. To believers also the Church must ever preach faith and penance, she must prepare them for the sacraments, teach them to observe all that Christ has commanded [Mt. 28:20], and invite them to all the works of charity, piety, and the apostolate. For all these works make it clear that Christ’s faithful, though not of this world, are to be the light of the world and to glorify the Father before men. (SC, 9).
Bishop Schneider takes each point in turn and, making extensive use of a number of Conciliar documents, as well as addresses and homilies by the Conciliar popes, Blessed John XXIII and Paul VI, uses them to explain the aim of the Council on various doctrinal, liturgical and pastoral topics. In this way, he not only attempts (and succeeds, I think) to explain the actual texts of the documents, but also the intentions of the popes and the Council Fathers.
Ultimately, his address leads to a call for a new Syllabus to counter the errors which have crept into the interpretation of the Council. He takes Pope Pius IX’s Syllabus Errorum (Syllabus of Errors) as a model for his proposed Syllabus. In contrast to the earlier Syllabus, Bishop Schneider’s proposal is triggered not solely by errors from outside the Church. He names both groupings who wish to ‘protestantise’ the Church “doctrinally, liturgically and pastorally”, and traditionalist groups who reject the Council, “submitting for now only to the invisible Head of the Church”.
Bishop Schneider’s scholarly approach to the subject makes that this address is not only food for thought in orthodox circles. It is a source of education for all Catholics about the Council, as well as a call to action, to fully understand what it means to be Catholic and act accordingly.
My Dutch translation will follow soon.
A wealth of historical information has been made digitally available by the Vatican: the official Acts of the Holy See from 1865 to 2007. That covers the papacies of Popes Pius IX, Leo XII, Pius X, Benedict XV, Pius XI, Pius XII, John XXIII, Paul VI, John Paul I, John Paul II and Benedict XVI, as well as the unification of Italy, two Vatican Councils, the challenge of modernism, the publication of the first Code of Canon Law, two world wars, the creation of the Vatican City State and the cold war. A lot of topics which directly affected the Vatican and the Catholic Church and which resulted in many hundreds of pages of documents.
Browsing is not really useful with this collection, since the PDF files take while to load, due to their size. And it requires a working knowledge of Italian, but all the same: it’s a treasure chest of information.
Now to learn Italian…