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Pope Pius IX

Pius IX
Birth name Giovanni Maria
Papacy began June 16, 1846
Papacy ended February 7, 1878
Predecessor Gregory XVI
Successor Leo XIII
Born May 13 1792(1792-05-13)
Senigallia, Italy
Died February 7 1878 (aged 85)
Apostolic Palace, Rome, Italy
Other popes named Pius

Pope Pius IX (May 13, 1792 – February 7, 1878), born Giovanni Maria Mastai-Ferretti, reigned as Pope of the Roman Catholic Church from his election in June 16, 1846, until his death more than 31 years later in 1878. Pius IX was elected as the candidate of the liberal and moderate wings on the College of Cardinals, following the pontificate of arch-conservative Pope Gregory XVI. Initially sympathetic to democratic and modernizing reforms in Italy and in the Church, Pius became increasingly conservative after he was deposed as the temporal ruler of the Papal States in the events that followed the Revolutions of 1848. He formally defined the dogma of the Immaculate Conception and organized the First Vatican Council, which defined the dogma of papal infallibility.


Early life and ministry

Giovanni Maria Mastai-Ferretti was born in Senigallia into the noble family of Girolamo dei conti Ferretti, and was educated at the Piarist College in Volterra and in Rome. He attempted to join the Noble Guard but was turned down due to his epilepsy. He instead studied theology at the Roman Seminary. He was ordained in April 1819. He worked initially as the rector of the Tata Giovanni Institute in Rome before being sent to Chile and Peru in 1823 and 1825 to assist the Apostolic Nuncio, Msgr Giovanni Muzi, in the first mission to post-revolutionary South America.[1] He returned to become head of the hospital of San Michele in Rome (1825–1827) and canon of Santa Maria in Via Lata.

Father Mastai-Ferretti was made Archbishop of Spoleto in 1827, at the age of 35. In 1831 the abortive revolution that had begun in Parma and Modena spread to Spoleto; the Archbishop obtained a general pardon after it was suppressed, gaining him a reputation for being liberal. The following year he was moved to the more prestigious diocese of Imola, was made a cardinal in pectore in 1839, and in 1840 was publicly announced as Cardinal Priest of Santi Pietro e Marcellino. According to historians, Cardinal Mastai-Ferretti was considered a liberal during his episcopate in Spoleto and Imola because he supported administrative changes in the Papal States and sympathized with the nationalist movement in Italy.

Papal election

The conclave of 1846, following the death of Pope Gregory XVI (1831–46), took place in an unsettled political climate within Italy. Because of this, many foreign Cardinals decided not to attend the conclave. At its start, only 46 out of 62 cardinals were present.

Moreover, the conclave of 1846 was steeped in a factional division between conservatives and liberals. The conservatives supported Cardinal Luigi Lambruschini, Gregory XVI's secretary of state. Liberals supported two candidates: Cardinal Pasquale Tommaso Gizzi and the 54 year-old Cardinal Mastai-Ferretti. During the first ballot, Mastai-Ferretti received 15 votes, the rest going to Cardinal Lambruschini and Cardinal Gizzi. Many thought that if Lambruschini was not elected, Gizzi would surely be selected.   Because the conclave was deadlocked, liberals and moderates decided to cast their votes for Mastai-Ferretti — a move that was certainly contrary to the general mood throughout Europe. By the second day of the conclave, on 16 June 1846, during an evening ballot, Mastai-Ferretti was elected Pope, having received a majority of 36 votes, while Lambruschini received only ten; Gizzi received no votes. Because it was night, no formal announcement was given, just the signal of white smoke. Many Catholics had assumed that Gizzi had been elected successor of St. Peter. In fact, celebrations began to take place in his home town, and his personal staff, following a long standing tradition, burned his cardinalatial vestments.

On the following morning, the senior Cardinal-Deacon announced the election of Cardinal Mastai-Ferretti before what had to be a shocked crowd of faithful Catholics. Of course, when Cardinal Mastai-Ferretti appeared on the balcony, the mood became joyous. Mastai-Ferretti chose the name Pius IX in honor of Pope Pius VII (1800–23), who had encouraged Mastai-Ferretti's vocation to the priesthood despite his childhood epilepsy.

However, Cardinal Mastai-Ferretti, now Pope Pius IX, had little diplomatic and no curial experience, which did cause some controversy. In fact, the government of the Empire of Austria as represented by Prince Metternich in its foreign affairs objected to even the possible election of Cardinal Mastai-Ferretti. Thus, Cardinal Gaisruck, Archbishop of Milan, was sent to present the official veto of Mastai-Ferretti. However, Cardinal Gaisruck arrived too late: the new Pope was already elected.

