The fall of the Church Estates

Exactly when he was going to be dispossessed, Pius IX, by virtue of his apostolic authority, declared open the Ecumenical Council, in a solemn ceremony in the basilica of Saint Peter that lasted of 9 of the morning at 3 of the afternoon of the 8 December of 1868. It was the twentieth of the history and counted on 780 fathers, more than three times the assistants in the last council, celebrated in Trento more than three centuries ago. All the orthodox bishops and all protestant obedience were invited, which in their absolute majority did not go. The Pope, however, did not invite the representatives of the States, breaking the habit opened by Constantine in Nicaea and sustained by all councils for fifteen centuries. In a gesture of great boldness of Pius IX, for the first time the Church met in supreme assembly sorted out from the State and with independence of the lay powers. The star subject of Council Vatican I was the dogmatic definition of the Pope infallibility, matter that unchained a great controversy in all Europe, in which Catalonia, where the Catholics were "more papists than the Pope", remained foreign. In the council, the bishops of the Catalan dioceses defended the infallibility, against groups of French, German and Austrian bishops, until the extreme, and the stubborn opposition of the only council father born in Reus, Miquel Domènech i Veciana (1816-1878), bishop of Pittsburg, sits in that he renounced, as well as to be appointed cardinal (he would be the first of the United States). Also they were from those that asked that Saint Joseph were declared Patron of the universal Church. The infallibility was voted on 18 July of 1870 and after the great act of the history of the Church, Pius IX sacked the council fathers until the 11 November. However, that same summer Rome would fall down at the hands of the Italians and the council would not be resumed any more. On the 19th July the Franco-Prussian war started and on the 2nd September the French army was sunk in Sedan. The Empire fell down, the French Republic was proclaimed again and Rome remained without defense. Pius IX gave the order of limiting oneself to a symbolic resistance and yielding before any effusion of blood and on 20 September of 1870, on hearing the pipe that opened a breach to the aureliana wall beside the Door Pia, he commanded to put a white flag in the cross of the basilica of Saint Peter. In this situation, he declared Saint Joseph Patron of the universal Church, the 8 December of 1870. The figure of the Vicar of Christ "prisoner of the Vatican" filled in the Catholics with emotion from all over the world. Thousands of pilgrims went from the Catholic universe to manifest for their adhesion, or to acclaim the "Pope-King", who arrived the distressing news of the advances of the Freemasons and the anticlerical ones in Italy, in the France of the Commune, in the Germany of Bismark, in Belgium, in Bohemia and in the Iberian peninsula. One of the first in going to Rome was, in 1871, Josep Maria Bocabella, founding five years before the Association of Worshippers of Saint Joseph, which already counted on 400.000 associates, among them the same Pope Pius IX. He offered to the “Prisoner of the Vatican” a silver group reproduction of the picture “Rest in the Escape to Egypt", which presided the altar of the chapel of saint Joseph of the sanctuary of Montserrat, in the face of which the inspiration had appeared of setting up the Association, and which had cost 3.000 duros; and all the money picked up by the association: 18.500 duros. In Rome, they ascertained the devotion of the people in the Bambino Gesú of Ara Caeli. Back in Barcelona, they visited in Loreto the "Saint House", on 26 November of 1871. In Catalonia, the Revolution of 1868 had taken the Church much more prepared than that of 1835. Thanks to the influence of saint Antonius Maria Claret on the Spanish Moanrchy, all the bishops of Catalonia were Catalan or fully identified with the language and the country for the first time from the conquest by Philip V (1714). Thus, the diocesan seminars, reopened thanks to the concordat of 1851, had made a great task. They counted out more than 2.500 seminarists (1.000 of them in the seminar of Vic). For the 1.900.000 inhabitants of Catalonia, there were some 4.200 diocesan priests, with an average of some 450 souls for priest. The use of the cassock had normalized and they carried out spiritual exercises every year. As for the monks, several high institutes of active life, especially feminine, were set up; and the French laws of restriction of the education brought to Catalonia many monks and nuns French, who elevated the level of the Catholic education notably. Among the laymen, it had grown up the fraternity of the Rosary, which spread the prayer of the rosary in the parish or at home. On the whole, the Church had achieved a certain incidence in a substantial part of the bourgeoisie and, especially, of the middle classes. However, their action in the increasing working class had an apologetic and beneficial sense -child schools, parish libraries, asylums, hospitals, charitable associations like the lectures of saint Vincent of Paul, etc - that did not arrive at the majority of workers and that was counterbalanced for an effective propaganda that identified the bishops with the capitalists and created popular lack of confidence towards the priests and the monks. The social works beyond the strict evangelic charity, like the "School of the Virtue", were scarce, and were inspired in the ideology of Balmes, which was convinced of the instability of the existing social structure in the moment. On to burst the Revolution, the bishops, conscious of its being a result of the influence of the freemasonry and other anticlerical sects, they took a counter-revolutionary position, in defense of the "Catholic Unity". The Revolution next imposed anticlerical measures: recognition of all the individual freedoms, expulsion of the Jesuits, de-accommodation of convents to occupy them as barracks, suppression of the seminars and of schools religious -among them, the Piarists of Reus- to transform them into lay high schools, prohibition of public acts of cult, concession to the Protestants of license to build own buildings, resumption of the sales of the disentailed buildings that still remained at the hands of the State, etc. The Catalan bishops were very active in the plebiscite of 1869, propagating their hostility in the new constitution. On proclaiming itself, they were forced to swearing it. Five bishops showed favorable and three unfavorable, among them the bishop of Urgell, Josep Caixal i Estradé, who ran away in Andorra. The passport was denied to the other two unfavorable for attending the council. Caixal traveled from Andorra and was the bishop who had more interventions: twelve oral ones and eleven written ones. He came back to Catalonia in bursting the civil war, as general vicar of the Carlist army. Being in Rome, he received the letter of father Josep Manyanet, the founder of the "Sons of the Holy Family", of 24 June of 1869, where he proposed him: "Meditating on the evils that bring the society upset and on its more appropriate and effective remedy, and not finding it but in the union of all the bishops with the Siege of Rome in the nearby ecumenical Council, came me the idea about interesting to the glorious Patriarch Saint Joseph in this very important business through the erection of a expiatory temple manufactured by the charity of the Spaniards, engraving on its frontispiece for memory of the generations future these or faces words: "To the glorious Patriarch Saint Joseph, Patron of the universal Church and Restaurateur of Spain". Not to see our hopes disappointed, we would begin praying a mass every Wednesday to Saint Joseph, imploring his powerful protection, and all months another to Mary Immaculate for the pious purposes of those who deigned to contribute with their alms to the raising of this magnificent temple". Father Manyanet communicated the idea to his friend Bocabella and to some years afterwards, in April of 1874, "El Propagador" proposed to their associates "erecting a temple dedicated to the Holy Family, in imitation of the one that the French Catholics are making in honor of the Holy Heart in Montmartre and the roman Catholics have promised also in honor of the Holy Heart, one time attains the triumph of the Church". For Christmas, "El Propagador" published a touched description of the grotto of Bethlehem, according to the reproduction that there was in Saint Mary the Great.

Josep Maria Tarragona, April 3, 2007

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Last update: 06/05/2016