Catholic Dictionary – Angelicals


An order of nuns, following the rule of Saint Augustine, founded by Luigia di Torelli, Countess of Guastalla, about 1530. She had been married twice, but being left a second time a widow when only twenty-five years of age, she resolved to devote the rest of her life and her large fortune to the divine service.

She founded her first convent at Milan. Her religious took the name of Angelicals in order to remind themselves whenever they uttered it of the purity of the angels. Every nun adopts the name of “Angelica,” prefixing it to that of a patron saint and her family name, e.g. “Angelica Maria Anna di Gonzaga.” Their constitutions were drawn up by Saint Charles Borromeo, Archbishop of Milan.

MLA Citation

  • “angelicals”. A Catholic Dictionary, 1893. 20 July 2014. Web. 22 July 2014. <>

Catholic Dictionary – All Souls Day

[Pictorial Lives of Saints: All Souls]Article

A solemn commemoration of, and prayer for, all the souls in Purgatory, which the Church makes on the second of November. The Mass said on that day is always the Mass of the dead, priests and others who are under obligation of reciting the breviary are required to say the matins and lauds from the office of the dead in addition to the office which is said on that day according to the ordinary course, and the vespers of the dead are said on the first of November, immediately after the vespers of All Saints. This solemnity owes its origin to the Abbot Odilo of Clugny, who instituted it for all the monasteries of his congregation in the year 998. Some authors think there are traces at least of a local celebration of this day before Odilo’s time. With the Greeks Saturday was a day of special prayer for the dead, particularly the Saturday before Lent and that which preceded Pentecost.

MLA Citation

  • “All Souls Day”. A Catholic Dictionary. 20 July 2014. Web. 22 July 2014. <>

Catholic Dictionary – All Saints


As early as the fourth century, the Greeks kept on the first Sunday after Pentecost the feast of all martyrs and saints, and we still possess a sermon of Saint Chrysostom delivered on that day. In the West, the feast was introduced by Pope Boniface IV after he had dedicated, as the Church of the Blessed Virgin and the Martyrs, the Pantheon, which had been made over to him by the Emperor Phocas. The feast of the dedication was kept on the thirteenth of May. About 731 Gregory III consecrated a chapel in Saint Peter’s Church in honour of all the saints, from which time All Saints’ Day has been kept in Rome, as now, on the first of November. From about the middle of the ninth century, the feast came into general observance throughout the West. It ranks as a double of the first class with an octave.

MLA Citation

  • “All Saints”. A Catholic Dictionary. 20 July 2014. Web. 22 July 2014. <>

Catholic Dictionary – abjuration of heresy


This is required in the canon law as a preliminary to baptism, or, when there is no question of that (as in the case of converts from the Eastern Church), before the convert makes his confession of faith. There are decrees of several councils to this effect: thus the Council of Laodicea (about 364) ordains that Novatian and Photiuian heretics, “whether they be baptised persons or catechumens, shall not be received before they have anathematised all heresies^ especially that in which they were held.” A celebrated instance of abjuration is that of Clovis (496), to whom Saint Remy said before baptising him, “Meekly bow down thy head, Sicambrian; adore what thou hast burnt, and burn what thou hast adored.” An early German council requires the Saxon converts to renounce belief in “Thor and Woden and Saxon Odin” before being received into the Church.

Ferraris sums up the canonical requirements in the matter of abjuration as follows: that it should be done without delay; that it should be voluntary; that it should be done with whatever degree of publicity the bishop of the place might think necessary; and that the abjuring person should make condign satisfaction in the form of penance.

The modern discipline insists mainly on the positive part, the profession of the true faith. Thus in the Ritual of Strasburg (1742) the abjuration required is merely general: “Is it your firm purpose to renounce in heart and mind all the errors which it [the Catholic religion] condemns? “In England at the present time the abjurationis, so to speak, taken for granted in ordinary cases, since converts are not admitted into the Church except after suitable instruction, and the Creed of Pope Pius IV, which everyone desiring to become a Catholic must read and accept, expressly denounces most of those errors which infect the religious atmosphere of this country.