Pius IX was crowned on 21 June 1846, and chose Cardinal Gizzi as his Secretary of State. Liberal Europe applauded his election.

Pius IX's papacy

Liberalism and conservatism

  As a liberal and someone aware of the political pressures within the Papal States, his first act was to announce a general amnesty for political prisoners. As his nature was kind-hearted and generous, he did not consider the potential implications of the amnesty — his concessions only provoked greater demands: radical Roman groups sought constitutional government and war with Austria. He was not so radical, and in an encyclical of November 1846 he denounced secret societies (such as Circolo Romano), the Bible associations, false philosophy, communism, and the press.[dubious]

His initial reforms created quite a sensation among Italian patriots, both at home and in exile, that is best exemplified by the following letter written by Giuseppe Garibaldi from Montevideo, Uruguay.

If these hands, used to fighting, would be acceptable to His Holiness, we most thankfully dedicate them to the service of him who deserves so well of the Church and of the fatherland. Joyful indeed shall we and our companions in whose name we speak be, if we may be allowed to shed our blood in defence of Pio Nono's work of redemption" (October 12 1847)[2]

His Syllabus of Errors issued in 1864 as an appendix to his encyclical Quanta Cura condemned as heresy 80 propositions, many on political topics, and firmly established his pontificate in opposition to secularism, rationalism, and modernism in all its forms, thus branding himself as an enemy of liberalism and a leading conservative. He is known to the Catholic faithful as "The Scourge of Liberalism."

Treatment of Jews


Pius IX's relations with the Jews remain ambiguous. He repealed laws that forbade Jews to practice certain professions and required them to listen to sermons four times per year aimed at their conversion. Judaism and Catholicism were the only religions allowed by law (Protestant worship was allowed to visiting foreigners, but strictly forbidden to Italians). The testimony of a Jew against a Christian remained inadmissible in courts of law, a tax levied only on Jews supported schools for the conversion of Jews to Catholicism, and Jews continued in various other respects to be discriminated against by law. At the beginning of his pontificate, Pius IX opened the Jewish ghetto in Rome, but after his return from exile in 1850 re-instituted it again.

In a speech in 1871 he called the Jews of Rome "dogs" and said: "of these dogs, there are too many of them at present in Rome, and we hear them howling in the streets, and they are disturbing us in all places." [3] [4]

In 1858, in a highly publicized case, a six-year-old Jewish boy, Edgardo Mortara, was taken from his parents by the police of the Papal States. He had reportedly been baptized by a Christian servant girl of the family while he was ill, because she feared that otherwise he would go to Hell if he died. At that time, the law did not permit Christians to be raised by Jews, even their own parents. Pius IX steadfastly refused calls from numerous heads of state including Emperor Franz Josef (1848–1916) of Austria-Hungary and Emperor Napoleon III of France (1852–70) to return the child to his parents.

End of the Papal States

By early 1848, public disorder had forced Pius IX to concede a lay ministry and a constitution, although he held fast against war with Austria (April 1848). Public disorder grew, with repeated riots; the Prime Minister was murdered (November 15) and the Pope was denounced and trapped by a mob in the Quirinal. Pius IX escaped in disguise to Gaeta on November 24, in the kingdom of Ferdinand II of the Two Sicilies, leaving Rome to the radicals and the mob. A Roman Republic was declared in February 1849. When General Oudinot's expeditionary force made its direct attack in April 1849, and the Constituent Assembly in Rome passed a resolution of protest (May 7, 1849), French President Louis Napoleon (the future Napoleon III of France) encouraged him and assured him of reinforcements from France. The Pope appealed for support, and Napoleon — who had engaged in a liberal insurrection in the states of the church himself in 1831 — now sent troops that crushed the republic (June 29), although Pius IX did not return to Rome until April 1850. The French troops remained in Rome to protect the status quo until 1870 (see September Convention), while the Risorgimento united the remainder of Italy, leaving the block of the Papal States in the center.

Although Pius IX had lost his liberal tastes, temporal problems still beset his rule. The revolutionaries were still there, and the Papal States were coming under increased pressure from anti-papal nationalists — notably Victor Emmanuel II of Piedmont (later king of Italy). The Pope was obliged to rely on French and Austrian soldiers to maintain order and protect his territories. An army of volunteers was created in 1860: the papal zouaves (zuavi pontifici) under the command of general de La Moricière. They came from different countries, France, Holland (the majority), Belgium, Canada, England, even from the United States and from Italy as well.

