Tuesday, August 14, 2018

The Future Pope Pius VII

Barnaba Niccolò Maria Luigi Chiaramonti, the future Pope Pius VII, was born on August 14, 1742. He joined the Benedictine order when he was 14 years old and made his final vows on August 20, 1758taking the name Gregory or Gregorio. He was ordained a priest on September 21, 1765. The Catholic Encyclopedia describes the circumstances of his papal election:

According to an ordinance issued by Pius VI, 13 Nov., 1798, the city where the largest number of cardinals was to be found at the time of his death was to be the scene of the subsequent election. In conformity with these instructions the cardinals met in conclave, after his death (29 Aug., 1799), in the Benedictine monastery of San Giorgio at Venice. The place was agreeable to the emperor, who bore the expense of the election. Thirty-four cardinals were in attendance on the opening day, 30 Nov., 1799; to these was added a few days later Cardinal Herzan, who acted simultaneously as imperial commissioner. It was not long before the election of Cardinal Bellisomi seemed assured. He was, however, unacceptable to the Austrian party, who favoured Cardinal Mattei. As neither candidate could secure a sufficient number of votes, a third name, that of Cardinal Gerdil, was proposed, but his election was vetoed by Austria. At last, after the conclave had lasted three months, some of the neutral cardinals, including Maury, suggested Chiaramonti as a suitable candidate and, with the tactful support of the secretary of the conclave, Ercole Consalvi, he was elected. The new pope was crowned as Pius VII on 21 March, 1800, at Venice. He then left this city in an Austrian vessel for Rome, where he made his solemn entry on 3 July, amid the universal joy of the populace. Of all-important consequence for his reign was the elevation on 11 Aug., 1800, of Ercole Consalvi, one of the greatest statesmen of the nineteenth century, to the college of cardinals and to the office of secretary of state. Consalvi retained to the end the confidence of the pope, although the conflict with Napoleon forced him out of office for several years.

One of the Cardinals at this election was Henry Benedict Cardinal Stuart, Bonnie Prince Charlie's brother.

Like his predecessor, Pope Pius VI, Pius VII endured exile from Rome during Napoleon I's reign. Consalvi successfully negotiated the Concordat of 1801 with Napoleon, re-establishing some of the Catholic Church's rights in France. Pope Pius VII was present at Napoleon and Josephine's coronations in the Cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris in 1804. When France occupied and annexed Rome, Pius was sent to Savona on the coast of Italy.

From Pope Benedict XVI's homily during a visit to Savona, Italy in 2008:

It is a pilgrimage that is also a memory and a tribute to my Venerable Predecessor Pius VII, whose dramatic experience is indissolubly linked to this City and its Marian Shrine. Two centuries later, I come to renew the expression of gratitude of the Holy See and of the entire Church for the faith, love and courage with which your fellow citizens supported the Pope under house arrest in this City, imposed upon him by Napoleon Bonaparte. Many testimonies of the manifestations of solidarity for the Pontiff, sometimes even at personal risk, have been preserved. They are events that the people of Savona can well be proud to commemorate today. As your Bishop rightly observed, through the power of the Holy Spirit, that dark page of Europe's history has become rich in graces and teachings for our day too. It teaches us courage in facing the challenges of the world: materialism, relativism, secularism without ever yielding to compromises, ready to pay in person while remaining faithful to the Lord and his Church. The example of serene firmness set by Pope Pius VII invites us to keep our trust in God unaltered in trials, aware that although he permits the Church to experience difficult moments he never abandons us. The episode the Great Pontiff went through in your land invites us always to trust in the intercession and motherly assistance of Mary Most Holy.

From 1809 to 1814, Pope Pius VII was held prisoner at Fontainebleau. When Napoleon fell, he returned to Rome. Pius began the process of restoring the Jesuits; he established several new dioceses in the United States; and he worked to restore Rome after the French occupation. He died on August 20, 1823 after a fall, breaking his hip. He died on the 65th anniversary of his profession as a Benedictine monk.

Pope Benedict XVI named him a Servant of God in 2007.

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