Pope Pius VII

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Servant of God, Pope
Pius VII
Sir Thomas Lawrence - Pope Pius VII (1742-1823) - Google Art Project.jpg
Portrait by Thomas Lawrence (1819)
Papacy began 14 March 1800
Papacy ended 20 August 1823
Predecessor Pius VI
Successor Leo XII
Orders
Ordination 21 September 1765
Consecration 21 December 1782
by Francesco Saverio de Zelada
Created Cardinal 14 February 1785
by Pius VI
Personal details
Birth name Barnaba Niccolò Maria Luigi Chiaramonti
Born (1742-08-14)14 August 1742
Cesena, Papal States
Died 20 August 1823(1823-08-20) (aged 81)
Rome, Papal States
Previous post
Motto Aquila Rapax (Rapacious eagle)[1]
Coat of arms {{{coat_of_arms_alt}}}
Sainthood
Venerated in Roman Catholic Church
Title as Saint Servant of God
Other popes named Pius

Pope Pius VII (14 August 1742 – 20 August 1823), born Barnaba Niccolò Maria Luigi Chiaramonti,[a] reigned as Pope from 14 March 1800 to his death in 1823. Chiaramonti was also a monk of the Order of Saint Benedict in addition to being a well known theologian and bishop throughout his life. When he joined his religious order in 1756, he took the name of Gregory.

In the process towards sainthood, his cause of canonization was started at the behest of Pope Benedict XVI in 2007, and he was granted the posthumous title of Servant of God.

Biography[edit]

Early life[edit]

Barnaba Chiaramonti was born in Cesena in 1742, the son of Count Scipione Chiaramonti. His mother, Giovanna, was the daughter of the Marquess Ghini; through her, the future Pope Pius VII was related to the Braschi family of Pope Pius VI. Though his family was of noble status, they were not wealthy but rather, were of middle-class stock.

Like his brothers, he attended the Collegio dei Nobili in Ravenna but decided to join the Order of Saint Benedict at the age of 14 on 2 October 1756 as a novice at the Abbey of Santa Maria del Monte in Cesena. Two years after this on 20 August 1758, he became a professed member and assumed the name of "Gregorio". He taught at Benedictine colleges in Parma and Rome, and was ordained a priest on 21 September 1765.

Episcopate and cardinalate[edit]

A series of promotions resulted after his relative, Giovanni Angelo Braschi was elected Pope Pius VI (1775–99). A few years before this election occurred, in 1773, Chiaramonti became the personal confessor to Braschi. In 1776, Pius VI appointed the 34-year-old Dom Gregory, who had been teaching at the Monastery of Sant'Anselmo in Rome, as honorary abbot in commendam of his monastery. Although this was an ancient practice, it drew complaints from the monks of the community, as monastic communities generally felt it was not in keeping with the Rule of St. Benedict.

In December 1782, the pope appointed Dom Gregory as the Bishop of Tivoli, near Rome. Pius VI soon named him, in February 1785, the Cardinal-Priest of San Callisto,[2] and as the Bishop of Imola, an office he held until 1816.[3]

When the French Revolutionary Army invaded Italy in 1797, Cardinal Chiaramonti counseled temperance and submission to the newly created Cisalpine Republic. In a letter that he addressed to the people of his diocese, Chiaramonti asked them to comply "... in the current circumstances of change of government (...)" to the authority of the victorious general Commander-in-Chief of the French army. In his Christmas homily that year, he asserted that there was no opposition between a democratic form of government and being a good Catholic: "Christian virtue makes men good democrats.... Equality is not an idea of philosophers but of Christ...and do not believe that the Catholic religion is against democracy."[4]

Papacy[edit]

Papal styles of
Pope Pius VII
C o a Pio VII.svg
Reference style His Holiness
Spoken style Your Holiness
Religious style Holy Father
Posthumous style Servant of God

Election[edit]

Site of the papal conclave that elected Pius VII.

Following the death of Pope Pius VI, by then virtually France's prisoner, at Valence in 1799, the conclave to elect his successor met on 30 November 1799 in the Benedictine Monastery of San Giorgio in Venice. There were three main candidates, two of whom proved to be unacceptable to the Habsburgs, whose candidate, Alessandro Mattei, could not secure sufficient votes. However, Carlo Bellisomi also was a candidate, though not favoured by Austrian cardinals; a veto was imposed against him in the name of Franz II.

After several months of stalemate, Jean-Sifrein Maury proposed Chiaramonti as a compromise candidate. On 14 March 1800, Chiaramonti was elected pope, certainly not the choice of die-hard opponents of the French Revolution, and took as his pontifical name Pius VII in honour of his immediate predecessor.[4] He was crowned on 21 March in a rather unusual ceremony, wearing a papier-mâché papal tiara as the French had seized the original when apprehending Pius VI. He then left for Rome, sailing on a barely seaworthy Austrian ship, the Bellona, which lacked even a galley. The twelve-day voyage ended at Pesaro, whence he proceeded to Rome.