Napoleon III and Cavour (Premier to Victor Emmanuel) agreed to war on Austria. Following the Battle of Magenta (July 4, 1859) the Austrian forces withdrew from the Papal States, precipitating their loss to Sardinia. Revolutionaries in Romagna called upon Piedmont for annexation. In February 1860, Victor Emmanuel II demanded Umbria and the Marches; when his demand was refused, he took them by force. After defeating the papal army on September 18 at Castelfidardo, and on September 30 at Ancona, Victor Emmanuel took all the Papal territories except Latium with Rome. In September 1870, he seized Rome as well, making it the capital of a new united Italy after its capture on September 20. He granted Pius IX the Law of Guarantees (May 13, 1871) which gave the Pope the use of the Vatican but denied him sovereignty over this territory, nevertheless granting him the right to send and receive ambassadors and 3.25 million liras a year. Pius IX officially rejected this offer (encyclical Ubi nos, May 15 1871), retaining his claim to all the conquered territory. Although he was not forbidden or prevented from travelling as he wished, he called himself a prisoner in the Vatican. See also September Convention.

With the end of the Papal States in 1870, Pope Pius IX was thus the last Pope to hold temporal powers.

The pontificate of Pius IX from his return to Rome in April 1850 to 20 September 1870 is described by Raffaele De Cesare as follows:

The Roman Question was the stone tied to Napoleon's feet--that dragged him into the abyss. He never forgot, even in August 1870, a month before Sedan, that he was a sovereign of a Catholic country, that he had been made Emperor, and was supported by the votes of the Conservatives and the influence of the clergy; and that it was his supreme duty not to abandon the Pontiff. [5]
For twenty years Napoleon III had been the true sovereign of Rome, where he had many friends and relations... Without him the temporal power would never have been reconstituted, nor, being reconstituted, would have endured. [6]
The Pope's reception of San Martino (10 September, 1870) was unfriendly. Pius IX allowed violent outbursts to escape him. Throwing the King's letter upon the table he exclaimed, "Fine loyalty! You are all a set of vipers, of whited sepulchres, and wanting in faith." He was perhaps alluding to other letters received from the King. After, growing calmer, he exclaimed: "I am no prophet, nor son of a prophet, but I tell you, you will never enter Rome!" San Martino was so mortified that he left the next day.[7]

Church and spirituality

  Besides the loss of territory in Italy, the rights of the Church were reduced across Europe, with Piedmont leading the way (a loss Pius condemned repeatedly, in allocutions in 1850, 1852, 1853 and 1855). By decree of Pope Pius IX on 29 September 1850, the Catholic hierarchy was restored on a regular pattern to England and Wales. The Church was reduced in the German states due to the power of Protestantism; in 1873 a Kulturkampf was started in Prussia and elsewhere against the Church. The situation was even worse for the Church in Switzerland, Poland and Russia, while in the New World the Pope denounced Colombia (1852) and Mexico (1861) for their anti-Church legislation. However, Pius IX did manage to secure satisfactory concordats with Spain, Austria, Portugal and a number of Caribbean and South American states. By the Bull Universalis Ecclesiae (29 September 1850), he recreated a Roman Catholic hierarchy in England and Wales, which had become extinct with the death of the last Marian bishop in the reign of Elizabeth I; a similar pronouncement followed for the Netherlands in 1853.

On 7 February 1862 he issued the papal constitution Ad Universalis Ecclesiae, dealing with the conditions for admission to religious orders of men in which solemn vows are prescribed.

In spiritual matters Pius IX was much more vigorous. His December 1864 encyclical Quanta cura condemned eighty errors (Syllabus errorum) related to many of the important intellectual ideas of the century such as rationalism, socialism, communism, and freedom of religion. In 1854 he became one of the few Popes to issue a statement considered infallible when he defined the dogma of the Immaculate Conception. He also organised the First Vatican Council (1869–1870) which defined the dogma of Papal infallibility.

