Before the benediction of God descends upon you, on the rest of my people, and, I say it again, on all Italy, I pray you to be of one mind, and to keep the faith which you have sworn to me, the Pontiff.”
Continuing Pius IX Flees Rome,
our selection from Pius the Ninth and the Revolution at Rome (in the North American Review, volume LXXIV, New Series) by Francis Bowen published in 1852. For works benefiting from the latest research see the “More information” section at the bottom of these pages. The selection is presented in eleven easy 5 minute installments.
Previously in Pius IX Flees Rome.
The Pope had now reached the climax of his fortunes, the furthest limit of the good which he was permitted to accomplish by his own free will, and the sky began to be overcast. The enthusiasm of his people became unmanageable, and the volcanic force of another French revolution was soon to burst and to prostrate half the governments in Europe by the explosion. Constant excitement for twenty months had made Rome noisy and turbulent, and the populace had been gratified so often that they now expected everything to succumb to their wishes. Busy agitators were in the midst of them, intent upon prosecuting the plans of Mazzini and Young Italy, and turning reform into revolution. The people were mad for a declaration of war against Austria, though the military strength of the Roman States was grossly inadequate for such a conflict, and the head of the Catholic Church was naturally reluctant to come to extremities with a Catholic power which had long been the firmest support of the papacy. Then a cry was raised to exclude all ecclesiastics from office, or at least to admit so large a portion of the laity into the Administration that Rome would be secularized and lose its distinctive character as an appanage for the head of the Church. The people would not consider, or were reckless of the fact, that Pius was a devout Catholic as well as a liberal sovereign, and could not be expected to lend his aid to a project for stripping the papacy of all temporal power, if not for razing it to its foundations. The cries of expulsion and death to the Jesuits were also raised; and as that body, however obnoxious elsewhere, had given no offence at Rome, the Pope’s sense of justice inclined him to protect them and to resist the clamor of the mob.
The news from Sicily and Naples caused a great popular demonstration at Rome, the aspect of which was so threatening that Pius issued a proclamation, on February 10th, announcing that he had taken measures for reorganizing and enlarging the army, and for augmenting the lay portion of the Council of Ministers; but appealing to his people in affecting terms, by the proofs already given of his solicitude in their behalf, that they should cease from agitation and not make demands which could not be granted consistently with his duty and their own well-being. This paper caused another effusion of popular gratitude; an immense multitude collected in the Piazza del Papolo, and, accompanied by the Civic Guard and bearing banners, they set out for the Pope’s palace. When they came to the Quirinal Pius showed himself at the balcony and made signs that he wished to speak. “There was a profound silence, not broken even by the trickling of the fountains, which had been stopped some days before.” The Pope said:
“‘Before the benediction of God descends upon you, on the rest of my people, and, I say it again, on all Italy, I pray you to be of one mind, and to keep the faith which you have sworn to me, the Pontiff.’
“At these words the silence of deep feeling was broken by a sudden thunder of acclamation, ‘Yes, I swear,’ and Pius proceeded:
“‘I warn you, however, against the raising of certain cries, that are not of the people, but of a few individuals, and against making any such requests to me as are incompatible with the sanctity of the Church; for these I cannot, I may not, and I will not grant. This being understood, with my whole soul, I bless you.'”
Deeds followed words; the Ministry was changed; five laymen were admitted into it, and it was intimated that a constitution would be granted resembling those in other States. Then came the news of the disasters at Paris, and everything was precipitated. On March 10th the Ministry was again changed, only three ecclesiastics being now admitted into it; and on the 14th the new constitution, or “Fundamental Statute,” was proclaimed. It instituted a Legislature in two branches, the High Council and the Council of Deputies, the members of the former being appointed by the Pope, and those of the latter being chosen by popular vote in the ratio, as nearly as might be, of one to every thirty thousand souls. All citizens were voters who paid twelve crowns a year in direct taxes or had property amounting to three hundred crowns; to these were added all members of colleges and honorary graduates, and all persons holding office in the communes and municipalities. The Legislature was to be convoked every year, both Councils were to choose their own officers, and their sessions were to be public, except on extraordinary occasions when they might of their own accord prefer secrecy. Freedom of debate and vote was guaranteed, and the members of both Houses were protected from arrest, even for notoriously criminal acts, during the session, except by consent of the Council to which they belonged.
They were to have authority to make laws on all subjects, excepting ecclesiastical matters and the canons and discipline of the Church, but including the imposition of taxes; the Pope, however, like most monarchs, reserved to himself the right of negativing a law. All discussions, also, of the diplomatico-religious relations of the Holy See with foreign powers were forbidden. Money bills were to originate in the lower house, and direct taxes could be granted for only a year. The Deputies had a right to impeach ministers, who, if they were laymen, were to be tried by the High Council; if ecclesiastics, by the Sacred College. The unlimited right of petition to the lower house was assured and ministers were responsible for every ministerial act; they had the right of sitting and debating, but not of voting, in both Councils. A portion of the revenue of the State, for the support of the cardinals, the ecclesiastical congregations, and generally for the transaction of purely ecclesiastical business, was to be secured to the Pope, and to be borne on the estimates every year.
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