Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Pius VI Arrested by the Revolution

During the same time that Adams and the Federalists were losing their control of American political institutions, the French Revolutionaries were taking over Rome and imprisoning the Pope. While Adams’s political career came to an end by his being voted out of office, the career and life of Pius VI ended being forcibly taken out of Rome. He died in exile from the capitol city of the Church which he led. The fall of Adams caused him great bitterness. The exile and death of Pius VI, at least from his letters, caused him great joy.

In 1798, when Pius VI was being physically menaced by the revolutionaries, he wrote to Cardinal Franckenberg at Mechliniensem (July 30, 1798). Rather than expressing bitterness, Pius VI wrote of the great consolation that had come to him, seeing the “patience, strength, longanimity, and good will” with which the faithful, nuns, and priests have faced prison, death, and exile during the Revolution (Vol. 2, Supplement, 29). He was first edified by what he saw as the number of ordinary faithful of the Catholic Church who witnessed to their faith during the turmoil and danger of the revolution.

The Revolution was a large storm against the Church (Vol. 2, Supplement, 29). After the revolutionaries dismantled the Church, the Pope was alone on his throne. He had no human means to help him (Vol. 2, Supplement, 30). He was sharing in the same sufferings that so many French men and women suffered during the Revolution. He knew that the suffering of the people of France, their good example, was strengthening him as he bore his imprisonment (Vol. 2, Supplement, 30). He recalled that Christ gave Christians grace to bear with suffering of this kind (Vol. 2, Supplement, 31). Catholics, from the beginning, were able to bare suffering and persecution with joy. They did not conquer with weapons and violence. They did not take over nations by the sword. Instead, they did so by long-suffering and faith (Vol. 2, Supplement, 31). So often it was through persecution that the Church obtained her victories. He did not hold any rancor towards the revolutionaries. He wished “tranquility, joy, and peace” to all (Vol. 2, Supplement, 31-32).

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