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“THOU ART PETER, AND UPON THIS ROCK I WILL BUILD MY CHURCH” – THE POPE, THE VICAR OF CHRIST

“‘Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give to thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven. And whatsoever thou shalt bind upon earth, it shall be bound also in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth, it shall be loosed also on heaven’ (Matthew 16:18-19).

JESUS MADE SIMON PETER THE FOUNDATION STONE OF HIS KINGDOM

Jesus made Simon Peter the rock or foundation stone of His kingdom. In the mind of Jesus all power in His kingdom, the power to teach the divine message, the power to rule men unto salvation, the power to sanctify men for salvation, all these powers were to be centralised in Simon Peter and his successors to the leadership of the apostolic college.

THE COUNCIL OF JERUSALEM

That the early Christian community recognised this is a historical fact. It was at Peter’s suggestion that the other Apostles elected Matthias to take the place left vacant in the apostolic college by the defection of Judas. It was Peter who first preached the establishment of the kingdom on Pentecost Sunday. It was Peter who worked the first miracle to testify to the power of Jesus Christ. It was Peter who punished Ananias and Sapphira for attempting to deceive the first Christian community at Jerusalem. It was Peter who admitted the first Gentiles into the new kingdom. At the Council of Jerusalem it was Peter who decided to what extent Gentile converts to the kingdom were bound by the old Mosaic Law. It was to Peter that St Paul went seeking confirmation of his own call to preach the Gospel. So great was his authority among the earliest members of the kingdom that even St Paul boasts of having induced Peter to accept his own position on a matter of discipline.

THE SUCCESSION

Peter died as Bishop of Rome, and the Bishops of Rome succeeded to his leadership of the whole Church. Thus it is that we see the Popes, the Bishops of Rome, exercising in the Kingdom of God through the centuries the authority which Jesus had entrusted to Peter.

ST CLEMENT’S LETTER TO THE CORINTHIANS

So it was that Clement of Rome, at the end of the first century, sent a letter to the Christians at Corinth asking them to restore to office the priests whom they had illegitimately deposed. His wishes were fulfilled by the Corinthians. In fact, they held his letter in such esteem that it was read during liturgical celebrations just as the letters of the original Apostles. This recognition of the authority of the Bishop of Rome is all the more remarkable since St John, one of the original Apostles, was still alive at Ephesus, much nearer to Corinth than Rome.

‘MEMBERS OF THE CHURCH RECEIVE THE FULL TEACHING OF JESUS FROM THE BISHOPS OF ROME’

At the end of the second century Pope Victor threatened to excommunicate the Asian bishops who refused to celebrate Easter on the date used by the rest of the Church. On the urging of Irenaeus, Bishop of Lyons, Victor did not carry out the threat. But the very fact that Victor threatened to do so, and the fact that Irenaeus, a disciple of Polycarp of Smyrna, and therefore a man acquainted with the traditions of the Church both in the East and in the West, felt it necessary in the interests of concord to urge him not to do so, testify to the recognition of his power to rule the whole Church. It should be mentioned also that Irenaeus gives testimony to the fact that members of the Church receive the full teaching of Jesus from the Bishop of Rome.

‘IT IS ST PETER WHO SPEAKS THROUGH THE POPE’

In the third century two bishops of Spain who had been accused of loss of faith appealed to Pope Stephen I. Similarly Pope Dionysius asked Bishop Dionysius of Alexandria, who was suspected of adhering to the Sabellian heresy, to make a profession of true faith.

THE COUNCIL OF NICEA

Even though the Council of Nicea – in 325 the first general or ecumenical council of the Church – was summoned at the order of the Emperor Constantine, it was the two legates of the Bishop of Rome who presided. Toward the end of the same fourth century Pope Siricius reminded the bishops of Spain that it is St Peter who speaks through the Pope.

THE COUNCIL OF CHALCEDON

In the fifth century the General Council of Chalcedon accepted the famous dogmatic letter of Leo as a statement of the true faith against the Monophysite heresy and proclaimed, ‘Peter has spoken through Leo.’ And, as we have previously seen, it was Pope Gelasius who during this century pointed out to the emperors that the Church held its power to rule from God and, thus, independently of the civil authority.

POPE GREGORY THE GREAT

In the sixth century Pope Gregory the Great reorganised the Church in Italy and sought to promote the reform of the Church in Gaul. It was Gregory who sent Augustine of Canterbury to convert England to the true faith.

THE THIRD COUNCIL OF CONSTANTINOPLE

In the seventh century the third council of Constantinople accepted the teaching of Pope Agatho against the Momothelite heresy. In the eighth century Pope Leo III crowned Charlemagne Emperor of the West. Nicholas I excommunicated the bishops of Trier and Cologne for sanctioning the second marriage of King Lothair. He also intervened in the Photian schism at Constantinople and restored Ignatius to the bishopric of Constantinople.

THE PAPACY WAS INVOLVED IN A LONG STRUGGLE WITH SECULAR RULERS FOR THE INDEPENDENCE OF THE CHURCH FROM CIVIL AUTHORITY

From the ninth century on, the Papacy was involved in a long and serious struggle with secular rulers for the independence of the Church from civil authority. This struggle reached a climax in the reforming efforts of Pope Gregory VII, who succeeded in freeing the Church from the ’emperor’ King Henry IV of Germany.

THE PROBLEMS ASSOCIATED WITH THE BEGINNING NATIONALISM IN THE SECULAR SPHERE

From this time on, the power of the Popes was supreme in matters of religion and Western Christendom generally recognised the supremacy of the Church over the State. But the situation changed after the conflict between Pope Boniface VIII (1294-1303) and Philip the Fair of France. Philip, in an effort to strengthen the French monarchy, sought a great measure of control over the Church in France. Boniface resisted his efforts, but without success. In the fourteenth century the Popes made the mistake of taking up residence at Avignon, within the borders of France. This gave the Papacy the appearance of being too favourable with the French. When finally the Popes returned to residence at Rome after the death of Pope Urban V, the French King Charles V disputed the election of Pope Urban VI and induced some French cardinals to elect Robert of Geneva as Pope Clement VII. This was the start of the Great Western Schism. Until the election of Martin V in 1417 Christendom was troubled and confused at the sight of rival claimants to the See of Peter. In 1417 there were three claimants to the Papacy. This unfortunate situation gave rise to the ‘Conciliar theory,’ the idea that a general council is superior to the Pope. Though Jesus Himself had made Peter and his successors (the Bishops of Rome) the supreme heads of His Church, the schism, coupled with the beginning of nationalism and the consequent desire of some nations (at least on the part of their sovereigns) to achieve independence of the divinely constituted authority of the Popes, gave impetus to the theory that a general council was superior even to the Pope. As a consequence the Popes had to fight against this attempt to destroy the foundations of authority in the Kingdom of God on earth. Pope Eugene IV found it necessary to dissolve the Council of Basel, which pretended to have authority over the Pope himself.

SECULAR RULERS WITH THEIR NATIONALISTIC AMBITIONS SUCCEEDED IN CONTROLLING CHURCH AFFAIRS IN SOME AREAS VIA LUTHER AND ZWINGLI

In the sixteenth century the Popes faced the most dangerous threat to their authority up to that time. In 1517 Martin Luther, a German monk, revolted against the authority of Rome. This sparked a movement which has become known as the Protestant Reformation. Luther, and other reformers such as Zwingli, were aided by kings and princes who sought control of church affairs. Pope Leo X did not act with sufficient force. As a consequence roughly half the Christians of Europe – chiefly those in northern Europe – left the true Church and joined heretical sects. The Council of Trent, which was summoned toward the middle of the century by Pope Paul III, by its reforming measures in the area of Church discipline and by its authoritative statement of Catholic teaching helped to stem the tide. But too much damage had already been done. And so from then until now the world is faced with the spectacle of millions of men, claiming to be followers of Jesus Christ, who will not submit in matters of discipline, doctrine or worship to the vicar of Christ, the Pope of Rome.

THE POPE, HOWEVER, DID NOT SWAP CHRISTIAN DOCTRINE OR MORAL PRINCIPLE FOR POLITICAL INFLUENCE

One of the results of the so-called Reformation, with the establishment of powerful Protestant states, was that by the seventeenth century the Papacy had been reduced to a state of political unimportance. But it is to the credit of the Papacy that even though the Popes were anxious to restore Christian unity to the world they did not compromise Christian doctrine or moral principle in the effort to do so.

But the decline of papal political influence was less unfortunate than the decline of spiritual and moral influence of the Papacy which accompanied it. Basically the political power of the Papacy was only a reflection of its enormous spiritual influence. Ultimately kings and princes, such as Pepin and Charlemagne, gave grants of land and political power to the Popes because the Popes wielded great spiritual influence over the Christian people of Europe and were a stabilising factor in a war-torn world. But in time this political influence, though only in appearance, came to overshadow the spiritual force which it reflected and bolstered.

But the ‘Reformation’ struck directly at the spiritual authority of the Papacy. Up to the ‘Reformation’ the Church itself, the Church centralised in the authority of the Popes, was the first and the ultimate source of all doctrinal and disciplinary decision. But the ‘reformers’ asserted that the faith and the religious practice of every Christian was based on the right of every Christian to interpret the Bible for himself. For the divinely instituted authority of Peter the ‘reformers’ substituted the authority of the individual mind of the individual man. Naturally those who embraced this individualistic rule of faith no longer looked to Peter, in the person of the Pope, for the teaching of the message of Jesus and its application to the ever-changing conditions of history.

IT BECAME EVIDENT THAT SPIRITUAL PRINCIPLES AND STATE POWER DON’T MIX

The weakness, even the falsity, of this new principle became evident very quickly in the multiplication of Protestant sects, each differing from the others in one or more points of faith or religious discipline. Moreover many of these sects, in their efforts to survive, accepted the principle that the local prince or king was the head of the Church.

CONCESSIONS TO NATIONALISM BY PROTESTANTS

This was a concession to the growing principle of nationalism. But it was also a rejection of the real supranational character of the Christian kingdom, and it represented a betrayal of the principle enunciated by Jesus Himself: ‘Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to God the things that are God’s.’ It was in this spirit that the Lutherans in Germany recognised the right of the German princes to determine the religious views of their subjects and that Henry the Eighth made himself the supreme head of the Anglican Church. And so, at least for some time, what began as an emancipation of men from the authority of the Pope in the name of individual liberty became in fact an enslavement of religion to civil authority.

