Pope Pius IX

Pope Blessed
Pius IX
Papacy began 16 June 1846
Papacy ended 7 February 1878
Predecessor Gregory XVI
Successor Leo XIII
Ordination 10 April 1819
by Fabrizio Sceberras Testaferrata
Consecration 3 June 1827
by Francesco Saverio Castiglione
Created Cardinal 14 December 1840
by Gregory XVI
Personal details
Birth name Giovanni Maria
Born (1792-05-13)13 May 1792
Senigallia, Marche, Papal States
Died 7 February 1878(1878-02-07) (aged 85)
Apostolic Palace, Rome, Italy
Previous post
Signature {{{signature_alt}}}
Coat of arms {{{coat_of_arms_alt}}}
Feast day 7 February
Venerated in Roman Catholic Church
Title as Saint Blessed
Beatified 3 September 2000
Saint Peter's Square, Vatican City
by Pope John Paul II
Other popes named Pius

Pope Pius IX (Italian: Pio IX; 13 May 1792 – 7 February 1878), born Giovanni Maria Mastai-Ferretti,[lower-alpha 1] reigned as Pope from 16 June 1846 to his death in 1878. He was the longest-reigning elected pope in the history of the Catholic Church, serving for over 31 years. During his pontificate, Pius IX convened the First Vatican Council (1869–70), which decreed papal infallibility, but the council was cut short due to the loss of the Papal States.

Pius IX defined the dogma of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary and conferred the title Our Mother of Perpetual Help on a famous Byzantine icon from Crete entrusted to the Redemptorists.

He was also the last pope to rule as the Sovereign of the Papal States, which fell completely to the Italian Army in 1870 and were incorporated into the Kingdom of Italy. After this, he was referred to – chiefly by himself – as the "Prisoner of the Vatican".

After his death in 1878, his canonization process was opened on 11 February 1907 by Pope Pius X and it drew considerable controversy over the years. It was closed on several occasions during the pontificates of Pope Benedict XV and Pope Pius XI. On 7 December 1954, Pope Pius XII re-opened the cause and Pope John Paul II proclaimed him Venerable on 6 July 1985. Together with Pope John XXIII, he was beatified on 3 September 2000 after the recognition of a miracle. Pius IX was assigned the liturgical feast day of February 7, the date of his death.


Pope Pius IX

Europe, including the Italian peninsula, was in the midst of considerable political ferment when the bishop of Spoleto, Cardinal Giovanni Maria Mastai-Ferretti, was elected pope. He took the name Pius, after his generous patron and the long-suffering prisoner of Napoleon Bonaparte, Pius VII. He had been elected by the faction of cardinals sympathetic to the political liberalization coursing across Europe, and his initial governance of the Papal States gives evidence of his own liberal sympathies: Under his direction various sorts of political prisoners in the Papal States were released and the city of Rome was granted a constitutional framework under guidance of his friend, philosopher-prince Antonio Rosmini-Serbati. A series of terrorist acts sponsored by Italian liberals and nationalists, which included the assassination of his Minister of the Interior, Pellegrino Rossi, among others, and which forced him briefly to flee Rome in 1848 led to his growing skepticism towards the liberal, nationalist agenda. Through the 1850s and 1860s, Italian nationalists made military gains against the Papal States, which culminated in the seizure of the city of Rome in 1870. Thereafter, Pius IX refused to accept the Law of Guarantees from the Italian government, which would have made the Holy See dependent on legislation that the Italian parliament could modify at any time. His Church policies towards other countries, such as Russia, Germany and France, were not always successful, due in part, to changing secular institutions and internal developments within these countries. However, concordats were concluded with numerous states such as Austria-Hungary, Portugal, Spain, Canada, Tuscany, Ecuador, Venezuela, Honduras, El Salvador and Haiti.

Many contemporary Church historians[3] and journalists question his approaches.[4] His appeal for public worldwide support of the Holy See after he became "The prisoner of the Vatican" resulted in the revival and spread to the whole Catholic Church of Peter's Pence, which is used today to enable the Pope "to respond to those who are suffering as a result of war, oppression, natural disaster, and disease".[5] In his Syllabus of Errors, still highly controversial,[6] Pius IX condemned the heresies of secular society, especially modernism.

He was a Marian pope, who in his encyclical Ubi primum described Mary as a Mediatrix of salvation. In 1854, he promulgated the dogma of the Immaculate Conception, articulating a long-held Catholic belief that Mary, the Mother of God, was conceived without original sin. In 1862, he convened 300 bishops to the Vatican for the canonization of Twenty-six Martyrs of Japan. His most important legacy is the First Vatican Council, which convened in 1869. This Council discussed many issues, especially the dogma of papal infallibility, which Pius was eager to have officially defined by the council; but the council was interrupted as Italian nationalist troops threatened Rome. The council is considered to have contributed to a centralization of the Church in the Vatican.[7]

Pius IX, who suffered from epilepsy,[8] was beatified by Pope John Paul II on 3 September 2000. His Feast Day is 7 February.[9]

Early life and ministry

An 1819 picture showing Mastai-Ferretti at his first Holy Mass

Giovanni Maria Mastai-Ferretti was born on May 13, 1792. He was the ninth child born in Senigallia into the noble family of Girolamo dei conti Ferretti, and was baptized on the same day of his birth with the name of Giovanni Maria Giambattista Pietro Pellegrino Isidoro. He was educated at the Piarist College in Volterra and in Rome. As a theology student in his hometown Sinigaglia, in 1814 he met Pope Pius VII, who had returned from French captivity. In 1815, he entered the Papal Noble Guard but was soon dismissed after an epileptic seizure.[4] He threw himself at the feet of Pius VII, who elevated him and supported his continued theological studies.

The pope originally insisted that another priest should assist Mastai during Holy Mass, a stipulation that was later rescinded, after the seizure attacks became less frequent.[10] Mastai was ordained priest on April 10, 1819. He initially worked as the rector of the Tata Giovanni Institute in Rome. Shortly before his death, Pius VII sent him as Auditor to Chile and Peru in 1823 and 1825 to assist the Apostolic Nuncio, Monsignore Giovanni Muzi and Monsignore Bradley Kane, in the first mission to post-revolutionary South America.[11] The mission had the objective to map out the role of the Catholic Church in the newly independent South American republics. He was thus the first pope ever to have been in America. When he returned to Rome, the successor of Pius VII, Pope Leo XII appointed him head of the hospital of San Michele in Rome (1825–1827) and canon of Santa Maria in Via Lata.

