Pope Pius IX was the 255th man elected to lead the Catholic Church and the ninth such individual to choose “Pius” as his papal name. This article will discuss major moments in his life and summarize his papacy while also spicing things up with a few personable tidbits about the man to keep students invested in learning.
Early Life and Education.
Giovanni Mastai-Ferretti was born the ninth of Girolamo dei conti Ferretti’s children, making him nobility. He studied at Volterra’s Piarist College and also within Rome. While he was a young man within the Guardian Nobile, he fell in love with Miss Foster, one of the Irish Bishop of Kilmore’s five daughters. Mastai’s parents refused to accept the union and chose not to attend their son’s wedding.
Mastai encountered the newly-freed Pope Pius VII in 1814, while studying Theology in Sinigaglia. A year later, he joined the Papal Noble Guard, only to subsequently be dismissed from service due to his epilepsy. Pius VII listened to his worries and allowed him the opportunity to continue studying theology. While Pius VII suggested that another priest help Mastai during Holy Mass, this was retracted when the attacks occurred less and less frequently. Mastai formally joined the priesthood on April 10, 1819.
Career with the Church.
Mastai started his clerical work within the Tata Giovanni Institute. He was also deployed to Chile, in 1823, and Peru, in 1825, to help Monsignores Muzi and Kane, respectively, during the first post-Revolutionary mission trip to South America. Said mission was intended to assess the Church’s role in a newly independents South America. After returning to Rome, Pope Leo XII made Mastai the head of San Michele’s hospital and later appointed him Archbishop of Spoleto in 1827.
Four years into Mastai’s time as Archbishop, Spoleto was dragged into the revolutions of Parma and Modena. Archbishop Mastai received a general pardon upon the suppression of this revolution, earning him recognition as a liberal Catholic. He also gained recognition for efficiently organizing relief efforts in the wake of a disastrous earthquake. A year later, he relocated to the Imolan diocese, becoming a cardinal in pectore in 1839, then a full Cardinal-Priest of Santi Marcellino e Pietro a year later.
Just like his oversight of Spoleto, Mastai focuses on growing the Church through charities and improvements to the education system. He was known to visit the jailed and also for creating assistance programs focused on street youths. His perception as a liberal came from support of changes to the Papal States’ hierarchy and for sympathizing with Italian nationalists.
Pius IX was elected to the papacy in order to break a deadlock. A subsequent election resulting in all but the conservative electors favoring him over Luigi Lambruschini.
- He held the First Vatican Council in 1869.
- During the First Vatican Council, his willingness to declare an official stance regarding the lengthy argument over the Immaculate Conception of Mary raised some eyebrows and a question. The questions raised concerned if it was right was for a pope to make something infallible dogma without first consulting about the matter with his bishops.
- Much of his papacy was dedicated to defending the right of Catholics to practice their faith, especially in countries like the Ottoman Empire and Russia.
- He abolished the policy requiring Jews to attend Christian services and also allowed Jews to receive aid from Christian charities without demanding conversion.
- He renovated the Church’s finances by appointing a congregation of people more experienced with finance than religious knowledge.
- He fostered industry by awarding papal prizes to producer of exports. He also strengthened trade by improving Rome’s infrastructure with roads, railways and seaports.
- He opened Rome’s Jewish ghetto at the start of his papacy.
- After the United Kingdom’s Catholic Emancipation, Pius IX transitioned the area’s status from a mission to a proper Catholic state. This included establishing the full and proper hierarchy within its Catholic churches.
- After religious freedom was won in the Netherlands, Pius IX established the Archdiocese of Utrecht, consisting of four dioceses.
- When Spain became ruled by an anti-Catholic monarchy, Pius IX negotiated the safe return of all unsold properties of the Church in exchange for the Church’s renunciation of all renounced properties that had already changed out of Church hands.
- He elevated the first American archbishop, New York’s John McCloskey, to the College of Cardinals in March of 1875.
Quick Facts About Pope Pius IX.
- He was born on 13 May 1792 in the Papal State of Marche.
- His birth name was Giovanni Maria Mastai-Ferretti.
- Pius IX’s spirit left his body on February 7th, 1878. His final moments were spent within Rome’s Apostolic Palace.
- Pius IX lost his life during an epileptic fit. Specifically, the combination of a seizure and sudden heart attack delivered the final blow.
- His papacy started on June 16, 1846.
- His papacy stopped with his death.
- His papal successor was Leo XIII.
Six Interesting Facts About Pope Pius IX.
- With over 31 years of service, he remains the Church’s longest serving pope.
- His missionary assistance in the 1820s means that he was the first pope to visit the Americas.
- As sovereign ruler of the Papal States, he saw to the execution of 133 criminals.
- He served as a patron of efforts to reinforce the decrepit Colosseum, keeping it from collapsing entirely.
- He was the last pope who also governed as a monarch.
- He saw his position as being the highest authority upon God that the world could reach out to and would defend this claim at every opportunity.