Pio Nono: A Study in European Politics and Religion in the Nineteenth Century

Pio Nono: A Study in European Politics and Religion in the Nineteenth Century

Pio Nono: A Study in European Politics and Religion in the Nineteenth Century

Pio Nono: A Study in European Politics and Religion in the Nineteenth Century

Excerpt

Why, since his death in 1878, has no study appeared in England of Pio Nono?

Perhaps because he was a Pope. Yet this seems insufficient answer since he was also a leading character - at first the leading character - in that drama so dear to Englishmen, the Italian Risorgimento. And even as Pope he forced himself upon the attention of Englishmen in his day by his Papal Aggression in restoring the Catholic Hierarchy to England, by issuing the Syllabus of Errors, by defining Papal Infallibility, by enraging both Gladstone and Exeter Hall by reigning longer than any Pope had ever reigned, by recruiting an international army, by losing the most ancient sovereignty of Europe - the Papal State.

In an important sense Pio Nono was the central figure of the mid-nineteenth century. But we name epochs after their political arbiters, we talk of Metternich's Europe, and Bismarck's Europe, so that the period between the flight of Metternich in 1848 and the foundation of the German Empire in 1870 becomes Napoleon III's Europe - or Palmerston's. If, with Shakespeare, we were to choose for our title the suffering tragic hero, the symbolic central character, then the middle of the century would be called the age of Pio Nono - for the same reasons as Shakespeare called his plays King Lear or Othello, rather than Goneril or Iago. Those who were working for change, or for power, assailed the Pope's claims, and brushed him aside; but they could not prevent the eyes of a worldwide audience being fastened upon the stage of his misfortunes. Nor could they stop him from rekindling, in his old age, flames of fervour that have burnt ever since around the world.

The recent appearance in Europe of two major publications concerned with Pio Nono is a reminder of our own neglect. One is R. Aubert's Pontificat de Pie Neuf, which is a history of the Catholic Church in this pontificate. The other is the correspondence of Pio Nono with Victor Emmanuel and Napoleon III, and of Cardinal Antonelli with the Papal Nuncios, between the years . . .

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