MLA Citation

  • “abjuration of heresy”. A Catholic Dictionary. 20 July 2014. Web. 22 July 2014. <>

Catholic Dictionary – abbacomites


The abbacomites or abbates milites, count abbots or noble abbots, were lay intruders, to whom courts gave abbacies for pecuniary profit. Thus Bernard, the youngest of Charles Martel’s six sons, was lay abbot of Sithiu or Saint Quentin, Sons, daughters, wives, etc., were thus benefited before the time of Charlemagne, who, however, efiected a reform and made monasteries the seats of schools and literature. In latter days other princes, claiming the right of investiture, reintroduced similar abuses; secular priests were often made commendatory abbots.

MLA Citation

  • “abbacomites”. A Catholic Dictionary. 20 July 2014. Web. 22 July 2014. <>

Nos Es Muy Conocia – On the Religious Situation in Mexico, by Pope Pius XI, 28 March 1937

9kb jpg holy card of Pope Pius XITo the Venerable Brethren the Archbishops, Bishops, and other Ordinaries of Mexico in Peace and Communion with the Apostolic See. Venerable Brethren, Health and Apostolic Benediction.

1. There is well known to Us, Venerable Brethren – and it is a great cause of consolation for Our paternal heart – your constancy, that of your priests and of the great part of the Mexican faithful, in ardently professing the Catholic Faith and in opposing the impositions of those who, ignoring the divine excellence of the religion of Jesus Christ and knowing it only through the calumnies of its enemies, delude themselves that they are not able to accomplish reforms for the good of the people except by combating the religion of the great majority. But unfortunately, the enemies of God and Christ have succeeded in overcoming many lukewarm and timid souls who, although they adore God in the intimacy of their consciences, nevertheless, either through human respect or through fear of earthly evils, have become, at least materially, cooperators in the de-christianization of a people that owes to religion its greatest glories.

2. In contrast to these apostasies and weaknesses, which afflict Us profoundly, there appears to Us all the more praiseworthy and meritorious the resistance to evil, the practice of Christian life and the frank profession of faith by those most numerous Faithful whom you, Venerable Brethren, and with you your clergy, illuminate and guide with pastoral strength no less than with the splendid example of your life. This consoles Us in the midst of Our sorrow, and engenders in Us the hope for better days for the Mexican Church, which, re-animated by so much heroism and sustained by the prayers and sacrifices of so many elect souls, cannot perish, even more, it must flourish again more vigorously and more luxuriously.

3. And precisely to revive your confidence in Divine Aid, and to encourage you to continue in the practice of a fervent Christian life, We address this letter to you, and We avail ourselves of this occasion to remind you how, under the present difficult circumstances, the most efficacious means for a Christian restoration are-and also among you-above all the holiness of priests, and in the second place the correct formation of the laity in order that they may be capable of cooperating fruitfully in the Apostolate of the Hierarchy, so much more necessary in Mexico both because of the vastness of the territory and because of other circumstances known to all.

4. Our thought, therefore, is fixed in the first place on those who must be the light that illuminates, the salt which conserves, the good leaven which penetrates the entire mass of the Faithful: We mean your priests. In truth, We know how tenaciously and at the cost of how many sacrifices you care for the selection and increase of sacerdotal vocations, in the midst of all sorts of difficulties, well persuaded as you are thus to provide the solution of a vital problem, truly the most vital of all the problems relating to the future of the Church. In view of the almost absolute impossibility of having in your own country well-ordered and tranquil seminaries, you have found in this city an ample and gracious refuge in the South American Pio Latino College, which has formed and continues to form in science and virtue so many worthy priests and which, for its precious work, is particularly dear to Us. But since in many cases it has been impossible to send your students to Rome, you have worked solicitously to find an asylum in the hospitality of a great neighboring nation.

Expression of Gratitude

5. In congratulating you on this praiseworthy initiative which is already becoming a consoling reality, We again express Our gratitude to all those who have so generously tendered you hospitality and assistance. And with paternal instinct We remind you again on this occasion of Our precise wish that you make known and explain suitably, not only to the clerics, but to all your priests, Our Encyclical Ad Catholici Sacerdotii, which explains Our thoughts on this the gravest and most important among the grave and important subjects treated by Us.

6. The Mexican priests thus formed according to the Heart of Jesus Christ will feel that in the actual conditions of their country (of which We spoke in Our Apostolic Letter Paterna Sane Solicitudo of 2 February 1926)—which are so similar to those of the early times of the Church, when the Apostles appealed for the collaboration of the laity—it would be very difficult to re-conquer for Christ so many misguided souls without the providential assistance which the laity give by means of Catholic Action. More so since at times grace prepares among them generous souls ready to develop most fruitful activity if they encounter a learned and holy clergy capable of understanding and guiding them.