Pope Leo XII appointed Father Mastai-Ferretti Archbishop of Spoleto in 1827 at the age of 35.[10] In 1831, the abortive revolution that had begun in Parma and Modena spread to Spoleto; the Archbishop obtained a general pardon after it was suppressed, gaining him a reputation for being liberal. During an earthquake, he made a reputation as an efficient organizer of relief and great charity.[10] The following year he was moved to the more prestigious diocese of Imola, was made a cardinal in pectore in 1839, and in 1840 was publicly announced as Cardinal-Priest of Santi Marcellino e Pietro. As in Spoleto, his episcopal priorities were the formation of priests through improved education and charities. He became known for visiting prisoners in jail, and for programs for street children.[12] According to historians, Cardinal Mastai-Ferretti was considered a liberal during his episcopate in Spoleto and Imola because he supported administrative changes in the Papal States and sympathized with the nationalist movement in Italy.


Papal styles of
Pope Pius IX
Reference style His Holiness
Spoken style Your Holiness
Religious style Holy Father
Posthumous style Blessed


Main article: Papal conclave, 1846
An 1846 picture of Pope Pius IX soon after his election to the papacy.

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

Moreover, the conclave of 1846 was steeped in a factional division between conservatives and liberals. The conservatives supported Luigi Lambruschini, Gregory XVI's Cardinal Secretary of State. Liberals supported two candidates: Pasquale Tommaso Gizzi and the then 54-year-old Mastai-Ferretti.[13] A fourth papabile was Cardinal Ludovico Micara, the Dean of the College of Cardinals, who was favored by the residents of Rome itself, but he never gained support among the cardinals.[14]

During the first ballot, Mastai-Ferretti received 15 votes, the rest going to Cardinal Lambruschini and Cardinal Gizzi. Lambruschini received a majority of the votes in the early ballots, but failed to achieve the required two-thirds majority. Cardinal Gizzi was favored by the French government but failed to get further support from the cardinals, and the conclave ended up ultimately as a contest between Lambruschini and Mastai-Ferretti.[14] In the meantime, Cardinal Tommaso Bernetti reportedly received information that Karl Kajetan von Gaisruck, the Austrian Archbishop of Milan, was on his way to the conclave to veto the election of Mastai-Ferretti. The government of the Empire of Austria as represented by Prince Metternich in its foreign affairs objected to even the possible election of Mastai-Ferretti.[15] According to historian Valèrie Pirie, Bernetti realized that if Lambruschini was to be stopped and Mastai-Ferretti was to be elected he had to convince the cardinals within a few hours or accept the election of Lambruschini.[14] Bernetti then on his own initiative personally convinced the majority of the electors to switch their support to Mastai-Ferretti.[14] Mastai-Ferretti himself however made no effort to campaign for the papacy, made no promises, and maintained aloofness throughout the process.[14]

Faced with deadlock and persuaded by Bernetti to keep Lambruschini from being elected pope, liberals and moderates decided to cast their votes for Mastai-Ferretti in a move that contradicted the general mood throughout Europe. By the second day of the conclave, on 16 June 1846, during an evening ballot, Mastai-Ferretti was elected pope. "He was a glamorous candidate, ardent, emotional with a gift for friendship and a track-record of generosity even towards anti-Clericals and Carbonari. He was a patriot, known to be critical of Gregory XVI."[13] Because it was night, no formal announcement was given, just the signal of white smoke. Many Catholics had assumed that Gizzi had been elected pope. In fact, celebrations began to take place in his hometown, and his personal staff, following a long-standing tradition, burned his cardinalitial vestments.

On the following morning, the senior Cardinal-Deacon, Tommaso Riario Sforza, announced the election of Mastai-Ferretti before a crowd of faithful Catholics. When Mastai-Ferretti appeared on the balcony, the mood became joyous. Mastai-Ferretti chose the name of Pius IX in honor of Pope Pius VII (1800–23), who had encouraged his vocation to the priesthood despite his childhood epilepsy. However, Mastai-Ferretti, now Pope Pius IX, had little diplomatic and no curial experience at all, which did cause some controversy. Pius IX was crowned on 21 June 1846.

The election of the liberal Pius IX created much enthusiasm in Europe and elsewhere.

For the next twenty months after the election, Pius IX was the most popular man on the Italian peninsula, where the exclamation "Long life to Pius IX!" was often heard.[16]

English Protestants celebrated him as a "friend of light" and a reformer of Europe towards freedom and progress.[17] He was elected without political influences from outside and in the best years of his life. He was pious, progressive, intellectual, decent, friendly, and open to everybody.[18]

Governing the Church

Cardinal Secretary of State Antonelli


The end of the Papal States in the middle of the "Italian boot" around the central area of Rome was not the only important event in the long pontificate of Pius. His leadership of the Church contributed to an ever-increasing centralization and consolidation of power in Rome and the papacy. While his political views and policies were hotly debated, his personal life style was above any criticism; he was considered a model of simplicity and poverty in his every day affairs.[19] More than his predecessors, Pius used the papal pulpit to address the bishops of the world. The First Vatican Council (1869-1870), which he convened to consolidate papal authority further, was considered a milestone not only in his pontificate but also for Church history through its defining of the dogma of papal infallibility.[7]

Church rights

The Church policies of Pius IX were dominated with a defence of the rights of the Church and the free exercise of religion for Catholics in countries like Russia and the Ottoman Empire. He also fought against what he perceived to be anti-Catholic philosophies in countries like Italy, Germany and France. Many of the Pope's subjects wanted to be Italian instead. The soldiers who guarded the Pope from Italians (between 1849 and 1870) were largely French and Austrian. The Pope considered moving to Germany (see below).