‘AN ENSLAVEMENT OF FAITH TO CIVIL AUTHORITY’

The loss of millions of members of the kingdom to the new heretical sects was in itself a great blow to the Church. But it had an even more insidious result. The princes of Catholic Europe were not slow to see the political advantages gained by the control which the Protestant sovereigns exercised over the Protestant churches in their domains. Anxious to make their own kingdoms as strong as possible in the face of growing nationalistic rivalries, Catholic princes also sought to control the Catholic Church within their own territories. Thus it was that in 1682 thirty-six French prelates, under the urging of Cardinal Richelieu, adopted the famous ‘Gallican Articles’ and sent them to the bishops in France. The ‘Articles’ held that the Pope is subject to a general council, the king is not subject to the Pope and that the Pope is not infallible. It is true that Pope Innocent XII succeeded in persuading Louis XIV of France to annul the ‘Articles.’ But the fact that they were disseminated at all shows that the spirit of anti-papism was to be found in Catholic France. The same tendency to reduce papal influence and enlarge the civil control of religion was shown also in the Febronianism and Josephinism which arose in Catholic Germany. All in all, these movements in Catholic countries coupled with state control of religion in Protestant countries were a concrete manifestation of the growing political theory of the absolute state, the state supreme in all the affairs of human life, even in the affairs of religion.

THE LOGICAL ‘NEXT STEP’ FOLLOWING THE PROTESTANT ‘REFORMATION’

To these religious and political counter-currents seeking to undermine the Church there was added in the eighteenth century the far more formidable adversary of rationalism in religion. The Kingdom of God is always a kingdom founded on faith, in fact on faith in mysteries which cannot be fully understood by the limited powers of the human mind. This faith is sustained in the world by the teaching authority of the Church, an authority sustained by and centralised in the Papacy. When Protestantism divorced the minds of men from this authority it was not long before these same minds were divorced from the divine revelation itself. Under the influence of Locke, Hume and Kant the message of Jesus was reduced to a purely natural religion, founded no longer on a divine revelation to man but now on the limited resources of the human mind. Since the philosophy of the time reduced the powers of the mind to the simple consideration and ordering, not of reality of real things but only of the ‘appearances’ of things, it became fashionable to hold that men could not prove the existence of God or the immortality of the human soul. In such an intellectual atmosphere men tended to become either atheists and irreligious or to found religious values purely on man’s emotions and the pragmatic necessity of supplying ease and satisfaction to these irrational emotions.

IN THE PROVIDENCE OF GOD…

Thus, in modern times the Papacy, seeking to preserve in the world the true Kingdom of God, has had to attempt to undo the ravages of the ‘Reformation,’ to preserve the independence of the Church [from secular power, also under the guise of Protestantism] and to assert the divine authority of the Christian revelation in the face of the attacks of rationalism. Through the General Council of Trent the Popes replied to the ‘Reformation.’ Through missionary efforts, especially under the central control of the Congregation of the Propagation of the Faith (established in 1622 by Pope Gregory XV), the Papacy has carried on its divinely commissioned task to bring the Gospel to all the world. And so, in the providence of God, the losses occasioned by the ‘Reformation’ have been partly offset by the tightening of discipline within the Church and by the recruitment of members of the Kingdom in Africa, the Far East and the Americas.

THE CONTINUED INDEPENDENCE OF THE PAPACY OF ALL CIVIL STATES

In the face of attempts on the part of states to control the Church the Papacy has fought a long battle which is not yet, perhaps, over. The political power and prestige of the Papacy itself declined until in 1870 with the annexation of the Papal States by the newly founded kingdom of Italy it was eclipsed. Under Pius XI, in 1929, the ‘Roman Question’ was settled by the Lateran Treaty with the government of Mussolini. The tiny Vatican State was established and its rights recognised by Italy. In this way the independence of the Papacy of all civil states was formally recognised.

THE RIGHT OF THE CHURCH TO SPEAK IN THE WORLD FOR GOD IS STILL AN UNEASY ONE TO EXERCISE

But the right of the Church to speak in the world for God is still an uneasy one to exercise. This is shown by the fact that the Popes of the last few centuries have found it necessary to make concordats or agreements with modern states guaranteeing to the Church the right to function under certain limitations.

THE POPES CONDEMNED MANY INTELLECTUAL ERRORS OF MODERN TIMES

In the struggle with rationalism the Popes have found it necessary to condemn many of the intellectual errors of modern times. In this regard the Vatican Council convened by Pius IX stands out. The council affirmed clearly the ability of the human mind to discover the existence of God, and to recognise God’s message to men by the divine signs (especially miracles and prophecies) which accompany it in its journey through time. In addition it announced firmly to the world the supreme power of the Pope, the successor of St Peter, to teach, rule and sanctify men. In the face of scepticism it affirmed also the power of the Pope to teach infallible matters of faith and Christian morality.

THE HISTORY OF THE PAPACY SHOWS THAT THE WORDS OF JESUS ARE BEING FULFILLED

The history of the Papacy, then, shows that the words of Jesus are being fulfilled. The Papacy is the rock on which the kingdom is founded, founded so firmly that the gates of hell will not prevail against it. Down through the centuries the Papacy has been the indefatigable defender of the independence of the Kingdom of God. Down through the centuries the Papacy has been the faithful guardian of Christian truth, protecting the kingdom against the loss of even the least element of the divine message entrusted to it by Jesus.

THE GATES OF HELL WILL NOT PREVAIL AGAINST IT (Mt 16:18b)

At the present moment the position of the Papacy as the Vicar of Christ is clear. In the face of political totalitarianism it stands out as the champion of the independence of the spiritual Kingdom of God. In the face of religious indifferentism, of intellectual scepticism and nihilism, the Papacy is the divinely appointed voice of supernatural religion, the champion of both reason and faith. Confronted with irreligious and misguided rationalism, the Church speaks to the world under the guidance of the Popes, the words of God, the divine revelation whose divine dimensions cannot be reduced to the narrow confines of unaided human reason, but whose mysterious depths of truth lie open to the humble eyes of faith.

NO ‘PRISONER’ HAS EVER, IN THE WORLD OF SPIRIT, BEEN MORE INFLUENTIAL IN THE WORLD AT LARGE

It is a remarkable fact that in our contemporary era, at a time when the political power of the Papacy is practically extinguished, the character of the Papacy as the rock on which Christ founded His Church can be seen with outstanding clarity. From Pius IX to Pius XI the Pope was popularly known as the ‘prisoner of the Vatican.’ Yet no ‘prisoner’ has ever, in the world of the spirit, been more influential in the world at large.

THE POPES HAVE STOOD HEAD AND SHOULDERS ABOVE THE REST OF MEN IN THEIR STRUGGLE TO FOSTER WHAT IS BEST IN MAN

From Leo XIII to Pius XII the Popes have stood head and shoulders above the rest of men in their struggle to foster what is best in man, to safeguard and raise the spirit of man. In the midst of the political turmoil of the nineteenth century it was Leo XIII who freed the Church from allegiance to any particular form of government. It was Leo who, in the face of the Industrial Revolution and its creation of a landless, poverty-stricken proletariat, proclaimed the rights of the working man and the obligations of capital to provide decent working conditions and an adequate wage for workers. It was he also who revived the sane philosophy and theology of St Thomas Aquinas as an antidote to the intellectual errors of scepticism, naturalism and materialism.

THE PAPACY AFFIRMS THE LIBERTY OF THE INDIVIDUAL IN THE FACE OF THE ALL-POWERFUL STATE

Under his successor, Pius X, we see the Church strengthening itself within itself. He inaugurated a liturgical revival, urging the faithful to a greater personal understanding of and participation in the Church’s worship of God through the Mass and the Sacraments. The internal discipline of the Church was strengthened by the clarification and codification of Canon Law, the law which regulates Church discipline.

Pius XI, confronted with the attack on individual freedom by totalitarian philosophies of fascism, nazism and communism, affirmed the liberty of the individual in the face of the all-powerful state. Against the racial bias of these political philosophies, against the theories of racial superiority by blood, he affirmed the equality of all men in the sight of God. Conscious of the need of the Church to bring the message of the Gospel to all men, he encouraged the works of Catholic Action. He urged the Catholic laity to assist the bishops in the work of the apostolate, in the task of leavening an unbelieving world with the elevating yeast of Catholic doctrine and practice. Outside the Church the growth of the practices of divorce and birth control were destroying the moral fibre of society. Pius XI denounced the immorality of [artificial] birth control and asserted the sanctity and the indissolubility of marriage.

THE CHAMPIONS AGAINST THE PREVAILING MATERIALISM OF OUR AGE

During this period two great world wars showed how far the bonds of social and political action between the nations of the world had deteriorated. Benedict XV, Pius XI and Pius XII spoke clearly for peace and the cultivation of virtues which maintain peace. Though the nations did not listen, the Popes carried on a worldwide work of bringing succour to those made homeless by the destruction of war.

But the one thing that has become increasingly evident in modern times is that the Church, under the leadership of the Papacy, is the great champion of the spiritual element in human life against the prevailing materialism of the age. This is evident both in the Papal defence of what we might call specific human spiritual values and in the Papal insistence on the validity of the divine mysteries which have been revealed to the Church and which constitute the only true basis of human hope for salvation.

‘MEN AREN’T SIMPLY THE TOOLS OF A MATERIALISTIC STATE’

Thus, under Pius IX, the Vatican Council insisted on man’s ability, as a creature composed of body and spiritual soul, to discover the great fundamental truths of the existence of God and of his divinely founded Church. Leo XIII defended the dignity of all men in an age which was seeking to make men simply the tools of a materialistic state. Pius XI and Pius XII defended man’s freedom as a spiritual being in the face of the encroachment of totalitarian materialism on the sphere of man’s free spirit.