7. Therefore, to the Mexican priests, who have dedicated their lives to the service of Jesus Christ, of the Church and of souls—to these We direct Our first and warmest appeal, that they will generously second Our and your solicitude for the progress of Catholic-Action, dedicating to it their best efforts and most opportune diligence. The methods of an effective collaboration of the laity with your action will never be lacking if the priests will devote themselves with careful attention to cultivating the Christian people by means of wise spiritual direction and careful religious instructions, not diluted in vain discourses, but nourished with sound doctrine taken from Holy Scripture and full of unction and of force.

Holy Apostolate

8. It is true that not all understand fully the necessity of this holy apostolate of the laity, although from Our first Encyclical, Ubi Arcano Dei, We declared that this appertains undeniably to the pastoral ministry and to Christian life. But since, as We have already indicated, We are addressing Ourselves to pastors who must regain a sorely tried and to a certain extent dispersed flock, today more than ever before We recommend that you make use of those secular people to whom, as living stones of the Holy House of God, Saint Peter attributes a profound dignity which makes them in a certain manner participants in a holy and regal priesthood (1 Peter ii.9).

In fact, every Christian conscious of his dignity and his responsibility as a son of the Church and a member of the Mystical Body of Christ—Multi Unum Corpus Sumus in Christo Singuli Autem Alter Alterius Membra (So we being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another) (Romans xii. 5)—cannot do less than recognize that between the members of this body there must exist a reciprocal communication of life and solidarity of interests. Hence the duty of each in the order of life and the increase of the whole organism in aedificationem Corporis Chrisn: hence the efficacious contribution of each member toward the glorification of the Head and of His Mystical Body (Ephesians iv. 12-16).

From these clear and simple principles, what consoling deductions, what luminous directives arise for many souls still uncertain and diffident, but desirous of orientating their ardor! What incitements to contribute to the spread of the Kingdom of Christ and to the salvation of souls!

Fruit of Organization

9. Nevertheless, it is evident that the apostolate thus understood does not come from a purely natural impulse to action, but is the fruit of a solid interior formation: it is the necessary expansion of an intense love of Jesus Christ and of souls redeemed by His Precious Blood, which is actuated by studying to imitate His life of prayer, of sacrifice, of inextinguishable zeal. This imitation of Christ will excite multiple forms of apostolate in every field, wherever souls are in danger or the rights of the Divine King compromised; it will extend to all the works of the apostolate, which in any manner enter into the divine mission of the Church, and consequently will penetrate not only the soul of each individual, but also into the sanctuary of the family, the school and even public life.

10. But the magnitude of the work must not cause you to preoccupy yourselves more than the number of collaborators than with the quality. Following the example of the Divine Master, who wished to precede the few years of His apostolic work with a long preparation, and limited Himself to forming in the Apostolic College not many but select instruments for the future conquest of the world, so you also, Venerable Brethren, should care first of all for the supernatural formation of your directors and propagandists, without being too much preoccupied or grieved because at the beginning they form but a pusillus grex (Luke xii. 32).

11. And since We know that you are already working in this direction, We express to you Our satisfaction that you have already scrupulously selected and carefully formed good collaborators, who with word and example will bring the fervor of the Christian life and the Christian apostolate into the dioceses and the parishes. This, your work, will certainly succeed in being solid and deep, averse to publicity, tumult, noisy forms, working in silence, even without very apparent or immediate fruit; after the manner of the seed, which, in the apparent repose beneath the soil, prepares the new vigorous plant.

Spiritual Formation

12. On the other hand, the spiritual formation and the interior life fostered in these your collaborators, will put them on their guard against dangers and possible deviations. Keeping in mind the ultimate aim of Catholic Action, which is the sanctification of souls, according to the Gospel precept: See ye first the Kingdom of God (Luke xii. 31), you will not run the risk of sacrificing principles for immediate and secondary ends, and that supreme end will never be forgotten to which must be subordinated even social and economic works and charitable undertakings.