After the French defeat in the Franco-Prussian War of 1870–1871, the Papal States lost its protector in Emperor Napoleon III of the Second French Empire and were absorbed by the Kingdom of Italy. Imperial Germany actively persecuted the Church under the Kaisers for a decade after the war.[20]

Pope Pius IX, Basilica Santa Maria Maggiore, Rome, Italy.


Pius IX celebrated several jubilees including the 300th anniversary of the Council of Trent. Pius celebrated the 1,800th anniversary of the martyrdom of the Apostle Peter and Apostle Paul on 29 June 1867 with 512 bishops, 20,000 priests and 140,000 lay persons in Rome.[21] A large gathering was organized in 1871 to commemorate the 25th anniversary of his papacy. The Italian government in 1870 outlawed many popular pilgrimages. The faithful of Bologna organized a nationwide "spiritual pilgrimage" to the pope and the tombs of the apostles in 1873.[22] In 1875, Pius declared a Holy Year that was celebrated throughout the Catholic world. On the 50th anniversary of his episcopal consecration, people from all parts of the world came to see the old pontiff from 30 April 1877 to 15 June 1877. He was a bit shy, but he valued initiative within the Church and created several new titles, rewards and orders to elevate those who in his view deserved merit.[23]


Pius IX created a total of 122 new Cardinals – the then number limit of the College of Cardinals was 70 – of which 64 were alive at his death. Noteworthy elevations to the "red hat" included Vincenzo Pecci, his eventual successor Leo XIII; Nicholas Wiseman of Westminster; Henry Edward Manning; and John McCloskey, the first American ever to be elevated into the College of Cardinals.[24]

Sovereignty of the Papal States

An 1870 German drawing shows Pius IX as Papst und König, Pope and King'

Pius IX was not only pope, but until 1870, also the Sovereign Ruler of the Papal States. His rule was considered secular, and as such, he was occasionally accorded the title "king."[25] However, whether this was ever a title accepted by the Holy See is unclear. One of the most fervent contemporary critics of his infallibility dogma, Ignaz von Döllinger, (1799-1890), considered the political regime of the pope in the Papal States "as wise, well-intentioned, mild-natured, frugal and open for innovations."[26] Yet there was controversy. In the period before the 1848 Revolutions, Pius was a most ardent reformer advised by such innovative thinkers as Antonio Rosmini-Serbati (1797-1855), who were able to reconcile the new "free" thinking concerning human rights with the classical natural law tradition of the Church's teaching in political affairs and economic order (social justice teachings).[27] After the revolution however, his political reforms and constitutional improvements were considered minimalist, remaining largely within the framework of the 1850 laws mentioned above.[28]

Reforms in the Papal States

St.Peter's Plaza before Pope Pius IX added statues of Saints Peter and Paul.

As liberal Europe applauded his election, he introduced political reforms on a broad scale. He initiated the construction of railways in central Italy tying the peninsula to the rest of Europe, and the installation of street lighting throughout the ancient streets and alleys of Rome. He improved agricultural technology and productivity via farmer education in newly created scientific agricultural institutes. He abolished the requirements for Jews to attend Christian services and sermons and opened the papal charities to the needy amongst them.[13] The new pope freed all political prisoners by giving amnesty to revolutionaries, which horrified the conservative monarchies in the Austrian Empire and elsewhere[13] Within one year of his election, he appointed an assembly of lay people to assist in the governing of the Papal States. His actions were applauded by Protestant statesmen. "He was celebrated in New York City, London and Berlin as a model ruler."[13]

Governmental structure

In 1848, Pius IX released a new constitution titled the "Fundamental Statute for the Secular Government of the States of the Church". The governmental structure of the Papal States reflected the dual spiritual-secular character of the papacy. The secular or laypersons were strongly in the majority with 6,850 persons versus 300 members of the clergy. Nevertheless, the clergy made key decisions and every job applicant had to present a character evaluation from his parish priest to be considered.[29]


A view of the pastoral setting in the centre of Rome showing the Coloseum and Foro Romano around 1870

Financial administration in the Papal States under Pius IX was increasingly put in the hands of laypersons. The budget and financial administration in the Papal States had long been subject to criticism even before Pius IX, and did not end with his papacy. In 1850, he created a governmental finance congregation consisting of four laypersons with finance background for the 20 provinces.

Commerce and trade

Pius IX is credited with systematic efforts to improve manufacturing and trade by giving advantages and papal prizes to domestic producers of wool, silk and other materials destined for export. He improved the transportation system by building roads, viaducts, bridges and seaports. A series of new railway links connected the Papal States to northern Italy. It became soon visible, that the Northern Italians were more adept to exploit economically the modern means of communication than the inhabitants in central and Southern Italy.[30]


The justice system of the Papal States was subject to numerous accusations, not unlike the justice systems in the rest of Italy. There was a general lack of legal books and standards and accusations of partiality of the judges. Throughout Italy but also in the Papal States, mafia-type criminal bands threatened commerce and travellers in several regions, engaging in robbery and murder at will.[31]

133 people were executed during Pius IX's rule in the Papal States.


Papal soldiers around 1860

A unique position was granted to the papal army, at that time consisting almost exclusively of foreigners: the Roman Black Nobility was not willing to serve, and the population resisted military service despite a decent salary structure and the potential for promotion. A main element of the papal army was the specially-selected and trained Swiss Guard, who served as papal bodyguards and police force of the Papal States and central Vatican City. The number of papal soldiers in 1859 was 15,000.[32]


A hagiographic presentation of Pius IX from 1873

The two papal universities in Rome and Bologna suffered much from revolutionary activities in 1848 but their standards in the areas of science, mathematics, philosophy and theology were considered adequate.[33] Pius recognized that much had to be done and instituted a reform commission in 1851.

During his tenure, Catholics and Protestants collaborated to found a school in Rome to study international law and train international mediators committed to conflict resolution.[34]

Social life

There was one newspaper, Giornale di Roma, and one periodical, Civilta Cattolica, run by Jesuits.[33] When Marcantonio Pacelli, the grandfather of Eugenio Pacelli, approached Pius about an official newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano, which printed what the pope said and did the previous day, Pius turned him down. Pacelli published anyway, and Leo XIII bought it from him a few years later.