IN A WORLD HAS RETURNED TO THE OLD ERROR OF ADAM, THE ERROR OF SEEKING SALVATION BY ITS OWN UNAIDED EFFORTS…

But, best of all, in a world which has returned to the old error of Adam, the error of seeking salvation by its own unaided efforts, the Popes have, with ever increasing vigour and courage, insisted on the great revealed mysteries which the Church possesses. The worldly prophets of the time preach a universal brotherhood of men founded on the tyranny of an absolute state. Pius XII held out to the world the only possibility of achieving a true human brotherhood of men, the super-union of all men in the Church, the Mystical Body of Christ. In the Mystical Body of Christ men may achieve that fraternal union with one another which grace and charity make possible. In a secularist world where false prophets seek to institute a world government totally divorced from religious principles Pius XI insisted that all nations must recognise the kingship of Christ. World unity is possible only if men and nations are motivated by truly religious principles. In a world deep in despair because it has been taught that man is only matter doomed to eternal extinction by death, Pius XII fearlessly proclaimed the dignity, the spirituality and the immortality of all men in the doctrine of the Assumption of Mary, the Mother of God, body and soul into heaven. To the world’s despair he proclaimed the hope of salvation, the hope of resurrection and immortality.

THE ROCK OF PETER STANDS UNMOVED AS A BEACON OF LIGHT, SET IN ITS PLACE BY THE REAL WAY, THE TRUTH AND THE LIFE

In this present age the Papacy stands out once again as the Rock of Peter, the Rock on which God founded His kingdom among men. The furious tides of political opinion and international disputes have stripped the Rock of political power. But this stripping has only served to reveal its essential character. In the midst of the rushing waters of materialism and barbarism, staunch against the breaking waves of war and despair, the Rock of Peter stands unmoved as the first and last champion of man and of God.”
– Martin J. Healy S.T.D., 1959 (headings in capital letters added afterwards)

 

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“RENDER THEREFORE TO CAESAR…” (Mt 22:21)

“The Kingdom of God which Jesus founded on earth is fundamentally a spiritual kingdom, a kingdom of the spirit. When Jesus acknowledged before Pilate that He was a king, He also said that His kingdom was not of this world. The objective of His kingdom was not worldly wealth or power but rather the salvation of men, the forgiveness of sin and the reunion of men with God both in time and eternity.

THE REUNION OF MEN WITH GOD BOTH IN TIME AND ETERNITY

But though His kingdom was primarily a kingdom of the spirit, the men who would compose it were not pure spirits. Men are spirits in bodies. As spirits men become conscious of the world and of themselves through the vital, sensitive activities of their bodies. Though it was theoretically possible for God to speak the message of salvation directly to the spirit of each individual man, He did not choose to do so. Instead He chose to speak to a few and commission them to transmit the message to the rest of men. In so doing God chose to respect and work with man as he is, a unit composed of body and spirit. It is through the human body and its senses, through human language, whether spoken, written or by gesture or sign, that men communicate with each other. God chose to use this normal means of human communication to transmit His message to all men.

GOD CHOOSES TO ACT IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE NATURE OF MAN, HIS CREATURE

Similarly God could, if He had so chosen, give His grace to men, the grace which carries with it forgiveness of sin and a share in His kingdom in a purely spiritual way, operating secretly and invisibly in the interior of men’s souls. But God chose to act in accordance with the nature of man. He chose to enable men to know His invisible gifts to their souls by external visible signs, the Mass and the sacraments.

‘DO THIS IN MEMORY OF ME’

Now therefore the external transmission of the divine message of salvation and the sensible means of salvation instituted by God make His kingdom on earth a visible kingdom. The necessity of safeguarding the integrity of His message and the need of preserving the sacramental means of salvation were provided for by Jesus. To His Apostles, under the leadership of Peter, He gave the power to teach His message without error and to bring to men the sacramental means of salvation. Consequently, though His kingdom on earth is primarily a kingdom of the spirit, it is also a visible kingdom; visible in the evident distinction between the Apostles, who possess the authority to teach, to sanctify and rule the members of the kingdom for eternal salvation, and the members, who receive this teaching, partake of the sacraments and follow the apostolic rule to their salvation; visible in the administration of the sacraments which can be seen and heard; visible and audible in the teaching of the Apostles; recognisable in the obedience in spiritual concerns which the members give to the Apostles and their successors, the Pope and the bishops of the Church.

SPIRITUAL AND VISIBLE

As a visible, organised society, with the most important mission in the world – the salvation of all men – the Church of God has the right to preach its divine message in the world, the right to administer the means of salvation to men and the right to rule the moral and spiritual behaviour of men for their salvation. Now, if all men were perfect, both in knowledge and in moral behaviour, if all men recognised at once the divine character of the Church of Christ, and if all men had at once the good will to recognise the divine authority of the Church to sanctify and rule men for salvation, the Church would experience no difficulty in the world of men. But men are not perfect, neither in knowledge nor in behaviour. It was to be expected therefore that the appearance in the world of a new society claiming the freedom and the right to teach, rule and sanctify men in the name of God would be neither unnoticed nor unhindered in its efforts to exercise this freedom and right. Over the centuries the weakness of men, both within and without the Church, would occasion not only misunderstanding but also conflicts between the Church and human states. Jesus Himself had given His disciples the general principles to follow: ‘Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s; and to God, the things that are God’s.’ It is our intention now to trace briefly the working-out of this principle in human history.

CHURCH AND STATE

The Church, the Kingdom of God, was born in the Roman Empire. In matters of religion the Roman State was eclectic and tolerant. The Romans allowed all subject-peoples to retain and practise their own religions. They asked only that all the subject-peoples (except the Jews) acknowledge the Roman Emperor as a manifestation of the divinity. Since the conquered peoples were generally polytheists, believing in the existence of many gods, and since many of them were accustomed to the idea that kings or emperors were either gods or manifestations of gods, this practice caused no difficulty. On the other hand, it was a powerful symbol of the unity of the empire. The Jews, since they were monotheists, were not asked to worship the emperor. Besides, since they showed no very active inclination to convert the peoples of the empire to monotheism, they were not a threat to the worship of the emperor, nor to the symbol of imperial unity.

THE CHURCH’S OBJECTIVE OF UNITING ALL MEN TO GOD THE FATHER, SON AND THE HOLY SPIRIT IN JESUS CHRIST, THE SON OF GOD, CLASHED WITH THE ROMAN EMPIRE’S EMPEROR-WORSHIP

But the Kingdom of God founded by Jesus proclaimed itself to the world as a society with a world mission. Its objective was to reunite all men to God the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit in Jesus Christ, the Son of God. As men came to believe in Jesus, as they freely began to worship the Trinity which He preached, they ceased to worship the many gods of the empire. Most significantly they ceased to worship the emperor. And the more numerous the followers of Jesus became, the more evident it became to the imperial authorities that the Christian Church was a threat to the symbol of imperial unity, the symbol which helped to sustain that unity.

THE CHRISTIAN CHURCH WAS A THREAT TO THE SYMBOL OF IMPERIAL UNITY

Thus it was that the Church attracted the unfavourable notice of the Roman authorities. Viewed with suspicion, as a possible threat to the well-being of the Roman State, it could not escape persecution by the imperial authority. In the first three centuries of its existence therefore the Church was subject to persecution by the civil authority. The profession and practice of Christianity were forbidden by the State. Those who refused to give up their faith in Christ could be deprived of their titles and property, imprisoned, forced to work in mines, tortured and put to death. It was a time when, as Jesus had said, men would think they were doing God a favour by putting the disciples of Christ to death.

THE TENDENCY OF THE EMPERORS TO EXERCISE CONTROL OVER CHURCH MATTERS PREVENTED THE TRUE ECCLESIASTICAL AUTHORITY FROM REALISING ITS PROPER FREEDOM IN MATTERS OF FAITH

The imperial persecution of the Church ceased with the advent of Constantine in the first quarter of the fourth century. Although Constantine himself was baptised a Christian only at the close of his life, he favoured the Church of Christ. But, as a Roman Emperor, he regarded himself as possessed of power over the Church, even in spiritual matters. Unfortunately for the Church in the eastern half of the empire, Constantine established his capital at Byzantium (Constantinople). The tendency of the emperors to exercise control over Church affairs prevented the true ecclesiastical authority from realising its proper freedom in matters of religion. The real dependence of the Eastern bishops on the power of the emperors and the human weakness and ambitions of the bishops made the Eastern Church unduly subservient to the civil power.

THE FACT THAT THE IMPERIAL POWER WAS CENTRED ELSEWHERE GAVE THE POPE, THE BISHOP OF ROME, A GREATER MEASURE OF FREEDOM FROM INTERFERENCE BY THE CIVIL RULERS

On the other hand, the removal of the capital from Rome to Constntinople proved fortunate for the Bishop of Rome, the successor of St Peter, the supreme authority on earth in the Kingdom of God. The fact that the imperial power was centred at Constantinople in the East and at Milan or Ravenna in the West gave the Pope, the Bishop of Rome, a greater measure of freedom from interference by the civil rulers than that enjoyed by the bishops of the East. As a result the supreme authority to teach, rule and sanctify which Jesus had entrusted to Peter and his successors, the Bishops of Rome, not only became more clearly recognised in the Western Church but it also developed in greater freedom. The barbarian invasions of the empire, which began toward the close of the fourth century, also served to increase the freedom and prestige of the Popes. As the imperial organisation of the empire in the West began to break up under the successive waves of invasion, the Popes appeared to be not only the authoritative heralds of the religion of Christ [James 1:27] but also the champions [of fairness to all,] of the law and order which the old empire had realised.

OVER FOUR CENTURIES OF HARMONISING MAN’S DUTIES BOTH TO GOD AND TO CAESAR FOLLOWED

Thus, from the beginning of the fourth century to the end of the eighth century, two different ways of harmonising man’s duties both to God and to Caesar were being developed. In the Eastern empire, while the state became Christian, the bishops became too dependent on the civil power and the emperors gained too great authority over the Church in matters of religion. In the West the true and divinely given power of the Papacy was able to develop more freely according to its inner nature. The acceptance of the authority of the Popes also safeguarded the authority of bishops generally from the tendency of civil authority to encroach upon Church affairs.