Our Lord Jesus Christ taught us this with example; because when in the ineffable tenderness of His Divine Heart which makes Him exclaim: I have compassion on the multitude . . . And if I shall send them away fasting to their home, they will faint in the way (Mark viii. 2 to 3), He healed the infirmities of the body and came to the assistance of temporal needs, He had the supreme end of His mission always in view, that is, the glory of His Father and the eternal salvation of souls.

13. The so-called social works, in the meantime, are not to escape the activities of Catholic Action, inasmuch as they aim at putting into practice the principles of justice and charity, and inasmuch as they are means of approaching the multitudes; since often souls are not reached except through the relief of corporal miseries and economic needs. And this We, Ourselves, as did Our predecessor of blessed memory, Leo XIII, recommended several times. But it is also true that, if Catholic Action has the duty of preparing men fit to direct such works, and of pointing out the principles which must guide them, with norms and directions drawn from the genuine sources of Our Encyclicals, it must not nevertheless assume the responsibility in that part which is purely technical, financial, economic, which is outside its competency and outside its purpose.

14. Facing the frequent accusations made against the Church, that it is indifferent to social problems, or incapable of solving them, do not desist from proclaiming that only the teaching and the work of the Church, assisted as it is by its Divine Founder, can furnish a remedy for the very grave ills which burden humanity. It is for you then (as you have already shown your wish to do) to draw from these fruitful principles the certain norms to solve the grave social questions with which your country is struggling today, which are, for example, the agrarian problem, the reduction of the latifundia (large landed estates), the improvement of the living conditions of the working men and their families.

Social Justice

15. Thus, while saving the essence of the primary and fundamental rights, such as the right of ownership, remember that at times the common good imposes restrictions on such rights as a recourse more frequent than in the past to the applications of social justice. As a protection for the dignity of the human being, it may be necessary at times to denounce and to blame boldly unjust and unworthy living conditions; at the same time, however, care must be taken to guard against either making violence legitimate with the pretext of applying a remedy to the ills of the people, or admitting and favoring those rapid and violent changes of temporal conditions of society which may lead to effects that are more harmful than the evil itself which is intended to be corrected.

16. This intervention in the social question will bring you likewise to occupy yourselves with the lot of so many poor workingmen who too easily become the prey of de-Christianizing propaganda, with the mirage of economic advantages presented to them as a reward for their apostasy from God and from His Church. If you truly love the laborer (and you must love him because his conditions of life approach nearer to those of the Divine Master), you must assist him materially and religiously. Materially, bringing about in his favor the practice not only of commutative justice but also of social justice, that is, all those provisions which aim at relieving the condition of the proletarian; and then, religiously, giving him again the religious comforts without which he will struggle in a materialism that brutalizes him and degrades him.

Duty Toward Peasants

17. No less grave and no less urgent is another duty: that of the religious and economic assistance of the campesinos (peasants), and in general of that not small portion of your sons forming the population, mostly agricultural, of the Indians. There are millions of souls, they too redeemed by Christ, entrusted by Him to your care and for whom He will some day ask you to render an account; there are millions of individual men often in such sad and miserable living conditions that they have not even that minimum of well-being indispensable to protect their very dignity as men. We conjure you, Venerable Brethren, in the bosom of the charity of Christ to have particular care for these children, to encourage your clergy to devote themselves with ever-increasing zeal to their assistance, and to interest the whole Mexican Catholic Action in this work of moral and material redemption.

18. Nor can We fail to mention a duty which in these recent times is ever increasing in importance: the assistance for Mexicans who have emigrated to other countries, who, torn away from their country and their traditions, more easily become prey to the insidious propaganda of the emissaries seeking to induce them to apostatize from their Faith. An arrangement with your zealous confreres of the United States of America will bring about a more diligent and organized care on the part of the local clergy and will assure for the Mexican emigrants those social and economic provisions which are so well developed in the Church in the United States.

Tasks of Catholic Action

19. If Catholic Action cannot neglect the most humble and the most needy classes, of the laborers, of the peasants, of the emigrants, it has in other fields no less grave and inescapable duties; among other things it must occupy itself solicitously with the students who some day will have, as professional men and women, a great influence in society and will perhaps hold public offices. To the practice of the Christian religion, to the formation of character and the Christian conscience, which are fundamental elements for all the Faithful, you must associate a special and correct education and intellectual preparation, supported by Christian philosophy-that is, that philosophy which was truthfully called perennial philosophy. Today, in fact, a solid and adequate religious instruction seems still more necessary in view of the tendency, always more generalized, of modern life toward externals, the repugnance toward and difficulty of reflection and recollection, and the propensity, even in the spiritual life, to allow sentiment rather than reason to be guide.