An 1870 view of the Lateran

Like most of his predecessors, Pius IX was a patron of the arts. He supported art, architecture, painting, sculpture, music, goldsmiths, coppersmiths and more, and handed out numerous rewards to its representatives.[35] Much of his efforts were oriented to Churches in Rome and in the Papal States, many of which were renovated and improved.[36]

Restorations and discoveries

Great efforts were undertaken to restore historic walls, fountains, streets and bridges. He ordered the excavation of Roman sites, which led to several major discoveries. He ordered the strengthening of the Colosseum, which was threatened with collapse.[37] Huge sums were spent in the discovery of Christian catacombs, for which Pius created a new archaeological commission in 1853.

Protestants and Jews

The Papal States were a theocracy in which the Catholic Church and Catholics had more rights than members of other religions. Pius IX's policies became increasingly reactionary over time: At the beginning of his pontificate, together with other liberal measures, Pius opened the Jewish ghetto in Rome. After being returned by French troops from his exile in 1850, during which the Roman Republic issued sharp anti-Church measures,[38] the Pope issued a series of anti-liberal measures, including re-instituting the Ghetto.[39]

In 1858, in a highly publicized case, the police of the Papal States seized a 6-year-old Jewish boy, Edgardo Mortara, from his parents. A Christian servant girl of the family, fearing he would die, had reportedly informally baptized him six years ago while he was ill. The Papal state law forbid Christians being raised by Jews, even their own parents, and considered the informal baptism of the infant a valid religious conversion. The boy was raised in the household, and was ordained a priest at age 21.[40]

Policies toward other nations

The statue of Saint Peter was placed in the basilica by Pope Pius IX

Pius IX was the last pope who was also a secular ruler as monarch of the Papal States. As sovereign-ruler of the Papal States, he ruled over 3 million people and conducted diplomatic relations with other states, the most important of which was Italy, which in 1870 ended the independent Papal States and reduced the papacy to a miniature state.


Well aware of the political pressures within the Papal States, Pius IX's first act of general amnesty for political prisoners did not consider the potential implications and consequences: The freed revolutionaries merely resumed their previous activities and his concessions only provoked greater demands as patriotic Italian groups sought not only a constitutional government – which he was sympathetic to – but also the Unification of Italy under his leadership and a war of liberation against Catholic Austria, which claimed the northern Italian provinces as its own.[41]

By early 1848, all of Western Europe began to be convulsed in various revolutionary movements.[42] The Pope, claiming to be above national interests, refused to go to war with Austria, which totally reversed the up to now popular view of him in his native Italy.[41] In a calculated, well-prepared move, Rossi was assassinated on 15 November 1848, and in the days following, the Swiss Guards were disarmed, making the Pope a prisoner in his palace.[43]

A Roman Republic was declared in February 1849. Pius responded from his exile by excommunicating all participants.[44]

He visited the hospitals to comfort the wounded and sick but he seemed to have lost both some of his liberal tastes and his confidence in the Romans, who had turned against him in 1848. Pius decided to move his residence from the Quirinal Palace inside Rome to the Vatican, where popes have lived ever since.[26] He reformed the governmental structure of the Papal States on 10 September 1850 and its finances on 28 October in the same year.

Inside of Saint Peter's around 1870
End of the Papal States

After defeating the papal army on 18 September 1860 at the Battle of Castelfidardo, and on 30 September at Ancona, Victor Emmanuel took all the Papal territories except Latium with Rome. In 1866 he granted Pius IX the Law of Guarantees (13 May 1871) which gave the Pope the use of the Vatican but denied him sovereignty over this territory, nevertheless granting him the right to send and receive ambassadors and a budget of 3.25 million liras annually. Pius IX officially rejected this offer (encyclical Ubi nos, 15 May 1871), retaining his claim to all the conquered territory.


With French Emperor Napoleon III's establishment of the Second Mexican Empire and Maximilian I of Mexico as its ruler in 1864, the Church was looking for some relief from a friendly government after the anti-clerical actions of Benito Juárez. Juárez had recently suspended payment on foreign debt and seized Church property.

Pius had blessed Maximilian and his wife Charlotte of Belgium before they set off for Mexico to begin their reign.[45] But the friction between the Vatican and Mexico would continue with the new Emperor when Maximilian insisted on freedom of religion, which Pius opposed. Relations with the Vatican would only be resumed when Maximilian sent a recently converted American Catholic priest Father Fischer to Rome as his envoy.[46]

Contrary to Fischer's reports back to Maximilian, the negotiations did not go well and the Vatican would not budge.[47] Maximilian sent his wife Charlotte to Europe to plead against the withdrawal of French troops. After an unsuccessful attempt at negotiating with Napoleon III, Charlotte then traveled to Rome to plead with Pius in 1866. As the days passed Charlotte's mental state became overtly paranoid. She sought refuge with the pope, and she would eat and drink only what was prepared for him, fearful that everything else might be poisoned. The pope, though alarmed, was accommodating to her and even agreed to let her stay in the Vatican one night after she voiced anxiety about her safety. She and her assistant were the first women to stay the night inside the Vatican.[48]

United Kingdom

England for centuries was considered missionary territory for the Catholic Church.[49] Pius IX changed that with the Bull Universalis Ecclesiae (29 September 1850). He re-established the Catholic hierarchy in England and Wales, under the newly appointed Archbishop and Cardinal Nicholas Wiseman with 12 additional episcopal seats: Southwark, Hexham, Beverly, Liverpool, Salford, Shrewsbury, Newport, Clifton, Plymouth, Nottingham, Birmingham and Northampton.[50] Some violent street protests against the "papal aggression" resulted in the Ecclesiastical Titles Act 1851 being passed by Parliament, which on penalty of imprisonment and fines forbade any Catholic bishop to use any episcopal title 'of any city, town or place, or of any territory or district (under any designation or description whatsoever), in the United Kingdom'.[51] The law was never enforced and was revoked twenty years later.[52]


The Dutch government instituted religious freedom for Catholics in 1848. In 1853, Pius erected the Archdiocese of Utrecht and four dioceses in Haarlem, Den Bosch, Breda and Roermond under it. As in England, this resulted in a popular outburst of anti-Catholic sentiment, which as in England, soon subsided.[53]


Pius IX elevated John McCloskey as the first American to the College of Cardinals on 15 March 1875.