HOW THE STATE TRIED TO INTERFERE TO MAKE PEOPLE BELIEVE THAT JESUS CHRIST WAS NOT GOD

The tendency of the emperors to assume control of the Church was given free play during the rise and fall of the Arian heresy. The Arians denied that Jesus was God equally with the Father. Through the efforts of Eusebius, the Bishop of Nicomedia, they gained the favour of Constantine and of his son Constantius II (337-361). In the Church in the East the power of the emperor was used to depose the true bishops and impose Arian bishops in their place. The Pope and the Western bishops generally resisted these imperial attempts to make the Church Arian. With the advent of the Emperor Theodosius the Great (379-395) the imperial patronage of the Arian heresy ceased. But, in the East, it had already become customary for the emperors to interfere at will in the affairs of the Church. The bishops there were also accustomed to such interference.

THE WEST AVOIDS UNHEALTHY DEPENDENCY ON SECULAR POWERS

The influence of the emperor in ecclesiastical affairs was also responsible for the increase in power and prestige of the Bishop of Constantinople. At the time of the Council of Constantinople (381) the bishop of the imperial capital was a simple suffragan bishop of the Archbishop of Heraclea. But at the Council through the influence of the Emperor Theodosius, it was decreed that the Bishop of Constantinople was to hold a primacy of honour over all the bishops of the world except the Bishop of Rome. The Council granted the Bishop of Constantinople only a primacy of honour. It did not give him any added powers. But the granting of this honour was based on the principle that the presence of the emperor (or the imperial power) at Constantinople added prestige to the bishop of the see. In this way there was established between the Church in the East and the state a link that was to prove the downfall of the Eastern Church.

THE TENDENCY OF THE STATE TO LORD IT OVER THE CHURCH WAS MET WITH RESISTANCE

In the West the tendency of the state to lord it over the Church was met with resistance. Ambrose, the Bishop of Milan (where the Western capital of the empire was then located), gave an example to the rest of the Western bishops. When, with the support of Justina, the mother of the Emperor Valentinian II, the Arians asked that one of the Catholic churches of Milan be handed over to them, Ambrose refused, saying that ‘palaces are the concern of the emperor, but Churches belong to the bishop.’ He also pointed out that the ’emperor is within the Church, but not over the Church.’ It is worth noting that St Ambrose in this tilt with the imperial power, appealed constantly to the principle laid down by Jesus Himself: ‘Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.’ In the year 494 Pope Gelasius I, in a letter to the Emperor Anastasius, laid down the principle that the world is ruled by two powers, the sacred power of the Popes and the royal power. The power of the priesthood is more important because the priest must give an account to God even for the kings of men. In the West, then, both in principle and in fact, the Pope and the bishops maintained the independence of the Kingdom of God from the civil power. In matters affecting the conduct of the civil affairs of the state, the Church and its members would obey the laws of the state. But in matters of religion the Church is independent, subject only to God.

‘IN MATTERS OF FAITH THE CHURCH IS INDEPENDENT, SUBJECT ONLY TO GOD’

This teaching of Pope Gelasius was a clear re-affirmation of the principle laid down by Christ Himself. It helped to guard the Church of the West from the dangers of Caesaropapism. But the bishops of the Eastern Church were already too accustomed to subservience to the civil power. Moreover, the tendency of the peoples of the East to become embroiled in theological and liturgical controversies, coupled with the human ambitions of the bishops of Constantinople, helped to bring about the triumph of Caesaropapism and ultimately a rupture between the Eastern and the Western Church.

‘A CLEAR RE-AFFIRMATION OF THE PRINCIPLE LAID DOWN BY CHRIST HIMSELF’

The first open signs of this rupture are found in the story of the Photian schism. In 847 Ignatius, a son of the Emperor Michael I, was elected Patriarch of Constantinople. His opposition to Bardas, guardian of the emperor, brought about his deposition as Patriarch. Photius, a layman, was chosen in his place. Pope Nicholas I sent legates to Constantinople to mediate the dispute between the followers of Ignatius and those of Photius. His legates took the dide of Photius, but the Pope himself decided in favour of Ignatius. With the support of the emperor, Photius remained in power. But he had been alienated from the Papacy by the decision of Nicholas I. In his anger he wrote a number of works against the See of Rome. These have provided ever since an arsenal of arguments used by Eastern theologians against the Western Church. Even though, ultimately, Photius died in communion with the Pope at Rome, the seeds of the schism had been sown.

THE PRESERVERS OF THE CULTURE THAT WAS HANDED DOWN

In 1053 the Patriarch Michael Caerularius began an active campaign against the Church of the West. In 1054 he was solemnly excommunicated by the papal legates. This brought about the rupture between the Eastern and the Western Church. At the general councils of Lyons, in 1274, and Florence, in 1438, unsuccessful attempts were made to reunite the churches of the East and the West. But the schism remains to this day. Now and then, in the course of succeeding centuries, some bishops and peoples of the East have been reunited to Rome. But the majority of the Christian Churches of the East are still in schism. Thus Caesaropapism – the attempt of civil authority to dominate in a sphere where it has no real authority – helped to remove many of the followers of Christ from the unity of His sheepfold which He so ardently desired.

THE CHURCH AND CHARLEMAGNE

In the West the relations between Church and the state followed a different course. At that time when the Eastern Church was coming under the domination of the civil power, the activity of St Ambrose and the statement of Christian principle by Pope Gelasius, aided by the breakdown of the western empire, preserved the Church from the danger of Caesaropapism. The prestige of the Church in western Europe was greatly increased by the fact that the Church, in the persons of the Pope and the bishops, emerged from the chaos of the barbarian invasions as the symbols of law and order and the preservers of the ancient culture. The conversion of the Franks improved the position of the Popes as the leaders of the Church. Pepin, the founder of the Corolingian dynasty, gave Pope Stephen III a donation of lands in Italy for the protection of the Roman See. In the year 800 Charlemagne, by accepting coronation as Emperor of the West at the hands of the Pope, consolidated the position of the Pope. Though Charlemagne himself had tendencies toward Caesaropapism, his great empire broke up after his death and the Western Church was temporarily relieved of this embarrassing situation.

SOME BAD NEWS FOR THE CHURCH

But this relief was productive of its own embarrassments. The Mohammedans had begun a series of sea raids on the coasts of Italy and France. The Danes had begun their raids on Ireland, England and the continent itself. The breakdown of Charlemagne’s empire, with the consequent rivalry between kings and princes, helped to increase the chaos which spread through Europe. In these conditions the Papacy became subject to the intrigues of the nobles of Rome and Italy. In the tenth century, under three German emperors, Otto I, Otto II and Otto III, order was restored and the Papacy rescued from the local intrigues of the Roman nobility. But the Ottos tended to make the Church dependent on the imperial authority. Under Otto I the empire founded by Charlemagne was re-established. But, unfortunately for the Church, the emperors sought to nominate Popes or control their election. In addition it had become customary for emperors, kings and princes to nominate bishops and abbots. In the development of feudal Europe bishops and abbots had often become great landowners and feudal allies of the civil sovereigns. Thus it seemed just to the princes that they should have the disposal of ecclesiastical offices and dignities. But such a system of providing successors for the Apostles was extremely bad for the Church.

THE CONCORDAT OF WORMS, A.D. 1122

A movement of reform began during the reign of Pope Leo IX, who had been named Pope by the emperor in 1049. The aim of the reform movement was to liberate the Church from the dominance of the secular princes. The movement came to a climax in the reign of Pope Gregory VII. Gregory forbade laymen to appoint men to ecclesiastical offices and threatened anyone who did so with excommunication from the Church. The Emperor Henry IV disobeyed the decree. Gregory excommunicated Henry and deposed him. The deposition of Henry from the rule of his kingdom was the first case in which a Pope actually attempted to depose a king. In the actual struggle which ensued, Gregory did not obtain a victory. But his action was a manifestation of his own view on the meaning of the Christian principle ‘Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to God the things that are God’s.’ Gelasius had recognised that there are two divinely instituted powers in the world, the civil authority and the authority of the Church. Gregory showed that in his mind the civil authority was ultimately subject to the power of the Church, since the Church had to render to God an accounting for the actions of princes. At any rate, the action of Gregory set the tone for the policy of the Church in relation to the state for the succeeding centuries. The particular question of laymen appointing and investing ecclesiastical officers – bishops and abbots – was settled at the Concordat of Worms (in 1122) under Pope Calixtus II. By the concordat it was agreed that in future all bishops and abbots should be elected by the proper ecclesiastical authorities. It was thus agreed that the civil authority should not control the Church by its custom of appointing bishops.

BECAUSE THE CHURCH STRIVED TO MAINTAIN INDEPENDENCE OF WORLDLY POWERS, THE KING SENT HIS ARMY TO ARREST THE POPE

In the twelfth century the Emperor Frederick Barbarossa attempted again to subject the Church to the imperial power. His efforts were opposed by Pope Alexander III. It was not until 1177 at the peace of Venice that the struggle ended. Under Pope Innocent III (1198-1216) the Papacy reached the height of its power in both spiritual and temporal affairs.

The struggle was renewed during the reign of Emperor Frederick II. It did not end until Charles of Anjou defeated Conradin, the last of the Hohenstaufen emperors, in 1268.

Philip the Fair of France (1285-1314) quarreled with Pope Boniface VIII. Philip, seeking to increase the royal power in France, levied taxes on the French clergy. Boniface held that the Church could not be taxed without its own consent. Later Philip arrested the Bishop of Pamiers. Boniface threatened to depose him. Then, in the Papal Bull ‘Unam Sanctam’ the Pope reaffirmed the doctrine that the temporal authority ‘should be subjected to the spiritual.’ But Philip dealt a severe blow to the prestige of the Papacy by sending his army into Italy to arrest the Pope. Through the loyalty of the people at Anagni the Pope escaped. But the violent action of the king helped to reduce the awe in which the people had held the Pope.

THE POPES, IN THEIR EFFORTS TO MAINTAIN THE INDEPENDENCE OF THE CHURCH FROM THE STATE, WERE SUBJECTED TO MUCH HARASSMENT

From this point on the power and prestige of the Popes declined. Pope John XXII was denounced by Louis of Bavaria. Marsilio published a book ‘Defensor pacis’ in which he proposed the theory that everything was subject to the emperor. The Papacy was subject to a general council and councils were subject to the emperor. In 1378 there began the Great Western Schism. Some cardinals, contesting the election of Urban VI, elected Robert of Geneva as Clement VII. In 1409 a so-called general council at Pisa elected a third Pope, Alexander V.