20. We ardently desire that you carry out among yourselves, at least to the degree possible and adapting the instruction to particular conditions, to the necessities and possibilities of your country, that which Catholic Action is so well doing in other countries for cultural formation and to assure that religious instruction should hold an intellectual primacy among students and educated Catholics.

21. The university students who are actively engaged in Catholic Action give Us great hope for a better future for Mexico, and We do not doubt that they will fulfil Our hopes. It is evident that they are a part, and an important part, of this Catholic Action which is so close to Our heart, whatever be the forms of its organization, since these depend in great part on local conditions and circumstances which vary from region to region. These university students not only afford, as We have said, the most valid hopes for a better tomorrow, but even today can render effective service to the Church and to the country, by the apostolate which they carry on among their companions as well as by supplying the various branches and various organizations of Catholic Action with capable and enlightened directors.

Care of Children

22. The special conditions of your country oblige Us to recall the necessary, obligatory, inescapable, care of the children, whose innocence is ensnared, whose education and Christian formation is thus so sorely tried. Two grave precepts are imposed on all Catholic Mexicans: the one negative, that is, to keep the children as far away as possible from the impious and corruptive school; the other positive, to give them complete and accurate religious instruction and the necessary assistance to maintain their spiritual life. Regarding the first point, a grave and delicate one, We recently took occasion to manifest Our thoughts. As regards religious instruction, although We know with what insistence you yourselves have recommended it to your priests and to your Faithful, yet We repeat that, this being one of the most important and capital problems of the Mexican Church today, it is necessary that what is so laudably practiced in some dioceses today should be extended to all the others, in such a manner that the priests and members of Catholic Action apply themselves with all ardor and at cost of any sacrifice to conserve for God and the Church these little ones, for whom the Divine Saviour has shown such predilection.

23. The future of these younger generations (We repeat it with all the anguish of Our paternal heart) awakens in Us the most urgent solicitude and the most lively anxiety. We know to how many perils the children and youth are exposed, today more than ever, everywhere, but particularly in Mexico, where an immoral and anti-religious press implants in their hearts the seeds of apostasy from Jesus Christ. To remedy such grave evil and defend your youth from these perils, it is necessary that every legal means be taken and every form of organization be put in motion, as for example, the Leagues of Fathers of Families and the morality and vigilance committees for publications and censorship of the cinema.

24. Regarding the individual defense of children and youths, We know, from reports which reach Us from all over the world, that activity in the ranks of Catholic Action constitutes the best protection against the strategems of evil, the most efficacious training ground in Christian strength. These youths, enraptured with the beauty of the Christian ideal, sustained by the Divine Help which is assured by prayer and the Sacraments, will dedicate themselves with ardor and joy to the conquest of the souls of their companions, gathering consoling harvests of good.

Salvation of Mexico

25. In this We have another proof that in view of the grave problems of Mexico, it must not be said that Catholic Action holds a place of secondary importance. If ever this institution, which is the educator of consciences and the former of moral qualities, were set aside in favor of another extrinsic work of whatsoever species, even if it were a case of defending necessary religious and civil liberty, it would be a sad mistake; because the salvation of Mexico, as of all human society, lies above all in the eternal and immutable evangelical doctrine and in the sincere practice of Christian morals.

26. For the rest, once this gradation of values and activities is established, it must be admitted that for Christian life to develop itself it must have recourse to external and sensible means; that the Church, being a society of men, cannot exist or develop if it does not enjoy liberty of action, and that its members have the right to find in civil society the possibility of living according to the dictates of their consciences. Consequently, it is quite natural that when the most elementary religious and civil liberties are attacked, Catholic citizens do not resign themselves passively to renouncing those liberties. Notwithstanding, the re-vindication of these rights and liberties can be, according to the circumstances, more or less opportune, more or less energetic.

