Pope Pius IX and Russia

Pope Pius IX and Russia

Pope Pius IX and Russia includes the relations between the Pontiff and the Russian Empire during the years 1846-1878. [All sources if not otherwiese quoted, are Schmidlin, II, pp 213-224]

The Pontificate of Pius IX began in 1847 with an "Accomodamento”", a generous agreement, by which Russia allowed the Pope to fill vacant Episcopal Sees of the Latin rites both in Russia and the Polish provinces of Russia. The short-lived freedoms were undermined by jealousies of the rival Orthodox Church, Polish political aspirations in the occupied lands, which used the Church as cover and vehicle, and the tendency of imperial Russia, to act most brutally against any dissension. Pope Pius IX, who faced his own problems with revolutionary movements in his Church State, first tried to position himself in the middle, strongly opposing revolutionary and violent opposition against he Russian authorities, and, appealing to them for more Church freedom. After the failure of the Polish uprising in 1863, Pope Pius IX sided with the persecuted Poles, loudly protesting their persecutions, infuriating the Tsarist government to the point that all Catholic seats were closed by 1870. [All sources if not otherwise quoted, are Schmidlin, II, pp 213-224]

A generous Russian agreement [All sources if not otherwise quoted, are Schmidlin, II, pp 213-216]

Russian Catholics consisted of Lithuanians, Armenians, Ruthenians and Poles, which were the majority. Since 1795, Poland was divided among Russia, Prussia and Austria-Hungary. Austria-Hungary was a Catholic empire and therefore, Polish Church and Polish catholics were able to fully live their faith. In Orthodox Russia, Catholics experienced discrimination and persecution: Russification was enforced together with efforts to separate priests and faithful from their Church. [Micewski 3]

Relations with Russia were always difficults because of rivalries with the Russian Orthodox Church. Upon His election to the papacy, Pope Pius IX (1846-1878) inherited difficult relations with Russia from his predecessor Pope Gregory XVI. The Catholic Church was severely limited in its possibilities within Russia. This was significant, because, in addition to Oriental Catholics, large Catholic populations existed in the Lithuanian and Polish provinces under the Tsar. Pope Pius appointed Cardinal Luigi Lambruschini to begin negotiations with the Russian empire with the aim of establishing better relations and increased freedom of action. Russia rejected a concordat with the Pope. On August 3, 1847, an “"Accomodamento”" (accommodation) was reached, which included 37 articles. [Acti Pii I, 110] The Church was able to create eight new dioceses in Russia proper and Lithuania (Vilnius), while the Polish dioceses continued without change. New seminaries were established and the Russian empire guaranteed the financing of Church activities in an agreed upon sum of 104 480 Rubel annually. Bishops were to be appointed in mutual agreement. They were authorized to preside over Church courts, determine seminary education. Bishops could not intervene in marital or economic matters, which were to be determined by diocesan consistories consisting of several Catholic priests. Catholic Parish priests should appointed if they are agreed upon by State authorities. Their salaries were to be paid by the parishes, in case they are unable, by the Russian state. [Acti Pii I, 110-113]

Between Polish aspirations and avoiding bloodshed [All sources if not otherwise quoted, are Schmidlin, II, pp 215-219]

Both the Holy See and the Russian government expressed heir full satisfaction, which was not shared by the Russian Orthodox Church. "The Accomodamento", while facilitating the establishment of new dioceses, did little to improve the situation of the Catholic Church at the local level. In 1850, some 32 monasteries were closed and others limited in the recruitment of novices. Local priests were replaced with politically correct candidates, and vacant bishop sees were not allowed to be filled. A special problem continued to be the fate of the Oriental Churches, united with Rome, which were under pressure to unify with the Orthodox Church of Russia.