The existence of rival claimants to the Papacy gave impetus to theories that the Church generally, especially as represented by general councils, was superior to the Pope. Practically, the schism was settled at the Council of Constance. Two of the rival Popes resigned their office. The council elected Martin V Pope. While this action of the council provided a practical solution to the schism, the council itself claimed power over the Papacy. This claim was later renewed at the Council of Basel. Thus the Popes, in their efforts to maintain the independence of the Church from the state, now found themselves compelled to resist the theory that a general council is superior to the Pope.

THE SUPREME AUTHORITY WHICH JESUS HAD GIVEN TO THE PAPACY IN THE PERSON OF PETER AND HIS SUCCESSORS AT ROME WAS ATTACKED

The dissensions within the Church occasioned by the Great Schism enabled the princes of Europe to strengthen their own authority over the Church. In 1438 Charles VII of France promulgated the Pragmatic Sanction whereby all papal nominations of clergy in France were forbidden. The German princes were not slow to imitate this action. Meanwhile there developed the tendency to appeal from Papal decisions to a future general council, as if such a council was superior to the Pope. In this way, through the so-called Concilliar Theory, the supreme authority which Jesus had given to the Papacy in the person of Peter and his successors at Rome was attacked and weakened.

THE PRINCES FINALLY SUCCEED IN BRINGING A SIGNIFICANT NUMBER OF CHRISTIANS INTO THEIR WORLDLY POWER

This weakening of papal authority paved the way for the great disaster which befell the Church in the sixteenth century – the Protestant Reformation. Whatever faults of the Church needed correction, whatever the numerous and interwoven causes which led to this so-called Reformation, one thing is clear – the ‘Reformation’ destroyed the religious unity of Europe and separated from the true Church of Jesus many nations. Parts of Germany, Denmark, sweden and Norway, England and Scotland, Switzerland, the Netherlands, and a small but influential group in France, were separated from Christian unity of belief and practice. The princes of these nations, anxious to assert their independence of the Popes and to gain complete domination over religious affairs, aided the so-called reform movement. The reformers, for their part, anxious to establish their own interests against the Popes, accepted the idea that civil princes had authority over the Church in their own domains and could dictate the kind of religion which would be practised there. Thus, in the new Protestant lands the Caesaropapistic tendency finally triumphed.

For centuries the Popes had fought the tendency of princes to rule the Church. But the secession of the reformers from the Church, while it freed them from the exercise of papal authority, subjected them to the sovereignty of the civil power. Unfortunately through conquest and colonisation, the influence of the new religious views spread to the American continent.

WHERE WORLDLY POWER HAD TRIUMPHED, CATHOLICS WERE EITHER PERSECUTED OR FORCED TO EMIGRATE

The Treaty of Westphalia in 1648 was a recognition of the division of Europe into a Catholic and a Protestant sphere. The concurrent rise of nationalism made matters even more difficult for the Church. In non-Catholic countries Catholics were either persecuted or forced to emigrate. Even in Catholic countries the kings found it expedient to gain control of the Church for their own nationalistic purposes. At this time the theory of the ‘divine right of kings’ came to the fore. Monarchs claimed that their authority came to them directly from God and they could be held to account by God alone. Since royal power was now much more stable than heretofore this claim could be made with greater success. This reinforced the claim of civil rulers to determine the religious views and practices of their subjects. In non-Catholic countries it meant the outlawing of Catholicism, the true Kingdom of God. In Catholic countries it signified the intention of Catholic monarchs to control the Church.

THE PROPERTY OF THE CHURCH WAS CONFISCATED BY THE WORLDLY POWERS AND DISCRIMINATORY LAWS PASSED AGAINST THE MEMBERS OF GOD’S KINGDOM ON EARTH

Thus in Switzerland, Holland, the Scandinavian countries and England the property of the Church was confiscated and discriminatory laws were passed against Catholics. It was not until Frederick the Great of Prussia (1740-1786) granted religious toleration to the Catholics of Silesia that the rigour of non-Catholic religious intolerance began to abate. This move toward toleration was not an unmixed blessing. If it had been the result simply of a due regard for the sanctity of individual consciences it might have been truly a step forward in the relations between Church and state. But it was also the result of the new intellectual atmosphere generated by what was called the ‘Enlightenment.’

THE SO-CALLED ‘ENLIGHTENMENT’

The cardinal principle of the Protestant Reformation was ‘private judgement.’ The reformers, in seceding from Rome, had repudiated the authority of the Pope and bishops to teach and interpret infallibly the teaching of Christ. Instead they claimed that each individual believer, by reading the Bible, could judge for himself the content of God’s revelation to man. If God’s revelation had been concerned only with natural truths easily accessible to human reason, such a principle might have worked. But, as we have seen, God’s message is concerned chiefly with supernatural mysteries which man could not discover for himself and which he cannot completely understand even after he has learned them from the Church. In history therefore the principle of private judgement broke down. As men began to read the Bible with only their own talents and prejudices to guide them, they began to question more and more the content of the divine message.

MEN BEGAN TO READ THE BIBLE WITH ONLY THEIR OWN TALENTS AND PREJUDICES TO GUIDE THEM

It was easier to reject mysteries than to accept them in submission to the wisdom of God. From the rejection of divine mysteries to the rejection of reason itself – a philosophical position known as scepticism – was not a difficult step.

IT WAS EASIER TO REJECT MYSTERIES THAN TO ACCEPT THEM IN SUBMISSION TO THE WISDOM OF GOD

Nor did it take the sceptics long to question even the existence of God Himself. In such an intellectual atmosphere – generated remotely by the ‘Reformation’ with its principle of private judgement, and proximately by the scepticism of the ‘Enlightenment’ – the tolerance of Frederick the Great reflects not so much a tenderness toward the rights of the individual religious conscience as a supercilious attitude toward all forms of religion. Since all religion, as he held, is simply a matter of questionable opinion it matters not what form of religion the subjects of a state may embrace as long as all forms are subject to the power of the absolute monarch.

MARTIN LUTHER’S CAN OF WORMS: THE CARDINAL PRINCIPLE OF THE PROTESTANT REFORMATION, ‘PRIVATE JUDGEMENT’, IS SUBSEQUENTLY APPLIED TO THE QUESTION THE EXISTENCE OF GOD HIMSELF

In Catholic states at this same period the Church also experienced difficulty. In Austria Joseph II, imbued with the same absolutist tendency which motivated Frederick in Prussia, attempted to place the Church completely under the control of the royal power. His rules and regulations for the governance of the Church were so minute – descending even to the details of the appointments of a Church altar – that he became known to his fellow-monarchs as ‘Joseph the Sacristan.’ In France, under Louis XIV, this tendency to gain control of the Church was also manifested. In 1682, under the urging of Louis, there was promulgated a ‘Declaration of the Gallican Clergy.’ It declared that the power of the Pope was restricted to spiritual affairs; that kings and princes were not subject to any ecclesiastical authority in temporal affairs. To protect and strengthen his monarchy Louis felt it necessary to maintain complete control of the Church within France itself.

IN PRACTICE THIS MEANT THAT WORLDLY POWER WERE NOT TO BE HAMPERED NOR GUIDED IN THEIR ACTIONS BY THE PRINCIPLES OF EITHER RELIGION OR MORALITY

The combination of growing nationalism, of absolute monarchies and of scepticism made it difficult for the Church, by nature an international organism [Jesus Christ: ‘Go and make disciples of all nations’ etc.], to preserve its proper independence of civil authority. Absolute monarchs (whose minds were often tinged with religious scepticism), intent upon strengthening their own powers and extending the borders of their kingdom, found it expedient to seek to control even the affairs of religion within their own borders. This tendency was a threat to the international, in fact the supra-national, character of the Kingdom of God on earth.

‘THE WORLD HAS HATED THEM BECAUSE THEY ARE NOT OF THE WORLD, JUST AS I AM NOT OF THE WORLD’ (Jn 17:14)

In the nineteenth century the forces of nationalism and scepticism combined to produce an even more hazardous situation for the Church. The French Revolution of 1789 was the first of a series of revolutions against the absolute monarchies in Europe. The first French Republic sought to eliminate papal influence in the French Church by insisting that bishops and priests should be chosen by the people. In addition the properties of the Church were confiscated.

THE SEEDS OF THE FRENCH REVOLUTION

Throughout the century the philosophy of liberalism propagated the idea that faith had nothing to do with politics. In practice this meant that politicians were neither to be hampered by nor guided in their political actions by the principles of either religion or morality. On the other hand, politicians, moved (even, if not fully conscious of the fact) by the idea of the Absolute State, felt it quite proper to interfere in matters of religion. Thus, in Italy, after the unification of Italy under the House of Savoy, monasteries were suppressed and ecclesiastical property was secularised. In Germany in 1872 the ‘Kulturkampf’ sought to impose state control of all religious schools and expelled religious orders. In France at the end of the century similar measures were taken and religious orders were not allowed to teach in the schools and many of them were expelled.

STATE VERSUS THE BODY OF CHRIST: THE MENACE OF TOTALITARIAN STATES

In the twentieth century the Church found herself confronted with the menace of the ‘totalitarian states.’ Communism, nazism and fascism, each sought to control the Church for its own advantage. In Italy fascism accepted the existence of the Church and came to a kind of uneasy peace by the settlement of the Roman Question in 1929. In Germany nazism, even though it made a concordat with the Church, persecuted all forms of religion. In Russia (and in the countries subject to or allied to Russia after the Second World War) communism [was] the overt enemy of all religion. Its avowed object [was] to destroy all religion.

THE SITUATION OF THE KINGDOM OF GOD ON EARTH IS DEFINITELY NOT HOPELESS

The far-reaching extent of communist domination – [which reached all the way] from China in the East to Poland, Czechoslovakia, Bulgaria and Jugoslavia in the West – [had] made it difficult for the Kingdom of God to function or exist in a great part of the world. But the situation of the Church is not hopeless. In Western Europe and the Americas the movement of religious tolerance has grown. England, by the Emancipation Act of 1829, restored Catholics to equal rights with the other citizens of England and the British Isles. In 1850 Prussia also granted equality to Catholics. In Central and South America, while liberalism and communism for a time sought to exterminate the Church, there are signs that a more tolerant policy is being adopted. In the United States and Canada the Church is [nominally] allowed to function freely.