Spain – traditionally Catholic – offered a challenge to Pius IX as anti-clerical governments were in power from 1832, resulting in the expulsion of religious orders, the closing of convents, the closing of Catholic schools and libraries, the seizure and sale of churches and religious properties and the inability of the Church to fill vacant dioceses.[54] In 1851, Pius IX concluded a concordat with Queen Isabella II, which stipulated that unsold Church properties were to be returned, while the Church renounced properties that had already passed owners. This flexibility of Pius led to Spain guaranteeing the freedom of the Church in religious education.[54]

United States

Pope Pius IX approved the unanimous request of American bishops that the Immaculate Conception be invoked as the Patroness of the United States of America on 7 February 1847.

A letter Pius IX wrote to Jefferson Davis, addressing him as the "Illustrious and Honorable President of the Confederate States of America," was seen by some as the highest international recognition the Confederate States of America ever received.[55]

Pius IX elevated John McCloskey as the first American to the College of Cardinals on 15 March 1875.[56]


Pius IX increased the number of Canadian dioceses from four to 21 with 1,340 churches and 1,620 priests in 1874.[57]


Pius IX signed concordats with Spain, Austria, Tuscany, Portugal, Haiti, Honduras, Ecuador, Nicaragua, El Salvador and Russia.[24]


The 1848 revolution had mixed results for the Catholic Church in Austria-Hungary. It freed the Church from the heavy hand of the state in its internal affairs, which was applauded by Pius IX. Similar to other countries, Austria-Hungary had significant anti-Catholic political movements, mainly liberals, which forced the emperor Franz-Joseph I in 1870, to renounce the 1855 concordat with the Vatican. Austria had already in 1866 nullified several of its sections concerning the freedom of Catholic schools and prohibition of civil marriages.[58] After diplomatic approaches failed, Pius responded with an encyclical on 7 March 1874, demanding religious freedom and freedom of education. Despite these developments, there was no equivalent to the German Kulturkampf in Austria, and Pius created new dioceses throughout Austria-Hungary.[59]

Expulsion of the Russian envoy to the Holy See Felix von Meyendorff by Pope Pius IX for insulting the Catholic faith


The Pontificate of Pius IX began in 1847 with an "Accomodamento," a generous agreement, which allowed Pius to fill vacant Episcopal Sees of the Latin rites both in Russia (Baltic countries) and the Polish provinces of Russia. The short-lived freedoms were undermined by the Orthodox Church, Polish political aspirations in the occupied lands and the tendency of imperial Russia to act against any dissent. Pius first tried to position himself in the middle, strongly opposing revolutionary and violent opposition against the Russian authorities, and, appealing to them for more Church freedom. After the failure of the Polish uprising in 1863, Pius sided with the persecuted Poles, protesting their persecutions, infuriating the Tsarist government to the point that all Catholic dioceses were eliminated by 1870.[60] Pius criticized the Tsar—without naming him—for expatriating whole communities to Siberia, exiling priests, condemning them to labour camps and abolishing Catholic dioceses. He pointed to Siberian villages Tounka and Irkout, where in 1868, 150 Catholic priests were awaiting death.[61]


Plans to leave Rome

The Lateran Basilica

Several times during his pontificate, Pius IX considered leaving Rome. One occurrence was in 1862, when Giuseppe Garibaldi was in Sicily gathering volunteers for a campaign to take Rome under the slogan Roma o Morte (Rome or Death). On 26 July 1862, before Garibaldi and his volunteers were stopped at Aspromonte:

Pius IX confided his fears to Lord Odo Russell, the British Minister in Rome, and asked whether he would be granted political asylum in England after the Italian troops had marched in. Odo Russell assured him that he would be granted asylum if the need arose, but said that he was sure that the Pope's fears were unfounded.[62]

Two other instances occurred after the Capture of Rome and the suspension of the First Vatican Council. Otto von Bismarck confided these to Moritz Busch:

As a matter of fact, he [Pius IX] has already asked whether we could grant him asylum. I have no objection to it—Cologne or Fulda. It would be passing strange, but after all not so inexplicable, and it would be very useful to us to be recognised by Catholics as what we really are, that is to say, the sole power now existing that is capable of protecting the head of their Church. [...] But the King [William I] will not consent. He is terribly afraid. He thinks all Prussia would be perverted and he himself would be obliged to become a Catholic. I told him, however, that if the Pope begged for asylum he could not refuse it. He would have to grant it as ruler of ten million Catholic subjects who would desire to see the head of their Church protected.[63]
Rumours have already been circulated on various occasions to the effect that the Pope intends to leave Rome. According to the latest of these the Council, which was adjourned in the summer, will be reopened at another place, some persons mentioning Malta and others Trient. [... ] Doubtless the main object of this gathering will be to elicit from the assembled fathers a strong declaration in favour of the necessity of the Temporal Power. Obviously a secondary object of this Parliament of Bishops, convoked away from Rome, would be to demonstrate to Europe that the Vatican does not enjoy the necessary liberty, although the Act of Guarantee proves that the Italian Government, in its desire for reconciliation and its readiness to meet the wishes of the Curia, has actually done everything that lies in its power.[64]


Pope Pius IX proclaimed two dogmas

Pius was adamant about his role as the highest teaching authority in the Church.[65] He promoted the foundations of Catholic Universities in Belgium and France and supported Catholic associations with the intellectual aim to explain the faith to non-believers and non-Catholics. The Ambrosian Circle in Italy, the Union of Catholic Workers in France and the Pius Verein and the Deutsche Katholische Gesellschaft in Germany all tried to bring the Catholic faith in its fullness to people outside of the Church.[66]


Marian doctrines featured prominently in 19th century theology, especially the issue of the Immaculate Conception of Mary. During his pontificate, petitions increased requesting the dogmatization of the Immaculate Conception. In 1848 Pius appointed a theological commission to analyze the possibility for a Marian dogma.[67] On December 8, 1854 he promulgated the apostolic constitution Ineffabilis Deusis an Apostolic constitution defining the dogma of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary.[68]