Church Protects Peace

27. You have more than once recalled to your Faithful that the Church protects peace and order, even at the cost of grave sacrifices, and that it condemns every unjust insurrection or violence against constituted powers. On the other hand, among you it has also been said that, whenever these powers arise against justice and truth even to destroying the very foundations of authority, it is not to be seen how those citizens are to be condemned who united to defend themselves and the nation, by licit and appropriate means, against those who make use of public power to bring it to ruin.

General Principles

28. If the practical solution depends on concrete circumstances, We must, however, on Our part recall to you some general principles, always to be kept in mind, and they are:

1) That these re-vindications have reason [the ratio] of means, or of relative end, not of ultimate and absolute end;

2) That, in reason [ratio] of means, they must be licit actions and not intrinsically evil;

3) That, if they are to be means proportionate to the end, they must be used only in the measure in which they serve to obtain or render possible, in whole or in part, the end, and in such manner that they do not cause to the community greater damages than those they seek to repair;

4) That the use of such means and the exercise of civic and political rights in their fulness, embracing also problems of order purely material and technical, or any violent defense, does not enter in any manner in the task of the clergy or of Catholic Action as such, although to both appertains the preparation of Catholics to make just use of their rights, and to defend them with all legitimate means according as the common good requires;

5) The clergy and Catholic Action, being, by their mission of peace and love, consecrated to uniting all men in vinculo pacis (Ephesians iv. 3), must contribute to the prosperity of the nation, especially encouraging the union of those social initiatives which are not opposed to dogma or to the laws of Christian morals.

Furthermore, this very civil activity of the Mexican Catholics, carried out with such a noble and elevated spirit, will obtain results that are the more efficacious the more the Catholics themselves shall have the supernatural vision of life, that religious and moral education and that burning zeal for the spread of the Kingdom of Our Lord Jesus Christ which Catholic Action intends to give.

Union of Consciences

29. In the presence of a happy coalition of consciences which do not intend to renounce the liberty vindicated for them by Christ (Galatians iv. 31), what power or human force could yoke them to sin? What dangers, what persecutions, what trials could separate souls thus tempered by the charity of Christ? (Romans viii. 35)

30. This right formation of the perfect Christian and citizen, in which the supernatural ennobles all the talents and actions and exalts them, contains also, as is natural, the fulfilment of civil and social duties. Facing the adversaries of the Church, Saint Augustine proclaimed in praise of his faith: Give me such fathers of families, such children, such masters, such subjects, such husbands, such spouses, such men of government, such citizens, as those which Christian Doctrine forms, and if you cannot give them, confess that this Christian Doctrine, if practiced, is the salvation of the State (Epistle cxxxviii. 2).

31. Thus a Catholic will take care not to pass over his right to vote when the good of the Church or of the country requires it. Thus there will be avoided the danger of seeing Catholics, in the exercise of their civil and political activities, organizing in particular groups, at times disputing among themselves or also contrary to the directions of the ecclesiastical authorities. That would be increasing the confusion and scattering the forces, to the complete detriment both of the development of Catholic Action and of the very cause that they wish to defend.

32. We have already mentioned activities which, although not conflicting with, are certainly outside the scope of Catholic Action, such as would be those of a political party or those which are purely economic and social. But there exist many other beneficent activities-such as the Leagues of Fathers of Families, for the defense of scholastic liberty and religious instruction, the union of citizens for the defense of the family and the sanctity of matrimony, and of public morality, which can be reorganized about the central nucleus of Catholic Action. In fact, it does not hold itself rigidly to fixed plans, but rather coordinates, as if about a radial center of light and heat, other initiatives and auxiliary institutions; which, enjoying always a just autonomy and a fitting liberty of action necessary for the accomplishment of their specific aims, feel the need of following the directions of its program.

Different Methods

33. That holds above all for your nation which is so extensive, where the variety of the needs and of local conditions may demand that, though on the basis of common principles, different methods of organization be used and different but equally just practical solutions be reached for the one same problem.