CATHOLICS WERE [NOMINALLY] RESTORED TO EQUAL RIGHTS WITH THE OTHER CITIZENS

It can be seen that the existence and functioning of the Kingdom of God on earth has not been easy. As a divine supra-national organism it must surpass the particular interests of individual nations, states and empires. As an independent, autonomous organism of the spiritual order it must possess the freedom necessary for the accomplishment of its own goal, the salvation of all men. On the other hand, nations and states possess their own, though lesser, goals, the common welfare of their members in this world. The Church has sought always to employ the principle given it by Jesus – “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to God the things that are God’s’ – in the solution of the problems of the relation between states and the Church.

AS AN INDEPENDENT, AUTONOMOUS ORGANISM OF THE SPIRITUAL ORDER THE KINGDOM OF GOD ON EARTH MUST POSSESS THE FREEDOM NECESSARY FOR THE ACCOMPLISHMENT OF ITS OWN GOAL, THE SALVATION OF ALL MEN

While at times it may seem that difficulty arises between the Church and the state because individual churchmen have sought or obtained an excessive influence in temporal affairs, the chief cause of difficulty has always been the tendency of states to control the spiritual world of the Church; to control it either to the advantage of the state or to the extermination of the Church.

THE CHIEF CAUSE OF DIFFICULTY BETWEEN INDIVIDUAL STATES AND THE SUPRA-NATIONAL CATHOLIC CHURCH HAS ALWAYS BEEN THE TENDENCY OF STATES TO CONTROL THE SPIRITUAL WORLD OF THE CHURCH

The Church, of course, is not surprised to encounter this difficulty. Its divine Master, Jesus Himself, told it it would meet suspicion, hatred and persecution. The servant is not greater than her Master. She represents God, God stooping down from eternity to the world of time, seeking to save men, to invite men to enter freely into the Kingdom of God. But she knows that men must enter freely into God’s kingdom. She knows that the sinful wilfulness of men cannot be changed completely in all men in a day or in centuries. Her task is universal not only in space but in time. In each generation she must repeat the divine invitation to salvation and in each generation she must meet the same wilful, sinful tendencies of the free human will.

IN EACH GENERATION THE CHURCH MUST REPEAT THE DIVINE INVITATION TO SALVATION, AND IN EACH GENERATION SHE MUST MEET THE SAME WILFUL, SINFUL TENDENCIES OF THE FREE HUMAN WILL

So in divine patience, if not always in peace, she seeks to exist and to function among all nations, in all states, applying as circumstances suggest the divine principle regulating her relation to human temporal states: ‘Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to God the things that are God’s.'”
– Martin J. Healy S.T.D., 1959 (Headings in capital letters added afterwards)

 

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“WE EMBRACE ALL LANDS, ALL PEOPLES AND NATIONS IN AN INSTINCTIVE SENTIMENT OF PATERNAL AFFECTION” – POPE PIUS IX

OPPOSING VIOLENCE AND WAR

“After a rapid ecclesiastical career in which he became a Cardinal of the Holy Roman Church at the young age of 41, Giovanni Mastai Ferretti was called by God to the burden of Supreme Pontiff on June 16, 1846, and took the name of Pius IX. He immediately began various reforms of the Pontifical State and the liberals of that time wanted to make of him the leader of the united Italian states against the Austrian Empire; but the Pontiff, faithful to his call to be Father of all peoples, opposed the war while approving of Italy’s independence.

FIRST, IT LOOKED AS IF HE WOULDN’T BE ABLE TO BECOME A PRIEST

Giovanni Maria Mastai Ferretti was born in Senigallia on May 13th, 1792 of the Count Girolamo Mastai of Cesena and Caterina Solazzi. He studied firstly at the Scolopi of Volterra, then, having interrupted his studies for affairs to be tended to in Naples, he took them up again in Rome with his uncle. Being affected by epilepsy, it was believed that he could not approach Holy Orders; however, having happily overcome this difficulty, he was ordained a priest on April 19th, 1819.

APOSTOLATE AMONG THE YOUTH

From his youth he engaged in the apostolate among the youth of the Institution Tata Giovanni in Rome to which he always remained attached in his heart. In 1823-25 he assisted as auditor to Msgr Giovanni Muzi, the Apostolic Delegate for the Republics of Chile and Peru. Upon his return from this mission he was made Rector of St Mary’s in Via Lata, director of the Institution of St Michael and, on June 3rd, 1827, he was consecrated Bishop of Spoleto. In 1833 Gregory XVI transferred him to Imola and at the same time made him titular Cardinal of Ss Peter and Marcellinus.

PRE-EMINENT PASTORAL GIFTS

In the Conclave which followed the death of Gregory XVI from June 15-16th, 1846, one of the briefest in recorded history, Cardinal Mastai was elected Pope and chose the name of Pius IX. The qualities which attracted the attention of the electors to him were principally the pre-eminent pastoral gifts which he had demonstrated and his knowledge of the needs of the Pontifical State. Pius IX selected the young Prelate Giovanni Corboli-Bussi, Bishop of Urbino and Secretary of the Conclave, as his principal collaborator who, together with Cardinal Pasquale Gizzi, named Secretary of State, became his right arm.

ORDERED THE ABOLITION OF THE SEGREGATION OF THE JEWISH GHETTO

Already, in the first months of his Pontificate, he lightened the condition of the Hebrews in Rome by ordering the abolition of the segregation of the ghetto. He immediately set to work in remedying the evils afflicting the Pontifical State by instituting a special Congregation of State to look into some of the more urgent affairs: the railroads, the order of finances, of courts and of the military.

AMNESTY TO THE CONDEMNED AND REPATRIATION OF EXILES

At the same time he began a series of reforms which made him very well liked by the people: indeed he granted wide amnesty to condemned politicians and repatriation to exiles through a simple declaration of faithful submission to the public authorities. This amnesty, published in the historic ‘Proclama’, gave rise to frantic demonstrations of joy towards Pius IX which seemed to be unending. With the Edict of March 15th, 1847, he mitigated the censure of the printed word, yet, in spite of this, he left many liberals who would have liked to have seen the abolition of all restrictions disappointed. With the ‘motu proprio’ of June 18th he instituted the Counsel of Ministers, while on July 5th he instituted the civic guard at Rome and gave normative dispositions for the same in other cities of the Pontifical State.

He also promoted a trade Alliance among the pre-united Italian States which represented the most important political-diplomatic attempt of the time on a federal level towards realising a united Italy.

AFTER THE REVOLUTIONARY ACTIONS 1848

On March 14th, 1848, after the revolutionary actions which impacted all of Europe right from the beginning of that year, Pope Pius IX granted the Constitutions (The Fundamental Statutes for the Temporal Government of the Ecclesiastical States) which set up two legislative Houses and opened the Institutions to the laity as well (both in the legislative and executive orders).

STRONG PRESSURE WAS PLACED UPON THE PONTIFF

At the end of the same month on the occasion of the Five Days of Milan where the Italian States began to rebel against the Austrian Empire, strong pressure was placed upon the Pontiff to follow the example of the Grand Duke of Tuscany and the King of Naples who had sent their own troops to the frontlines against the Austrians. Pius IX only allowed the constitution of a band of volunteers with the exclusive mission of protecting the State borders along the Kingdom of Lombardy and Venice. Despite the Pope’s intentions, the formation of this troop dedicated to the war against Austria placed the Pontifical State in favour of the cause of Italian independence.

A COURAGEOUS STAND AS HEAD OF THE CHURCH

HIS REFUSAL OF WAR MADE HARDLINERS CALL HIM A TRAITOR

As a result of this, however, on April 29th, 1848, Pius IX, with the Papal Allocution and the Consistory of Cardinals, made evident the particular position of the Pope who, as head of the universal Church and at the same time head of the Italian State, could not place himself in war against a Catholic kingdom: ‘Faithful to the obligations of our supreme apostolate, We embrace all Lands, all peoples and Nations in an instinctive sentiment of paternal affection.’ His determined defence of Italian independence had little worth in a despatch to the Austrian Emperor; for not a few, unfortunately, he was simply a traitor.”
– This article was published entitled “Hagiography; Bl. Pius IX, Part I” in “De Vita Contemplativa” (Monthly Magazine for Monasteries), Year VII – Number 9 September 2013.

 
 

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“YOU CRADLE CATHOLICS DO NOT REALISE WHAT GREAT TREASURES YOU HAVE”

“TODAY WHEN YOU STOOD BEFORE THE ARK OF THE TORAH, I IMAGINED I SAW THE WHITE FIGURE OF JESUS PLACING HIS HAND OVER YOUR HEAD AS THOUGH HE WERE BLESSING YOU.”

“On February 13, 1945, the world’s leading news agencies broke the news that Professor Israel Zolli, chief rabbi of Rome, renowned biblical scholar, had been received into the Catholic Church.

‘…A COMPLETED JEW SINCE THE CATHOLIC CHURCH IS THE FULFILMENT OF THE PROMISE OF JUDAISM’

Eugenio Zolli was born in 1881, in Brody, in the region of Poland that was then under Austrian rule. For 35 years, before the chief rabbinate in Rome, he had held the same position in Trieste. After his baptism he considered himself not a converted but a completed Jew, since the Catholic Church was the fulfilment of the promise of Judaism. In his words, the Old Testament is God’s coded telegram to mankind, and the one cipher, the one code to reading its contents, is Jesus Christ, who is both true God and true Man.

ACCEPTING THE PRINCIPLES OF THE CATHOLIC FAITH IS THE WAY FORWARD FOR EUROPE

As an eyewitness to the Holocaust, Zolli insisted that it was precisely the annihilation of Christian principles by Fascist ideology that contributed to that catastrophe. After the war he would write: ‘I am convinced that when this war is over the only way of checking the forces of destruction and achieving the reconstruction of Rome will be by accepting the principles of the Catholic faith, that is, the idea of God and universal brotherhood embodied in Christ – not a brotherhood based on race and Uebermensch, for there is ‘neither Jew nor Greek… neither slave nor free… neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus’ (Gal 3:28).