Negotiations and exile[edit]

Pius VII receives extreme unction while Napoleon's prisoner in 1812.

One of Pius VII's first acts was appointing the minor cleric Ercole Consalvi, who had performed so ably as secretary to the recent conclave, to the College of Cardinals and to the office of Cardinal Secretary of State. Consalvi immediately left for France, where he was able to negotiate the Concordat of 1801 with the First Consul Napoleon. While not effecting a return to the old Christian order, the treaty did provide certain civil guarantees to the Church, acknowledging "the Catholic, Apostolic, and Roman religion" as that of the "majority of French citizens".[5]

The main terms of the concordat between France and the pope included:

  • A proclamation that "Catholicism was the religion of the great majority of the French" but was not the official religion, maintaining religious freedom, in particular with respect to Protestants.
  • The papacy had the right to depose bishops (this made little difference, because the French government nominated them).
  • The state would pay clerical salaries and the clergy swore an oath of allegiance to the state.
  • The church gave up all claims to church lands that were taken after 1790.
  • Sunday was reestablished as a "festival", effective Easter Sunday, 18 April 1802.

As pope, he followed a policy of cooperation with the French-established Republic and Empire. He was present at the coronation of Napoleon I in 1804. He even participated in France's Continental Blockade of Great Britain, over the objections of his Secretary of State Consalvi, who was forced to resign. Despite this, France occupied and annexed the Papal States in 1809 and took Pius VII as their prisoner, exiling him to Savona. Despite this, the pope continued to refer to Napoleon as "my dear son" but added that he was "a somewhat stubborn son, but a son still".

This exile ended only when Pius VII signed the Concordat of Fontainebleau in 1813. One result of this new treaty was the release of the exiled cardinals, including Consalvi, who, upon re-joining the papal retinue, persuaded Pius VII to revoke the concessions he had made in it. This Pius VII began to do in March 1814, which led the French authorities to re-arrest many of the opposing prelates. Their confinement, however, lasted only a matter of weeks, as Napoleon abdicated on 11 April of that year.[6]As soon as Pius VII returned to Rome, he immediately revived the Inquisition and the Index of Condemned Books.

Pius VII's imprisonment did in fact come with one bright side for him. It gave him an aura that recognized him as a living martyr, so that when he arrived back in Rome in May 1814, he was greeted most warmly by the Italians as a hero.[7]

Relationship with Napoleon I[edit]

Pope Pius VII presided over the Coronation of Napoleon I.

From the time of his election as pope to the fall of Napoleon in 1815, Pius VII's reign was completely taken up in dealing with France.[8] He and the Emperor were continually in conflict, often involving the French military leader's wishes for concessions to his demands. Pius VII wanted his own release from exile as well as the return of the Papal States, and, later on, the release of the 13 "Black Cardinals", i.e., the Cardinals, including Consalvi, who had snubbed the marriage of Napoleon to Princess Marie Louise, believing that his previous marriage was still valid, and had been exiled and impoverished in consequence of their stand,[9] along with several exiled or imprisoned prelates, priests, monks, nuns and other various supporters.

Restoration of the Jesuits[edit]

On 7 March 1801, Pius VII issued the brief "Catholicae fidei" that approved the existence of the Society of Jesus in Russia and appointed its first superior general as Franciszek Kareu. This was the first step in the restoration of the order. On 31 July 1814, he signed the papal bull Sollicitudo omnium ecclesiarum which universally restored the Society of Jesus. He appointed Tadeusz Brzozowski as the Superior General of the order.

Slavery[edit]

The arrest of Pius VII.

Pius VII joined the declaration of the 1815 Congress of Vienna, represented by Cardinal Secretary of State Ercole Consalvi, and urged for the suppression of the slave trade. This pertained particularly to places such as Spain and Portugal where slavery was economically very important. The pope wrote a letter to King Louis XVIII dated 20 September 1814 and to the King of Portugal in 1823 to urge the end of slavery. He rejected the slave trade and defined the sale of people as an injustice to the dignity of the human person. In a letter to the King of Portugal, Pius VII said: "the pope regrets that this trade in blacks, that he believed having ceased, is still exercised in some regions and even more cruel way. He begs and begs the King of Portugal that it implement all its authority and wisdom to extirpate this unholy and abominable shame".

Other activities[edit]

Pius VII reviews plans for the obelisk at Monte Pincio.

Pius VII issued an encyclical "Diu satis" in order to advocate a return to the values of the Gospel and universalized the feast of Our Lady of Sorrows for 15 September. He condemned Freemasonry and the movement of the Carbonari in the encyclical Ecclesiam a Jesu Christo in 1821. Pius VII asserted that Freemasons must be excommunicated and it linked them with the Carbonari, an anti-clerical revolutionary group in Italy. All members of the Carbonari were also excommunicated.

Pius VII was multilingual and had the ability to speak Italian, French, English and Latin.