Thirty-eight Encyclicals

Pius issued a record 38 encyclicals. They include: Qui pluribus (1846) dealt with faith and religion; Praedecessores nostros (1847) with aid for Ireland; Ubi primum 1848 with The Immaculate Conception; Nostis et nobiscum 1849 with the Church in the Papal States; Neminem vestrum 1854 with the bloody Persecution of Armenians; Cum nuper 1858 with the care for Clerics; Amantissimus 1862 with the Care of the Churches; Meridionali Americae 1865 with the Seminary for the Native Clergy; Omnem sollicitudinem 1874 about the Greek-Ruthenian Rite; Quod nunquam 1875 the Church in Prussia. On 7 February 1862 he issued the papal constitution Ad universalis Ecclesiae, dealing with the conditions for admission to religious orders of men in which solemn vows are prescribed. Unlike popes in the 20th century, Pius IX did not use encyclicals to explain the faith, but to condemn what he considered errors.[69] Pius IX was the first pope to popularize encyclicals on a large scale to foster his views.

First Vatican Council

The First Vatican Council presided over by Pius IX

Pius decisively acted on the century-old disagreement between Dominicans and Franciscans regarding the Immaculate Conception of Mary, deciding in favor of the Franciscan view.[70] However, this decision, which he formulated as an infallible dogma, raised a question: Can a pope make such decisions without the bishops? This foreshadowed one topic of the First Vatican Council, which he later convened for 1869.[71] The Pope did consult the bishops beforehand with his encyclical Ubi primum (see below), but insisted on having this issue clarified nevertheless. The Council was to deal with Papal Infallibility, enhancing the role of the papacy and decreasing the role of the bishops.[71] The role of the bishops was to be dealt with at the Council, but it was disbanded because of the imminent attack by Italy against the Papal States. Thus, the major achievements of Pius IX are his Mariology and Vatican I.[71]


Pius IX approved 74 new religious congregations for women alone.[72] In France, Pius IX created over 200 new dioceses and created new hierarchies in several countries.[72]

Last years and death

Pius IX in 1877
Pius IX's death mask

Pius IX lived just long enough to witness the death of his old adversary, Victor Emmanuel II of Italy, in January 1878. As soon as he learned about the seriousness of the situation of the king, he absolved him of all excommunications and other ecclesiastical punishments. Pius IX died one month later on 7 February 1878 at 5:40 pm, of epilepsy, which led to a seizure and a sudden heart attack, while saying the rosary with his staff.[73]

Obelisk in honor of Pope Pius IX. Jalisco, Mexico

Since 1868, the pope was plagued first by facial erysipelas and then by open sores on his legs.[74] Nevertheless, he insisted on celebrating daily Mass. The extraordinary heat of the summer of 1877 worsened the sores to the effect that he had to be carried. He underwent several painful medical procedures, which he undertook with remarkable patience. He spent most of his last few weeks in his library, where he received cardinals and held papal audiences.[75] On 8 December, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, his situation improved markedly to the point that he could walk again. By February, he could say Mass again on his own in standing position, enjoying the popular celebration of the 75th anniversary of his first communion. Bronchitis, a fall to the floor, and rising temperature worsened his situation after 4 February 1878. He continued joking about himself: when the Cardinal Vicar of Rome ordered bell-ringing and non-stop prayers for his recuperation, the pope asked, "Why do you want to stop me from going to heaven?" He told his doctor that his time had come.[76] Pope Pius IX died on 7 February 1878, aged 85, concluding the longest pontificate in papal history, after that of St. Peter, whom tradition holds had reigned for 37 years. His last words were, "Guard the church I loved so well and sacredly," as recorded by the cardinals kneeling beside his bedside.[77] His body was originally buried in St. Peter's grotto, but was moved in a night procession on 13 July 1881 to the Basilica of Saint Lawrence outside the Walls. When the cortege approached the Tiber River, a group of anticlerical Romans threatened to throw the coffin into the river but a contingent of militia arrived.[78]


Card. Pecci (Leo XIII) certifies the death of Pope Pius IX

The process for his beatification, which in the early stages was strongly opposed by the Italian government, was begun on 11 February 1907, and recommenced three times.[79] The Italian government had since 1878 strongly opposed beatification of Pius IX. Without Italian opposition, Pope John Paul II declared him venerable on 6 July 1985, and beatified him on 3 September 2000 (his commemoration is 7 February).

The beatification of Pius IX was controversial, and was criticized by some Jews and Christians because of what was perceived as his authoritarian, reactionary politics; the accusation of abuse of episcopal powers; and anti-Semitism (most specifically the case of Edgardo Mortara, but also his reinstituting the Roman ghetto).[80]


Tomb of Blessed Pius IX

Pius IX celebrated his silver jubilee in 1871, going on to have the longest reign in the history of the post-apostolic papacy, 31 years, 7 months and 23 days. As his temporal sovereignty was lost, the Church rallied around him, and the papacy became more centralized, to which his personal life-style of simplicity and poverty is considered to have contributed.[81] From this point on, the papacy became and continues to become increasingly a spiritual, and less a temporal, authority. Pius IX's pontificate marks the beginning of the modern papacy.

Having started as a liberal, Pius IX turned conservative after being thrown out of Rome. Thereafter, he was considered politically conservative, but a restless and radical reformer and innovator of Church life and structures. Church life, religious vocations, new foundations and religious enthusiasm all flourished at the end of his pontificate.[72][82] Politically, his pontificate ended with the isolation of the papacy from most major powers of the world: "The prisoner of the Vatican" had poor relations with Russia, Germany, the United States, and France, and open hostility with Italy. Yet he was most popular with the faithful in all these countries, in many of which Pope Pius associations were formed in his support. He made lasting Church history with his 1854 infallible decision of the Immaculate Conception, which was the basis for the later dogma on the Assumption. His other lasting contribution is the invocation of the ecumenical council Vatican One, which promulgated the definition of Papal infallibility. With his advice he helped Saint John Bosco found the Salesian Society, for which reason he is also called "don Bosco's Pope".[83]

The Prophecy of the Popes, attributed to Saint Malachy, is a list of 112 short phrases in Latin. They purport to describe each of the popes. It describes Pius IX as Crux de Cruce, Cross of the cross.