Eugenio Zolli’s name was Israel Zoller. Derived from a well-known family of rabbinical scholars, his mother always dreamed that one of her five children would become a rabbi. He studied at a rabbinical school and also read philosophy at university, first in Vienna, then in Florence. In 1920, he was appointed chief rabbi of Trieste. In order to qualify for Italian citizenship in 1933, he was obliged by the fascist authorities to change his surname to Zolli. Soon after, he assumed the chair of the Department of Hebrew Language and Literature at the University of Padua. A few years later, anti-Semitic purges forced him to resign his post.

HELP FOR THE JEWISH PEOPLE FROM THE CATHOLIC COMMUNITY IN ROME UNDER POPE PIUS XII

In 1940 he became chief rabbi of Rome. Throughout the dramatic years of the war, he played a crucial role as leader of the Jewish community in Rome, which included both antifascists and those who collaborated with the authorities. With the occupation of Rome by the German forces in early September, 1943, the Jewish community found itself in a critical situation. On September 27, the SS commander of the Roman garrison, Lieutenant-Colonel Herbert Kappler, ordered the Jewish leaders to come up with 50 kilograms of gold in 24 hours. If they failed to deliver, he would begin the deportation of all men of Jewish origin. The community managed to collect 35 kilograms. Another 15 had to be found. Only a few hours remained. In this dramatic situation Rabbi Zolli turned to Pope Pius XII for help. The Holy Father immediately assured him of his assistance. However, as it turned out, the Catholics of Rome had already collected the 15 remaining kilograms of gold and delivered it to the Jewish community. On 29 September 1943, Commander Nogara, a delegate of the special administration of the Holy See, sent the following memorandum to the Secretary of State: ‘Yesterday Prof. Zolli came at 2 p.m. to tell me that they had received the required 15 kilograms of gold from the Catholic community, and that for the time being there was no need for them to resort to our help.’

IN HIDING AT A CATHOLIC FAMILY’S HOME

Even though they received their 50 kilograms of gold, the Nazis arrested over 2000 Jewish men, women and children in the early hours of October 16. The rest of the Jewish community went into hiding. Rabbi Zolli, his wife and daughter managed to find refuge in the home of a Catholic family, and remained there until the liberation of Rome by the Allies. Zolli subsequently resumed his duties as chief rabbi.

THANKING THE HOLY FATHER

In July 1944 he presided over a solemn prayer service in the Roman Synagogue. The event was broadcast by radio, allowing him publicly to thank Pope Pius XII and the President of the United States for the assistance they had rendered the Jews in Rome during the time of the Nazi persecutions. On 25 July 1945, during a private audience with Pius XII, Rabbi Zolli and the president of the Jewish community thanked the Holy Father for his extraordinary personal involvement in the fate of the Jews. They also asked him to convey their thanks to the Catholic population of Rome. At great personal sacrifice and risk to their lives, these people – both lay and religious – had provided assistance to thousands of Jews by accepting them into their cloisters, convents, rectories and private homes.

ZOLLI’S BAPTISM

Rabbi Zolli made his final decision to be received into the Catholic Church in July, 1944. The gift of faith came to him after many years of spiritual growth and sincere seeking after the truth. In August, 1944, Zolli asked the Jesuit professor Paulo Cezza at the Gregorian University to prepare him, quietly and discreetly, for the Sacrament of Baptism.

CHRIST APPEARED TO HIM IN A VISION

But first he had to resign his post as chief rabbi of Rome. Jesus made it clear to him that his time of service at the Synagogue was drawing to a close. In September, 1944, on the feast of Reconciliation, he presided over the solemn prayer service in the Synagogue for the last time. During the service Christ appeared to Zolli in a vision. He was dressed in a white robe and radiated an ineffable sense of peace. In his heart Zolli heard him say, ‘You are here for the last time.’

That evening at home, his wife told him: ‘Today when you stood before the Ark of the Torah, I imagined I saw the white figure of Jesus placing His hand over your head as though He were blessing you.’ Zolli recalls: ‘I was stunned, but still felt at peace. I pretended not to understand her, but she repeated what she had said word for word. Then I heard our daughter Miriam calling me from her room: ‘Daddy!’ I went to her and asked what she wanted. She said, ‘You were talking about Jesus Christ, weren’t you? You know, I had a dream today in which I saw the tall figure of Jesus robed in white; I don’t recall what happened afterwards.’ A few days later I resigned my post in the Jewish community.’

Zolli’s decision came as a great shock to his community. Seeing his determination, the president accepted his resignation with great sorrow. He offered him the post of director of the rabbinical college. Zolli refused to accept it. In his letter of reply, the president expressed great surprise and sorrow. Professor Zolli was the most suitable candidate for the post. Wishing to avoid negative reactions, Zolli did not reveal his main reason for declining the offer. Thus, having freed himself from all extraneous responsibilities, he, along with his wife Emma and daughter Miriam, prepared to receive the Sacrament of Baptism. The event took place on February 13, 1945, in a private chapel adjoining the sacristy of Santa Maria degli Angeli Church in Rome. Only 15 of his most trusted friends attended the celebration. No journalists were invited. Israel Zolli took the name Eugenio (in honour of Pius XII, whose Christian name was Eugenio), and his wife took the name Maria.

DEEPLY MOVED, THE ZOLLIS EXPRESSED THEIR JOY AND GRATITUDE TO POPE PIUS XII

That night a news reporter telephoned him from the United States, asking him if he had been received into the Catholic Church. Zolli could not deny it. The following day, all the main wire services in America and Europe broke the news that the chief rabbi of Rome had become a Catholic.

Zolli lived close to the Synagogue. As soon as the news of his conversion to Catholicism became known, he began receiving threatening and abusive phone calls. The Hebrew monthly appeared with its cover bordered in black. Zolli was immediately forced to move out of his appartment. His wife and daughter found refuge in a cloister, and Professor Zolli took up temporary residence at the Gregorian University. Pius XII invited the Zollis for a private audience at the Vatican. Deeply moved, they expressed their joy and gratitude to the Holy Father. They also expressed their love and forgiveness of their fellow Jews, who could not understand their decision to become Catholics. ‘Now that I am baptised,’ observed Emma, ‘I am unable to hate anyone. I love everyone.’

ZOLLI IS OFFERED MONEY TO RETURN TO JUDAISM

During his stay at the Gregorian University, Zolli received numerous visits from friends and enemies. Influential American Jews dropped in to persuade him to return to the bosom of Judaism, offering him whatever sum of money he wished. With great serenity, he refused every offer. A number of prominent Protestants also came to his door. Recognising him as a scholar with a deep knowledge of the Scriptures, they asked him to prepare a refutation of the doctrine of Papal Primacy on biblical grounds.

Zolli’s response was a book entitled Petrus, in which he used Holy Scripture to prove the case for Peter’s primacy and the succession of Popes. ‘Since protesting is not testifying, I do not intend to trouble anyone by asking the question: Why did they wait 1500 years to protest? For fifteen centuries the Catholic Church was recognised as the true Church of God by the entire Christian world. No one in all honesty can dismiss those 1500 years out of hand and claim that the Catholic Church is not the Church of Christ. I can accept only that Church which was proclaimed to all creatures by my ancestors, who, like me, came out of the Synagogue.’

WHILE VISITING HIS FRIEND, HE STARED WITH WONDER AT THE CRUCIFIX ON THE WALL

Already as a small boy in Austria-Poland, Zolli had many Catholic friends. ‘We, Hebrew children, loved our Christian friends,’ he wrote, ‘and they loved us. We knew nothing about racial differences. We knew our religions differed. That is why when it came to religion class we went to different rooms. Once the lesson was over we were together again…’

While visiting the home of his friend Stas, he would stare with wonder at the crucifix on the wall. It was then that he first began asking questions about the person of Jesus. This prompted him to read the Gospels. With the passage of years, his knowledge of the New Testament grew deeper. In large measure, Zolli attributed his conversion to his shattering discovery that the prophesy of Yahweh’s Suffering Servant contained in the five songs of the prophet Isaiah (42:1-7; 49:1-5; 50:4-9; 52:13; 53:12) was fulfilled in the suffering and crucified Jesus. He came to this conclusion after many years of studying the texts of the Old and New Testament. In this, expert scholary exegesis and his perfect knowledge of Hebrew and Biblical Greek aided him. His scholary studies culminated in the conviction that Yahweh’s Suffering Servant could be no other than Jesus Christ, who died for our sins and rose from the dead for our justification. ‘In this way,’ he wrote, ‘after many years of study, meditation and living the Judaism of the Old Testament, I eventually found myself in the Christianity of the New Testament. I had to admit in all honesty that I had become a Christian, and that is why I began to prepare myself systematically for the reception of Baptism.’

Zolli saw his transition from Judaism to Catholicism not as a break with the past but as a continuation along the road of salvation. When his co-religionists began accusing him of betrayal, he replied sadly: ‘My conscience is clear. I have renounced nothing. Isn’t the God of Saint Paul also the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob? Saint Paul converted. Did he forsake the God of Israel in doing so? Did he stop loving Him? It would be absurd to say yes.’

HIS GREAT JOY OVER BEING CATHOLIC

After being baptised, Professor Zolli devoted considerable time every day to prayer and partook earnestly of the Eucharist. He often expressed his great joy over being a Catholic. ‘You cradle Catholics do not realise what great treasures the faith and Christ’s grace represent. People such as I, who have received the grace of faith only after long years of seeking, can appreciate the greatness of this gift and experience the enormous joy of being a Christian.’

After several months, Zolli was able to find living quarters on the outskirts of Rome and resume family life with his wife and daughter. He began teaching Hebrew language and literature at the Biblical Institute. All the while he lived a life of intense prayer. With all the zeal of a new convert, he gave guest lectures at various universities throughout Europe and the United States. His apostolic zeal was naturally directed towards his former co-religionists, whom he sought to bring closer to the truth of Christ. He paid special attention to recent converts, offering them both moral and material support.