Cultural innovations[edit]

Pius VII was a man of culture and attempted to reinvigorate Rome with archaeological excavations in Ostia which revealed ruins and icons from ancient times. He also had walls and other buildings rebuilt and restored the Arch of Constantine. He ordered the construction of fountains and piazzas and erected the obelisk at Monte Pincio.

The pope also made sure Rome was a place for artists and the leading artists of the time like Antonio Canova and Peter von Cornelius. He also enriched the Vatican Library with numerous manuscripts and books. It was Pius VII who adopted the yellow and white flag of the Holy See as a response to the Napoleonic invasion of 1808.

Canonizations and beatifications[edit]

Throughout his pontificate, Pius VII canonized a total of five saints. On 24 May 1907, Pius VII canonized Angela Merici, Benedict the Moor, Colette Boylet, Francis Caracciolo and Hyacintha Mariscotti. He beatified a total of 27 individuals including Joseph Oriol, Berardo dei Marsi, Giuseppe Maria Tomasi and Crispin of Viterbo.

Relationship with the United States of America[edit]

Monument by Bertel Thorvaldsen on the tomb of Pius VII inside the Basilica of St. Peter.

On the United States' suppression in the First Barbary War of the Muslim Barbary Pirates along the southern Mediterranean coast, ending their kidnapping of Christians for ransom and slavery, Pope Pius VII declared that the United States “had done more for the cause of Christianity than the most powerful nations of Christendom have done for ages.”[10]

For the United States, he established several new dioceses in 1808 for Boston, New York City, Philadelphia and Bardstown. In 1821, he also established the dioceses of Charleston, Richmond and Cincinnati.

Condemnation of heresy[edit]

On 3 June 1816, Pius VII condemned the works of Melkite Bishop Germanos Adam. His writings supported Conciliarism, which placed the authority of Ecumenical Councils over that of the papacy.[11]

Death and burial[edit]

In 1822, Pius VII reached his 80th birthday and his health was visibly declining. On 6 July 1823, he fractured his hip in a fall in the papal apartments and was bedridden from that point onward. In his final weeks he would often lose consciousness and would mutter the names of the cities that he had been ferried away to by the French forces. With the Cardinal Secretary of State Ercole Consalvi at his side, Pius VII succumbed to his injury on 20 August at 5:00am. He was briefly interred in the Vatican grottoes but was later buried in a monument in Saint Peter's Basilica after his funeral on 25 August.[12][13]

Beatification process[edit]

On 15 August 2007, the Holy See contacted the diocese of Savona-Noli with the news that Pope Benedict XVI had declared nihil obstat (nothing stands against) the cause of beatification of the late pontiff, thus opening the diocesan process for this pope's beatification. He now has the title of Servant of God.[14]

Monuments[edit]

Pope Pius VII's monument (1831) in St. Peter's Basilica, Rome, is by the Danish sculptor Bertel Thorvaldsen, a Protestant.

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ English: Barnabas Nicholas Mary Lewis Chiaramonti

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Pope Pius VII (1800-1823)". GCatholic. Retrieved 2 April 2014. 
  2. ^ Cardinal Title S. Callisto GCatholic.org
  3. ^ "Pope Pius VII (timeline)". Catholic Hierarchy. Retrieved 21 March 2012. 
  4. ^ a b Thomas Bokenkotter, Church and Revolution: Catholics in the Struggle for Democracy and Social Justice (NY: Doubleday, 1998), 32
  5. ^ "France". Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs. Retrieved 2011-12-15.  See drop-down essay on "The Third Republic and the 1905 Law of Laïcité"
  6. ^ Aston, Nigel (2002). Christianity and Revolutionary Europe c. 1750-1830. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-46027-1. 
  7. ^ "Pius VII". Encyclopedia.com. 2004. Retrieved 27 February 2015. 
  8. ^ J. M. Thompson, Napoleon Bonaparte: His Rise and Fall (1951) pp 251-75
  9. ^ Catholic Encyclopedia 1914 entry on Napoleon I
  10. ^ Jefferson Versus the Muslim Pirates by City Journal
  11. ^ Fortescue, Adrian and George D. Smith, The Uniate Eastern Churches, (First Giorgas Press, 2001), 210.
  12. ^ "Pope Pius VII". Retrieved January 22, 2014. 
  13. ^ "CHIARAMONTI, O.S.B.Cas., Gregorio Barnaba (1742-1823)". Retrieved 4 February 2014. 
  14. ^ "CHIARAMONTI, O.S.B.Cas., Gregorio Barnaba". Retrieved January 22, 2014. 

Citations[edit]

Further reading[edit]

Catholic Church titles
Preceded by
Giulio Matteo Natali
Bishop of Tivoli
16 December 1782 – 14 February 1785
Succeeded by
Giovanni Battista Banfi
Preceded by
Giovanni Carlo Bandi
Bishop of Imola
14 February 1785 – 8 March 1816
Succeeded by
Antonio Lamberto Rusconi
Preceded by
Pius VI
Pope
14 March 1800 – 20 August 1823
Succeeded by
Leo XII