Pope Pius opposed Polish protests against Russian rule in 1860, which were allegedly stimulated by the anti-papal mysticiscm of philosopher Andrzej Towiański. and, influenced d by him by Adam Mickiewicz. Nor was he pleased with patriotic anti-Russian sermons by the Polish clergy. This was interpreted as bowing to Russian interests and selling his Polish faithful. On June 6, 1861, Pope Pius IX wrote to Archbishop Antoni Melchior Fijałkowski, complaining against unjust accusiations by Polish nationalist and enumerating all he had done for the Polish people in Russia. [Acta, III, 243] The Pope repeated his position, thatPoles have to obey Russian laws, while Russia has to provide religious freedom. [Acta, III, 243]

His dualistic appeals, Polish moderation and religious freedom from Russia, did not appease either party. Russia felt strong on its territory, and Poles had national aspirations, for which they used Catholic churches to meet, talk and inspire emotions with patriotic songs. Continued incidences convinced the assembled cardinals in the Vatican on December 7 1861, that the conflict was political in nature. Religion was simply a pretext for national Polish aspirations. They advised the Pope to be reluctant in his utterances. [Boudou II, 138] The conflict continued inside the Church and with Russia: When the Catholic Metropolitan, supported by Antoni Melchior Fijałkowski, banned patriotic Polish songs in churches, he was labelled a traitor, without gaining much support fromRussia. The mutual mistrust, persecution and the opening and closing of monasteries and dioceses continued in the following years. [Boudou II, 188]

Relations with Russia after 1861 [All sources if not otherwise quoted, are Schmidlin, II, pp 219-224]

After long negotiations, and possibly because of the lingering Polish crises, Russia agreed to diplomatic relations with the Vatican in 1861. However, since the papal delegate was not allowed to have any contact with the clergy, Pope Pius IX recalled his nuncio in 1863. [Schmidlin II 219] After the Polish upraising in the same year, Pope Pius IX on April 22, 1863, wrote to the Tsar, protesting the expropriation of Church properties, forced conversions, the jailing of the clergy. Tsar Alexander II replied that only politically revolutionary elements were punished. On August 20, the Pope protested and ordered a prayer novena for the persecuted Church. But the persecutions worsened: 330 priests were deported, a war tax was imposed on the clergy, and 114 Catholic monasteries were closed. International protest from Pope Pius enraged the Tsar and his regime, and led to an Austrian intervention, urging the Pope to be silent in the interest of the Polish Catholics. The Pope abstained from public protests but issued an encyclical July 30, 1863, in which he praised the heroic fight of the Poles and enumerated destruction and persecution activities by the Russian authorities. [Acta III, 65, I ] In the aftermath, Russia closed the dioceses of Kameniecz, and banned or exiled bishops and administrators in Warsaw, Chemo and other dioceses. November 15, 1863, the Vatican published a White Book with some one-hundred documents, detailing the conflict. Russia answered with a break of the concordat on December 6, 1863. By 1870, not a single bishop from the Polish area under Russian control was left in his own diocese [Micewski 3]

Diplomacy of Pope Leo XIII

Pope Leo XIII (1878-1903) attempted to improve the situation with diplomatic overtures, with little success. [Schmidlin, II, 506 ff] The nightmare of the Russian Church continued under him, more pleasant atmospherics not-withstanding. [Schmidlin, II, 508 ] The 19th century dilemma, that impressive Papal condemnations may result in suffering , closure of episcopal sees, and decade-long interruption of religious services for, and education of the faithful, haunted Papal diplomacy in the 20th century, especially during the pontificates of Pope Pius XI, Pope Pius XII and Pope Paul VI.


* Acta Apostolicae Sedis ( AAS), Roma, Vaticano 1922-1960
* 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
* L. Boudou, Le S. Siege et la Russie, Paris, 1890
* Owen Chadwick, The Christian Church in the Cold War, London 1993
* Handbuch der Kirchengeschichte, VII, Herder Freiburg, 1979, 355-380
* Matthias Erzberger, Erlebnisse im weltkrieg, Stuttgart,
* Herder Korrespondenz Orbis Catholicus, Freiburg, 1946-1961
* Andrey Micewski, Cardinal Wyszynski, A biography, Harcourt, New York, 1984
* Josef Schmidlin Papstgeschichte, Vol I-IV, Köstel-Pusztet München, 1922-1939
* John Gilmary Shea, The Life of Pope Pius IX, New York, 1877


ee also

*Foreign relations of the Holy See

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