34. It will be for you, Venerable Brethren, placed by the Holy Spirit to rule the Church of God, to give the final practical decision in these cases, to which the Faithful will give their obedience and fidelity according to your instructions. And this is extremely close to Our heart, because the right intention and obedience are always and everywhere the indispensable conditions to draw down the Divine blessings upon the pastoral ministry and upon Catholic Action and to determine that unity of address and that fusion of energies which are an indispensable presupposition for the fruitfulness of the apostolate. With all Our spirit, therefore, We conjure the good Mexican Catholics to hold Obedience and Discipline dear. “Obey your prelates, and be subject to them. For they watch as being to render an account of your souls.” And let this obedience be full of joy and a stimulus to greater energies: “That they may do this with joy, and not with grief” (Hebrews xiii. 17). He who obeys unwillingly and only through force, venting his interior resentment in bitter criticism of his superiors and companions in work, of all that which is not according to his own way of viewing things, drives away the Divine benedictions, destroys the strength of discipline, and destroys where he ought to construct.

35. Together with obedience and discipline, We are pleased to recall those other duties of universal charity which are suggested to us by Saint Paul in that same chapter iv. of the Letter to the Ephesians, which We have already quoted and which ought to be the fundamental norm of all those who work in Catholic Action: “I, therefore, a prisoner in the Lord, beseech you that you walk worthy . . . with all humility and mildness, with patience, supporting one another in charity, careful to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace, one body and one Spirit” (Ephesians iv. 1 to 4).

Appeal to Unity

36. To Our dearest Mexican children, who are such a part of the cares and of the affectionate solicitudes of Our Pontificate, We renew the appeal to unity, to charity, to peace, in the apostolic labor of Catholic Action, which must give back Christ to Mexico and restore there peace and also temporal prosperity.

37. We deposit Our wishes and Our prayers at the feet of your heavenly Patroness, invoked under the title of Our Lady of Guadalupe, who, in her sanctuary, still excites the love and the veneration of every Mexican.

38. Of her, who under this title is venerated and blessed also in this city where We, Ourselves, have erected a parish dedicated in her honor, We earnestly ask that she hear Our prayers and yours for the prosperous future of Mexico, for the Peace of Christ in the Reign of Christ. With these wishes and with these sentiments, We impart with all Our heart to you, to your priests, to the Mexican Catholic Action, to all the beloved children of Mexico, to the whole noble Mexican nation, a very special Apostolic Benediction.

39. May this, Our letter, be a pledge of spiritual resurrection for your country, as We have wished to date it on the Feast of the Resurrection as a paternal auspice that, since you have been so vividly participating in the sufferings of Christ, so you may likewise be participants in His resurrection.

Given at Saint Peter’s in Rome on the Feast of the Resurrection, 28 March 1937, the fifteenth year of Our Pontificate.

Iniquis Afflictisque – On the Persecution of the Church in Mexico, by Pope Pius XI, 18 November 1926

9kb jpg holy card of Pope Pius XITo the Venerable Brethren, the Patriarchs, Primates, Archbishops, Bishops, and other Ordinaries in Peace and Communion with the Apostolic See.

1. In speaking to the Sacred College of Cardinals at the Consistory of last December, We pointed out that there existed no hope or possibility of relief from the sad and unjust conditions under which the Catholic religion exists today in Mexico except it be by a “special act of Divine Mercy.” You, Venerable Brothers, did not delay to make your own and approve Our convictions and Our wishes in this regard, made known to you on so many occasions, for by every means within your power you urged all the faithful committed to your pastoral care to implore by instant prayers the Divine Founder of the Church that He bring some relief from the heavy burden of these great evils.

2. We designedly use the words “the heavy burden of these great evils” for certain of Our children, deserters from the army of Jesus Christ and enemies of the Common Father of all, have ordered and are continuing up to the present hour a cruel persecution against their own brethren, Our most beloved children of Mexico. If in the first centuries of our era and at other periods in history Christians were treated in a more barbarous fashion than now, certainly in no place or at no time has it happened before that a small group of men has so outraged the rights of God and of the Church as they are now doing in Mexico, and this without the slightest regard for the past glories of their country, with no feelings of pity for their fellow-citizens. They have also done away with the liberties of the majority and in such a clever way that they have been able to clothe their lawless actions with the semblance of legality.