Death and beatification


Pius IX died on 7 February 1878 from natural causes. His last words were "Guard the church I loved so well and sacredly" as recorded by the Cardinals kneeling beside his bedside. His body was originally buried in St. Peter's grotto, but was moved in a night procession on 13 July 1881 to the Basilica di San Lorenzo fuori le Mura. The event was almost disrupted when a mob of Italian nationalists tried to seize the body and throw it into the Tiber River. When his tomb was opened in 2000 to verify his remains in the Rite of Recognition, an important step in the process of beatification, his body was found to be almost perfectly preserved.

The process for his beatification was begun on February 11, 1907, and recommenced three times. Pope John Paul II (1978–2005) declared him venerable on July 6, 1985, and beatified him on September 3, 2000. This latter ceremony also included the beatification of Pope John XXIII (1958–63).

The beatification of Pius IX is a subject of controversy in light of some of his actions during his time as Pope, and lingering questions concerning his mental well-being in the last years of his reign. His appointment of the notorious reactionary Giacomo Antonelli as governor of Vatican City (effectively Cardinal Secretary of State) is also seen as a major strike against his canonization.

Connection to the Confederate States of America

During Confederate President Jefferson Davis’ imprisonment following the defeat of the Confederacy, Pope Pius IX sent a picture of himself to Davis with the hand-written inscription: “Come unto me, all ye who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”[8] Along with this picture, the pope sent a miniature crown of thorns which the Sovereign Pontiff had woven with his own hands.[9] Such a gift, said a great niece, was “never before conferred on any but crowned heads.” Robert E. Lee, pointing to his own portrait of Pius IX, told a visitor that he was “the only sovereign…in Europe who recognized our poor Confederacy.”[citation needed]


Wikisource has original text related to this article:
an account of Pius IX's daily life.

Pius IX had the longest reign in the history of the post-apostolic papacy, celebrating his silver jubilee in 1871. Despite his own wishes, Pius IX's pontificate also marks the beginning of the modern papacy, when its temporal sovereignty was forcibly removed during his reign. From this point on, the papacy became and continues to become more and more a spiritual, and less a temporal, authority.

For all his achievements, Pius IX was considered a conservative Pope by the standards of the time, and he was often lampooned by reference to the Italian version of his name (Pio Nono), as Pio No No.

One enduring popular touch, however, lies in Pius IX's artistic legacy as author of the Italian-language lyrics of Italy's best known indigenous Christmas carol, Tu scendi dalle stelle ("From starry skies descended"), originally a Neapolitan language song written by Saint Alphonsus Liguori.

During his stay at the Kingdom of Two Sicilies, on September 8 1849, Pope Pius IX had experience of a train trip from Portici to Pagani, so became enthusiastic about this modern invention. When he went back to his seat in Rome, promoted the growth of a rail road net, coming on 1856 with the Rome and Frascati Rail Road. On 1870 the final total amount of railway built in Papal State was 317 km. He also introduced gas lighting and the telegraph to the Papal States.

To commemorate his term as pope, there is a street in Montreal called Pie-IX (Pie-Neuf), French for Pius IX. There is also a stop on the Montreal Metro system called Pie-IX serving the street, located at the foot of the Olympic stadium. Also, there are streets in Santiago, Chile and Macon, Georgia (U.S. state) called Pío Nono, Spanish for Pius IX and a secondary school with the same name (Pio IX) in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

See also

  • Unification of Italy
  • Pellegrino Rossi
  • Roman Republic
  • Roman Question
  • Capture of Rome
  • Edgardo Mortara


  • Barwig, Regis N. (1978). More Than a Prophet: Day By Day With Pius IX. Altadena: Benziger Sisters. 
  • De Cesare, Raffaele (1909). The Last Days of Papal Rome. London: Archibald Constable & Co. 
  • Hasler, August Bernhard (1981). How the Pope Became Infallible: Pius IX and the Politics of Persuasion. Doubleday. 
  • Hasler, August Bernhard (1979). Wie der Papst unfelhlbar wurde: Macht und Ohnmacht eines Dogmas. R. Piper & Co. Verlag. 
  • Kertzer, David I. (2004). Prisoner of the Vatican: The Popes' Secret Plot to Capture Rome from the New Italian State. Houghton Mifflin. ISBN 0-618-22442-4. 
Catholic Church titles
Preceded by
Mario Ancaiani
Archbishop of Spoleto
1827 – 1832
Succeeded by
Ignazio Giovanni Cadolino
Preceded by
Giacomo Giustiniani
Archbishop of Imola
1832 – 1846
Succeeded by
Gaetano Baluffi
Preceded by
Gregory XVI
1846 – 1878
Succeeded by
This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Pope_Pius_IX". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
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