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The Theatines or the Congregation of Clerks Regular of the Divine Providence are a male religious order of the Catholic Church, with the post-nominal initials "C.R."
The order was founded by Saint Cajetan (Gaetano dei Conti di Tiene), Paolo Consiglieri, Bonifacio da Colle, and Giovanni Pietro Carafa (afterwards Pope Paul IV). Carafa was Bishop of Chieti; Chieti (Theate) is a city of the Abruzzi in Central Italy, from which the congregation adopted its specific name, to distinguish it from other congregations (Barnabites, Somaschi, Caracciolini, etc.) modelled upon it.
Cajetan consecrated his order to the Cross, which he adopted as its emblem, and the foundation took place on the feast of the Finding of the Holy Cross, May 3, 1524. It was approved on June 24 of that year, by Pope Clement VII in the Brief Exponi Nobis. On September 14, feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, Cajetan and his companions made solemn profession before the papal altar of St. Peter's Basilica in Rome, in the presence of Mgr. Giovanni Battista Bonziano, Bishop of Caserta, a special papal delegate.
The chief object of the order was to recall the clergy to an edifying life and the laity to the practice of virtue. Cajetan and his companions zealously endeavoured to combat the teachings of Martin Luther, which, having gained a foothold in Switzerland, Germany, England, and France, then threatened Italy. They founded oratories (among them the celebrated Divino Amore) and hospitals, devoted themselves to preaching the Gospel, and reformed lax morals. Through their good example clergy and laity were induced to better living.
Growth and accomplishments
Notwithstanding their severe rule of life and strict vow of poverty, the congregation rapidly developed, and soon numbered among its members illustrious names of the Italian aristocracy. They founded many beautiful churches, among them that of Sant'Andrea della Valle in Rome, a gift of Costanza Piccolomini D'Aragona, Duchess of Amalfi. This church is a masterpiece of Carlo Maderno and contains several paintings by Domenichino. The Theatines were invited to all of the major cities of Italy by the authorities of these places.
They also attained a great development in foreign countries. In France, through the efforts of Cardinal Mazarin, they built the Church of St. Anne la Royale opposite the Louvre in 1644. In Spain, under Philip II, the Theatine Cardinal Paolo Burali d'Arezzo, afterwards beatified, filled various embassies at the command of the viceroy of Naples. In Portugal, John IV, in 1648, gave the Theatines a splendid house and college for the education of noble youth. In England, under Henry VIII, Thomas Goldwell, Bishop of St. Asaph, entered the order of Theatines. In Bavaria, the Theatine Church St. Kajetan was built from 1663 to 1690, founded by Elector Ferdinand Maria
The Theatines were the first to found papal missions in foreign lands, including:
- Golconda (in present-day India)
- Ava (Burma)
- Mingrelia (Georgia), founded by Andrea Borromeo
- The East Indies, the history of which was written by the Theatine Bartolomeo Ferro - "Missioni Teatine nelle Indie Orientali")
- Armenia, in which Father Galano, author of the history of the Armenian Church, negotiated and concluded the reconciliation and union of that Church with the Roman Catholic Church
Theatine manuscripts dating from 1530 until the end of the 18th century show there were missions established in a number of other countries also. In the 19th century the order began to decline. General suppression of religious orders affected the Theatines more significantly because the order historically acquired no possessions and so had no institutional infrastructure.
Decline of the Order
By the end of the eighteenth century, decline had set in, exacerbated by politic upheavals. Pope Pius X had a hand in attempts at revival, calling upon the services of Cardinal José de Calasanz Félix Santiago Vives y Tutó. The papal Motu Proprio Auspicato, of December 15, 1909, decreed the union of the Congregation of the Regular Theatine Clergy with the youthful Spanish Congregation of the Holy Family founded at Barcelona by Josep Manyanet y Vives, but the two groups were separated again in 1916. In 1910, the Theatines were amalgamated with the Congregation of Saint Alphonsus Liguori, which had been founded in Mallorca in 1867.
According to the 2012 Annuario Pontificio, as of 31 December, 2010, the Theatines had 34 houses and numbered 174 members, of whom 140 were priests.
Father Francesco di Paola Ragonesi, general of the order, restored the Church of S. Andrea della Valle to its former splendour by his care and zeal, aided by the munificence of Filippo Giove Romano. The Theatines still operate the church.
The Theatines are also present in Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Mexico, the Netherlands, Spain, and the United States of America, where they maintain a flourishing mission at Durango, Colorado.
The Order has numbered among its members Saint Cajetan, invoked for the interposition of Providence, Saint Andrea Avellino, invoked against sudden death, and also the liturgical scholar and cardinal Saint Giuseppe Maria Tomasi. It has also furnished one pope, Paul IV (Giovanni Pietro Carafa), 250 bishops, archbishops, and papal legates, and the cardinals: Blessed Giovanni Marinoni, Blessed Paolo Burali d'Arezzo, Giovanni Bernardino Scotti, Francesco and Domenico Pignatelli, Giuseppe Capece-Zurlo, Francesco Maria Banditi, and Ferdinando Pignatelli, who was made cardinal by Pope Gregory XVI. Father Anton Francesco Vezzosi wrote on notable members of the Order in his work I scrittori de' chierici regolari detti Teatini.
Among noted nineteenth-century Theatines was the Sicilian Father Gioacchino Ventura dei baroni di Raulica, a philosopher, littérateur, and great sacred orator. He preached and wrote in both Italian and French. One of his most celebrated works being his funeral oration on the death of Daniel O'Connell. He was the friend of many illustrious men of his day, among them the Abbé de Lamennais. He died at Versailles in 1860. The astronomer Giuseppe Piazzi (1746-1826), professor of mathematics and astronomy in Palermo, Sicily, discoverer of the first asteroid, Ceres, in 1801, became a Theatine at the age of 19.
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