Photos of Pope Pius IX

The art of photography developed during Pius IX's pontificate, and he was the first pope to be photographed, mainly in his later years.

Some contemporaries of Pius IX like Cardinal Giuseppe Pecci considered photography inferior to painting and refused to be photographed. Pius, however, was open to the new form of art.


Picture showing the massacre of Perugia citizens by the papal troops, 20 June 1859
Pope Pius IX Funeral.

See also


  1. English: John Mary Mastai-Ferretti


  1. "IL SEMINARIO PIO DI ROMA E LA DIOCESI DI SENIGALLIA (in Italian)". Papa Pio IX. Retrieved 18 March 2015.
  2. 1 2 "Cause of Beatification (in Italian)". Papa Pio IX. 2000. Retrieved 18 March 2015.
  3. Eamon Duffy, 222–235
  4. 1 2 Van Biema, David "Not So Saintly?" TIME magazine, 27 August 2000
  5. "Peter's Pence". Usccb.org. Retrieved 2013-06-23.
  6. "Challenge to the Church by William Pfaff | The New York Review of Books". Nybooks.com. Retrieved 2013-06-23.
  7. 1 2 Franzen 363
  8. "Joseph I. Sirven, MD, Talks About the Epilepsy of Pope Pius IX, The Mayo Clinic, 3 Jan. 2008". Epilepsy.com. 2008-01-03. Retrieved 2013-06-23.
  9. Angelus, John Paul II, 8 February 2004
  10. 1 2 3 Schmidlin 8
  11. "El Papado y la Iglesia naciente en América Latina (1808–1825) –". Viajeros.net. Retrieved 2013-06-23.
  12. Schmidlin 10
  13. 1 2 3 4 5 Duffy 222
  14. 1 2 3 4 5 Valérie Pirie. "The Triple Crown: An Account of the Papal Conclaves – Pius IX (Mastai-Ferretti)".
  15. Burkle-Young 2000, p. 34.
  16. In den nächsten zwanzig Monaten war Pius IX. der populärste Mann der Halbinsel; des Rufes „Evviva Pio nono!” war kein Ende mehr. (Seppelt –Löffler: Papstgeschichte, München 1933, p. 408.). See archive.org (download)
  17. Pougeous I, 215
  18. Schmidlin 23
  19. Franzen 357
  20. Carroll, James (2001). Constantines's Sword. pp. 479–494. ISBN 0-395-77927-8. Ch 48: Setting a Standard: The Church Against Bismarck
  21. Schmidlin 294
  22. Schmidlin 297
  23. Schmidlin 299
  24. 1 2 Franzen 364
  25. About, Ch I: The Pope as a King
  26. 1 2 Schmidlin 45
  27. Malone, Msgr. Richard (July 25, 2001). "HISTORICAL OVERVIEW OF THE ROSMINI CASE". Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN). L'Osservatore Romano. Retrieved June 6, 2016.
  28. Schmidlin 47
  29. Stehle 47
  30. Schmidlin 52
  31. Schmidlin 49
  32. Schmidlin 50
  33. 1 2 Schmidlin 53
  34. Gagliarducci, Andrea. "Pope Francis carries forward papal commitment to peace", Catholic News Agency, September 77, 2013
  35. Schmidlin 55
  36. Capitelli, 17–147.
  37. Schmidlin 61
  38. Pougeois II, p. 429.
  39. Pougeois III,258
  40. Kertzer, David I. (1998). The Kidnapping of Edgardo Mortara. Vintage; 1st Vintage Books Ed edition. ISBN 978-0679768173.
  41. 1 2 Duffy 223
  42. 1848: Year of Revolution, Michael Rapport. Books.google.com. Retrieved 2013-06-23.
  43. Schmidlin 35
  44. Piux IX, Roberto De Mattei, Page 33. Books.google.com. Retrieved 2013-06-23.
  45. "casa imperial de Mexico". Casaimperial.org. Retrieved 2013-06-23.
  46. "Pope Pius IX". Scribd. Retrieved 2016-10-13.
  47. The Cactus Throne; the Tragedy of Maximilian and Carlotta
  48. Prince Michael (2002). The Empress of Farewells. Boston: Atlantic Monthly Press. ISBN 978-0-87113-836-1.
  49. Franzen. 363
  50. Shea 195
  51. Report of the House of Commons Select Committee on Ecclesiastical Titles and Roman Catholic Relief Acts, 2 August 1867, p. 89
  52. Text of the Ecclesiastical Titles Act 1871 as in force today (including any amendments) within the United Kingdom, from legislation.gov.uk
  53. Shea 205–206
  54. 1 2 Shea 204
  55. Google Books. Jefferson Davis: The Man and His Hour Escrito by William C. Davis
  56. "John Cardinal McCloskey". Fordham Preparatory School. Retrieved June 6, 2016.
  57. Schmidlin 212
  58. Franzen 362
  59. Schmidlin 141–143
  60. Shea 274 ff.
  61. Shea 277
  62. [Jasper Ridley, "Garibaldi", Viking Press, New York (1976) p. 535
  63. Moritz Busch Bismarck: Some secret pages of his history, Vol. I, Macmillan (1898) p. 220, entry for 8 November 1870
  64. Moritz Busch Bismarck: Some secret pages of his history, Vol. II, Macmillan (1898) pp.43–44, entry for 3 March 1872
  65. Schmidlin 313
  66. Schmidlin 313–315
  67. Bäumer 245
  68. Pope Pius IX. Ineffabilis Deus, December 8 1854
  69. Italy, Switzerland, Prussia and others
  70. Franzen, 340
  71. 1 2 3 Franzen 340
  72. 1 2 3 Duffy 234
  73. Schmidlin pp. 100–102
  74. see Martina III, and http://www.damian-hungs.de/Papst%20Pius%20IX..html (German)
  75. Schmidlin p. 101
  76. Schmidlin 102
  77. "HIS HOLINESS, VENERABLE POPE PIUS IX". Retrieved 22 July 2015.
  78. The Oxford Dictionary of Popes, J. N. D. Kelly, Oxford 1987 p.310
  79. Woodward 310–11.
  80. Milavec, Aaron (2007). Salvation is from the Jews (John 4:22): saving grace in Judaism and messianic hope in Christianity. Liturgical Press. pp. 159–60. ISBN 978-0-8146-5989-2.
  81. Franzen Kirchengeschichte 336 ff
  82. Schmidlin pp292 ff
  83. IX. Piusz, don Bosco pápája, in: Don Bosco Kalendárium 2011, Szalézi Szent Ferenc Társasága Budapest 2010, site 8.
  84. Schmidlin 26
  85. Schmidlin 29ff
  86. Schmidlin 89.
  87. Josef Knünz SJ 100 Jahre Stella Matutina 1856–1956 J.N.Teutsch, Bregenz 1956;
  88. H. Schneble. "Pope Pious IX, epilepsy. Famous people who suffered from epilepsy. Pious IX". Epilepsiemuseum.de. Retrieved 2013-06-23.
  89. Rita Watson, MPH, Joseph I. Sirven, MD, Talks About the Epilepsy of Pope Pius IX.
  90. Schmidlin 103–104

