Pope Pius IX
Pius IX (Italian: Pio IX; (Giovanni Maria Mastai Ferretti) born Giovanni Maria Mastai Ferretti;[a] 13 May 1792 – 7 February 1878) was head of the Catholic Church from 1846 to 1878, the longest verified papal reign. He was notable for convoking the Vatican Council in 1868 and for being pontiff when the Kingdom of Italy occupied the Estates of the Church in 1870, effectively ending the temporal power of the Holy See.
He took the name Pius, after his generous patron and the long-suffering prisoner of Napoleon, Pius VII. Pius refused to leave Vatican City, declaring himself a “prisoner of the Vatican“. His ecclesiastical policies towards other countries, such as Russia, Germany or France, were not always successful, owing 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.
In his encyclical Ubi primum he emphasized Mary’s role in 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. He conferred the title Our Mother of Perpetual Help on a famous Byzantine icon from Crete entrusted to the Redemptorists. In 1862, he convened 300 bishops to the Vatican for the canonization of Twenty-six Martyrs of Japan.
His 1864 Syllabus of Errors stands as a strong condemnation against liberalism, modernism, moral relativism, secularization, and separation of church and state. Pius definitively reaffirmed Catholic teaching in favor of the establishment of the Catholic faith as the state religion in nations where the majority of the population is Catholic. However, his most important legacy is the First Vatican Council, convened in 1869, which defined the dogma of papal infallibility, but was interrupted as Italian nationalist troops threatened Rome. The council is considered to have contributed to a centralization of the church in the Vatican, while also clearly defining the Pope’s doctrinal authority.
Many recent ecclesiastical historians and journalists question his approaches. 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”. 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. Pope Pius XII re-opened the cause on 7 December 1954, and Pope John Paul II proclaimed him Venerable on 6 July 1985 and beatified him on 3 September 2000. Pius IX was assigned the liturgical feast day of 7 February, the date of his death.