A scholar to the end of his days, Zolli increased his apostolic activity through the publication of numerous books and articles in Italy and abroad. Heart problems plagued his final years. His last lecture, on divine justice and mercy in the Scriptures, took place in Vallicelli, in January, 1956. He died on March 2, 1956. On receiving the viaticum on his deathbed, he said: ‘I trust the Lord will forgive my sins. I commit myself entirely to God’s mercy.'”
– Love One Another
Catholic Magazine

 
 

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MARY, MYSTICAL ROSE – THE MOST POWERFUL PRAYER DURING THE ‘HOUR OF GRACE’ – URGENT! PRAY THIS ON DECEMBER 8, AND PLEASE REMEMBER TO PRAY FOR YOUR COUNTRY, TOO!

THE BLESSED VIRGIN PROMISED THAT WHATEVER A PERSON ASKED HER FOR DURING THIS HOUR OF GRACE (EVEN IN IMPOSSIBLE CASES) WOULD BE GRANTED TO THEM…

DECEMBER 8th – HOUR OF GRACE

‘I HAVE ASKED MY SON TO SHOW MERCY’

During the period of November 24, 1946, to December 8, 1947, the Blessed Mother appeared to Sister Pierina in a little church in Montichiari, Italy, eleven times. On the first appearance the Blessed Mother told Sister Pierina She wanted to be known as the ‘Mystical Rose,’ and that an hour of grace should be kept at noon, December 8th, in all the Catholic Churches of the world. The Blessed Mother wanted this to be known through all of Italy, and the entire world.

It was November 16, 1947 when Sister Pierina was finishing her Thanksgiving after Holy Communion when she saw a great light. She then saw a vision of the Blessed Mother as the ‘Mystical Rose.’

‘MY SON IS OFFENDED BY THE SINS OF IMPURITY’

Sister was so deeply moved by the stunning beauty of Our Lady that she began talking to Her. All of a sudden a gentle force made her kneel down in front of Our Lady. The Blessed Mother spoke these words, ‘My Son is so greatly offended by the sins of impurity. He is already planning to send the deluge upon the people, for their destruction, but I have asked Him to show mercy, and not to send the destruction. So that is why I have appeared, to ask for penance and atonement for the sins of impurity.

AN ACT OF HUMILITY AND ATONEMENT FOR THE SINS OF IMPURITY

Then the Blessed Mother asked for an act of humility by Sister Pierina. She asked her to make the Sign of the Cross with her tongue on each of the four stones in the sanctuary. ‘This shall be a reminder to the people that I have appeared here, and do not have the people step on those stones.’ The Blessed Mother then stepped on each of the stones so that
Her gown touched all four stones.

ACCEPTING OUR DALY CROSSES WILLINGLY

On the 22nd November, Sister Pierina felt an overwhelming urge to go to church at 4.00 o’clock. The Mother Superior, four Sisters, and a group of friends accompanied her. They were all saying the Rosary when the Blessed Mother appeared as before. She instructed Sister Pierina to make the Sign of the Cross on the stones and to fence them off so that no one would step on them. Again, Our Lady asked for penance. She said: ‘Penance is nothing more than accepting all our crosses daily willingly. No matter how small, accept them with love.’

THE HOUR OF GRACE

At this time She told Sister Pierina to come again on December 8th at noon. ‘This will be my Hour of Grace.’ The Sister asked how she was to prepare for this Hour of Grace? To which the Blessed Mother said: ‘With prayers and penance pray the 51st psalm with outstretched arms three times. During the Hour of Grace, many spiritual graces would be granted. The most hard-hearted sinners will be touched by the grace of God. The Blessed Virgin promised that whatever a person asked her for during this Hour of Grace (even in impossible cases) would be granted to them, if it was in accordance with the Will of the Eternal Father.

It was December 7th when Sister Pierina felt the urge to go to church. This time she was accompanied by the priest and by the Mother Superior. The Blessed Mother appeared with a young boy and girl dressed in beautiful white clothing. Sister Pierina was sure these little ones were angels because they were so beautiful.

The Blessed Mother said: ‘Tomorrow I will show you my Immaculate Heart, which is so little known among the people.’ She asked people to pray for Russia. ‘There are so many people being held prisoners with their families knowing nothing of, because they have been gone for so many years. Pray for the conversion of Russia. The suffering of the soldiers and their sacrifices and martyrdom will bring peace to Italy.’

FRANCISCO AND JACINTA

‘The little children are Francisco and Jacinta. I am giving them to you as your companions. You will have much to suffer for my sake. I want simplicity and goodness from you, as of these little children.’ The Blessed Mother then blessed Sister Pierina, the priest and all those who were gathered there.

On the morning of December 8th, people began arriving at the little church at 8.00 o’clock in the morning, from neighbouring towns. By noon, some 10.000 people had gathered to see the Blessed Mother, many of whom had to stand outside because the church did not have enough room for the
large crowd.

A BRILLIANT WHITE LIGHT

Sister Pierina was accompanied to church by her mother and brothers, the Mother Superior and the Chief of Police from Montichiary, sister was reciting the Rosary with the crowd in the middle of the church. Suddenly, a brilliant white light appeared from the ceiling. Stairs were coming from the light down to the floor of the church, about fifteen feet in length.

The staircase was beautifully decorated with red, white and yellow roses. The Blessed Virgin appeared so radiant, dressed in white, with Her hands folded. She was standing on a splendid carpet at the top of the stairs, made of the red, white and yellow roses.

In the Most Gentle and Loving Voice, Our Lady smiled and began to speak: ‘I am the Immaculate Conception, the Mother of all graces, and the Mother of my Beloved Son, Jesus. I want to be known as the Mystical Rose. My wish is that every year on the 8th of December, at noon, an ‘Hour of Grace’ will be installed. Many spiritual graces and physical blessings will be received by those who pray, UNDISTURBED, during this hour.’

Then slowly, She began to descend the staircase, gracefully scattering roses as She went along, until She reached midway of the staircase. Here again the Blessed Mother spoke: ‘I am very happy to see this great demonstration of Faith.’

THE ‘ROSA MYSTICA’

Sister Pierina asked for many of the sinners to be forgiven. The Blessed Mother replied: ‘My Divine Son will show His Greatest Mercy as much as the people will pray for them. I want this to be known and told the Pope (Pius XII). Tell him I want to install the ‘Hour of Grace’ through the whole world, and even those who are not able to go to church during this hour will receive the same graces by praying during this time in their home at noon time.’ She also asked that a Statue be made and placed on the spot where she stood. This should be called the ‘Rosa Mystica’, and carried in a procession through the town, at which time many graces will be given and cures will take place. Then the statue is to be returned to the church.

Our Lady prayed for the sick. Some were cured, others not. Many men, women and children were cured at that very instant.

PHYSICAL AND SPIRITUAL MIRACLES

A 26 year-old woman who could not say a word for nine months, suddenly began shouting. ‘I see her, I see the Blessed Virgin.’ An 18 year-old girl with ulcers was instantly cured. A five year-old boy who had been paralysed was told by the Blessed Mother: ‘Come to Me, you will be walking now.’ He was placed on the blessed stones and was able to walk.

There were three others who were very sick and were immediately cured. But, of course, the greatest miracles taking place were those of the spiritual blessings being shed upon the people gathered in the church.

The Blessed Mother said: ‘This is the last time I will appear here. Pray, weep and do penance on these stones and you will receive the care of My Motherly Heart.’ She then left the little church, but because of the Unending Love of Our Heavenly Mother, She has given us the ‘Hour of Grace,” to be spread through the entire world. She had given all the opportunity to demonstrate our love and trust to Her, and to help make reparation for the grievous sins offending Her Beloved Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ.

REQUEST OF THE BLESSED MOTHER FOR THE HOUR OF GRACE

1. Day and time of the Hour of Grace: December 8th, Feast of the Immaculate Conception…to be started at 12 noon and will continue until 1 p.m. (one full hour of prayer).

2. During this hour the person making the ‘Hour of Grace’ either at home or in Church must put away all distractions (do not answer the telephone, or answer any doors, or do anything but totally concentrate on your union with God during this Special Hour of Grace).

3. Begin the Hour of Grace by praying three times the 51st Psalm with outstretched arms.

4. The rest of the Hour of Grace may be spend in silent communication with God, meditating upon the Passion of Jesus, saying the Holy Rosary, praising God in your own way or by using favourite prayers, singing hymns, meditating upon other Psalms, etc..

PSALM 51

The Miserere: Prayer of Repentance – A psalm of David when Nathan the prophet came to him after his sin with Bathsheba.

Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy loving kindness: according unto the multitude of thy tender mercies blot out my transgressions.
Wash me thoroughly from mine iniquity and cleanse me from my sin.
For I acknowledge my transgressions and my sin is ever before me.
Against thee, thee only, have I sinned and done this evil in thy sight: that thou mightest be justified when thou speakest, and be clear when thou judgest.
Behold, thou desirest truth in the inward parts: and in the hidden part thou shalt make me to know wisdom.
Purge me with hyssop and I shall be clean, wash me and I shall be whiter than snow.
Make me to hear joy and gladness, that the bones which thou hast broken may rejoice.
Turn away thy face from my sin and blot out all mine iniquities.
Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.
Cast me not away from thy Presence and take not thy Holy Spirit from me.
Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation: and uphold me with thy free Spirit.
Then will I teach transgressors thy ways: and sinners shall be converted unto thee.
Deliver me from blood guilt, O God, thou God of my salvation: and my tongue shall sing aloud of thy justice.
O Lord, open thou my lips: and my mouth shall proclaim thy praise.
For thou desirest not sacrifice, else would I give it: thou delightest not in burnt offering.
My sacrifice, O God, is a contrite spirit: a heart contrite and humbled, O God, thou wilt not despise.
Be bountiful, O Lord, to Sion in thy kindness by rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem.
Then shalt thou be pleased with sacrifices of righteousness, with burnt offerings and holocausts, then shall they offer bullocks upon thine altar.

– – –

PRAY FOR YOUR COUNTRY

Please copy/ print out this message and distribute it. Remember to pray for your COUNTRY during this hour. The Blessed Virgin has requested that Her important message be sent throughout the entire world. Please help the Blessed Virgin Mary to fulfil Her Mission will…that all souls be drawn to God and that Jesus will be loved in every heart. This is the Perpetual Song of Her Heart. Let it also be ours.

 
 

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