Further reading

  • About, Edmund (1859). The Roman Question. New York: D. Appleton and Company. 
  • Acta et decreta Pii IX, Pontificis Maximi, VolI-VII, Romae 1854 ff
  • Acta et decreta Leonis XIII, P.M. Vol I-XXII, Romae, 1881, ff
  • Actae Sanctae Sedis, (ASS), Romae, Vaticano 1865
  • Barwig, Regis N. (1978). More Than a Prophet: Day By Day With Pius IX. Altadena: Benziger Sisters. 
  • L. Boudou, Le S. Siege et la Russie, Paris, 1890
  • Burkle-Young, Francis A. (2000), Papal Elections in the Age of Transition, 1878–1922, Lexington Books, retrieved 2012-07-15 .
  • Capitelli, Giovanna, Mecenatismo pontificio e borbonico alla vigilia dell'unità, Viviani Editore, Rome, 2011 ISBN 8879931482
  • Chiron, Yves, Pope Pius IX: The Man and The Myth, Angelus Press, Kansas City-MI, 2005 ISBN 1-892331-31-4
  • Corcoran, James A. "Pius IX and His Pontificate," The American Catholic Quarterly Review, Vol. III, 1878.
  • De Cesare, Raffaele (1909). The Last Days of Papal Rome. London: Archibald Constable & Co. 
  • Duffy, Eamon, Saints and Sinners, a History of the Popes Yale University Press, 1997
  • Franzen, August, Papstgeschichte, Herder, Freiburg, 1988 (cit.Franzen)
  • Franzen, August, Kleine Kirchengeschichte Herder, Freiburg, 1991 (cit.Franzen, Kirchengeschichte)
  • Hasler, August Bernhard (1981). How the Pope Became Infallible: Pius IX and the Politics of Persuasion. Doubleday. 
  • Hasler, August Bernhard (1979). Wie der Papst unfelhlbar wurde: Macht und Ohnmacht eines Dogmas. R. Piper & Co. Verlag. 
  • Kertzer, David I. (2004). Prisoner of the Vatican: The Popes' Secret Plot to Capture Rome from the New Italian State. Houghton Mifflin. ISBN 0-618-22442-4. 
  • Martina, S.J. Pio IX (1846–1850) Roma: Editrice Pontificia Universita Gregoriana, Vol I-III, 1974–1991
  • Mooney, John A. "Pius IX and the Revolution, 1846–1848," The American Catholic Quarterly Review, Vol. XVII, 1892.
  • Pougeois, Histoire de Pie IX, son pontificat et son siecle, Vol I-VI, Paris, 1877
  • Schmidlin, Josef, Papstgeschichte, Vol I-IV, Köstel-Pusztet München, 1922–1939
  • John Gilmary Shea, The Life of Pope Pius IX, New York, 1877
  • Sylvain, Histoire de Pie IX le Grand et de son pontificat, Vol I,II, Paris, 1878
  • Franz Spirago, Példatár (Examples from life; from 6. German edition translated Bezerédj László), Szent István-Társulat Budapest, 1927
  • Woodward, Kenneth L. (1996). "Pius IX and the Posthumous Politics of Canonization". Making saints: how the Catholic Church determines who becomes a saint, who doesn't, and why. Simon and Schuster. pp. 309–35. ISBN 978-0-684-81530-5. Retrieved 16 July 2010. 
  • Georg Denzler (1994). "Pius IX". In Bautz, Traugott. Biographisch-Bibliographisches Kirchenlexikon (BBKL) (in German). 7. Herzberg: Bautz. cols. 677–678. ISBN 3-88309-048-4. 
  • August Bernhard Hasler: Wie der Papst unfehlbar wurde. Macht und Ohnmacht eines Dogmas. with an introduction by Hans Küng. Piper, Munich, 1979, ISBN 3-492-02450-5.
  • August Bernhard Hasler: Pius IX. (1846–1878) päpstliche Unfehlbarkeit und 1. Vatikanisches Konzil. (= Päpste und Papsttum Bd. 12). 2 volumes, 1st edn., Hiersemann, Stuttgart, 1977, ISBN 3-7772-7711-8.
  • Giacomo Martina: PIO IX, beato. In: Massimo Bray (ed.): Enciclopedia dei Papi, Istituto della Enciclopedia Italiana, Vol. 3  (Innocenzo VIII, Giovanni Paolo II), Rome, 2000, OCLC 313581724
  • Veronika Maria Seifert: Pius IX. – der Immaculata-Papst. Von der Marienverehrung Giovanni Maria Mastai Ferretis zur Definierung des Immaculata-Dogmas. V&R unipress, Göttingen, 2013, ISBN 978-3-8471-0185-7.
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Catholic Church titles
Preceded by
Mario Ancaiani
Archbishop of Spoleto
21 May 1827 – 17 December 1832
Succeeded by
Ignazio Giovanni Cadolino
Preceded by
Giacomo Giustiniani
Bishop of Imola
17 December 1832 – 16 June 1846
Succeeded by
Gaetano Baluffi
Preceded by
Gregory XVI
16 June 1846 – 7 February 1878
Succeeded by
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