Friday, September 29, 2017

September 29, 1850: Universalis Ecclesiae

"Am I the Queen of England or am I not?" So said Queen Victoria when news of the Restoration of the English Catholic hierarchy was announced in 1850. Pope Pius IX issued the Papal Bull "Universalis Ecclesiae" on September 29th that year. The first Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster, Nicholas Wiseman issued a pastoral letter to English Catholics, "Out of the Flaminian Gate," on October 7, 1850. His tone of exultation offended the Queen and her government, especially in its praise of the Pope.

As Cardinal Wiseman progressed on the Continent toward the British Isles he heard about the anger expressed in the British papers. Queen Victoria expressed herself in the strongest terms and the Cardinal responded by publishing a pamphlet and giving lectures that indicated the Catholic Church had no intention of opposing Her Majesty's Government in any way.

Queen Victoria's Prime Minister, Lord John Russell, introduced a bill in Parliament which passed making it illegal for the new Catholic Bishops to be physically present in their new dioceses--a law which was never enforced by the next government under Gladstone. There were still flare ups of anti-Catholic rioting and violence, but the Cardinal Archbishop had toned down his rather triumphalistic rhetoric and settled down to the restoration of simple things, like schools, chapels, seminaries, and churches. Because of the Ecclesiastical Titles Act of 1851, the hierarchy did not restore the pre-Reformation sees. 

The illustration above, from Punch, represents the anti-Papal reaction to the Restoration of the Hierarchy. Indeed, effigies of Cardinal Wiseman were added to the festivities on Guy Fawkes Night that year.

In 1950, Pope Pius XII broadcast a radio message to English Catholics, celebrating the centenary of the Restoration of the Hierarchy:

That ancient Hierarchy was first established by Our august Predecessor St. Gregory the Great, and for nearly a thousand years it was linked to this Holy See by the bonds of filial obedience: a thou-sand years, during which a glorious legion of saints honoured your country and a wholesouled devotion to the Mother of God made it worthy to be called  "the dowry of Mary". 

When those bonds were severed and by a mysterious providence of heaven the blackness of night settled down on the Church of Augustine and Thomas and Edmund, of Wilfrid of York and Hugh of Lincoln, then it was, God raised up that generation of amazing heroes, trained in the school of a crucified Leader to fear neither rack nor rope, who came to sustain the flickering light of Faith that would not die. With what veneration and hallowed memories one prays before the painting of the King of Martyrs in the Venerable English College chapel, while before the mind's eye there pass a Sherwin, a Campion, a Southwell and a host of others cleric and lay. They died, and the Faith in England lived on. 

Almost three centuries passed, and Our predecessor Pius IX of blessed memory decided the time had come for the Catholic Church in England to resume its proper place in the normal constitution of the Church, and by the Apostolic Letter "Universalis Ecclesiae" he re-established in England and Wales the Hierarchy of Bishops Ordinary, each to rule the Catholics in his own diocese.

Pope Pius XVII mentioned the progress Catholics had made in England and highlighted the achievement of Newman and Manning, while also mentioning two more martyrs:

It were too long to call the roster of all those who deserve a grateful remembrance today; but We cannot pass over in silence two names that add particular lustre to the pages of your nineteenth century history: John Henry Newman, most human, most eloquent expositor of the word of God, whose immortal sermon keeps fresh the memory of the First Synod of the restored Hierarchy; and Henry Edward Manning, champion of the working-man, herald and apostle of an age of increasing social justice and harmony. 

We know full well, Venerable Brethren, that this progress has not been achieved without difficulties and trials. Our heart goes out in sympathy especially to the bishops and priests of Wales, where Catholics are few and scattered, and where poverty and loneliness must so often be the companions of those valiant apostles who would enlarge the kingdom of Christ on earth. To them We say : look to your illustrious martyrs, Blessed Richard Gwyn and Blessed David Lewis, and go forward with courage and good cheer.

In 33 years, they'll celebrate the bicentennial!

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