3. Naturally, We do not wish that either you or the faithful should fail to receive from Us a solemn testimonial of Our gratitude for the prayers which, according to Our intention were poured forth in private and at public functions. It is most important, too, that these prayers which have been so powerful an aid to Us should be continued, and even increased, with renewed fervor. It is assuredly not in the power of man to control the course of events or of history, nor can he direct them as he may desire to the welfare of society by changing either the minds or hearts of his fellow-men. Such action, however, is well within the power of God, for He without doubt can put an end, if He so desires, to persecutions of this kind. Nor must you conclude, Venerable Brothers, that all your prayers have been in vain simply because the Mexican Government, impelled by its fanatical hatred of religion, continued to enforce more harshly and violently from day to day its unjust laws. The truth is that the clergy and the great majority of the faithful have been so strengthened in their long-suffering resistance to these laws by such an abundant shower of divine grace that they have been enabled thereby to give a glorious example of heroism. They have justly merited, too, that We, in a solemn document executed by Our Apostolic authority, should make known this fortitude to the whole Catholic world.

4. Last month on the occasion of the beatification of many martyrs of the French Revolution, spontaneously the Catholics of Mexico came to Our thoughts, for they, like those martyrs, have remained firm in their resolution to resist in all patience the unreasonable behests and commands of their persecutors rather than cut themselves off from the unity of the Church or refuse obedience to this Apostolic See. Marvelous indeed is the glory of the Divine Spouse of Christ who, through the course of the centuries, can depend, without fail, upon a brave and generous offspring ever ready to suffer prisons, stripes, and even death itself for the holy liberty of the Church!

5. It is scarcely necessary, Venerable Brothers, to go back very far in order to narrate the sad calamities which have fallen upon the Church of Mexico. It is sufficient to recall that the frequent revolutions of modern times have ended in the majority of cases in trials for the Church and persecutions of religion. Both in 1914 and in 1915 men who seemed veritably inspired by the barbarism of former days persecuted the clergy, both secular and regular, and the sisters. They rose up against holy places and every object used in divine worship and so ferocious were they that no injury, no ignominy, no violence was too great to satisfy their persecuting mania.

6. Referring now to certain notorious facts concerning which We have already raised Our voice in solemn protest and which even the daily press recorded at great length, there is no need to take up much space in telling you of certain deplorable events which occurred even in the very recent past with reference to Our Apostolic Delegates to Mexico. Without the slightest regard for justice, for solemn promises given, or for humanity itself, one of these Apostolic Delegates was driven out of the country; another, who because of illness had left the Republic for a short time, was forbidden to return, and the third was also treated in a most unfriendly manner and forced to leave. Surely there is no one who cannot understand that such acts as these, committed against illustrious personages who were both ready and willing to bring about peace, must be construed as a great affront to their dignity as Archbishops, to the high office which they filled, and particularly to Our authority which they represented.

7. Unquestionably the events just cited are grave and deplorable. But the examples of despotic power which We will now pass in review, Venerable Brothers, are beyond all compare, contrary to the rights of the Church, and most injurious as well to the Catholics of Mexico.

8. In the first place, let us examine the law of 1917, known as the “Political Constitution” of the federated republic of Mexico. For our present purposes it is sufficient to point out that after declaring the separation of Church and State the Constitution refuses to recognize in the Church, as if she were an individual devoid of any civil status, all her existing rights and interdicts to her the acquisition of any rights whatsoever in the future. The civil authority is given the right to interfere in matters of divine worship and in the external discipline of the Church. Priests are put on the level of professional men and of laborers but with this important difference, that they must be not only Mexicans by birth and cannot exceed a certain number specified by law, but are at the same time deprived of all civil and political rights. They are thus placed in the same class with criminals and the insane. Moreover, priests not only must inform the civil authorities but also a commission of ten citizens whenever they take possession of a church or are transferred to another mission. The vows of religious, religious orders, and religious congregations are outlawed in Mexico. Public divine worship is forbidden unless it take place within the confines of a church and is carried on under the watchful eye of the Government. All church buildings have been declared the property of the state. Episcopal residences, diocesan offices, seminaries, religious houses, hospitals, and all charitable institutions have been taken away from the Church and handed over to the state. As a matter of fact, the Church can no longer own property of any kind. Everything that it possessed at the period when this law was passed has now become the property of the state. Every citizen, moreover, has the right to denounce before the law any person whom he thinks is holding in his own name property for the Church. All that is required in order to make such action legal is a mere presumption of guilt. Priests are not allowed by law to inherit property of any kind except it be from persons closely related to them by blood. With reference to marriage, the power of the Church is not recognized. Every marriage between Catholics is considered valid if contracted validly according to the prescriptions of the civil code.

9. Education has been declared free, but with these important restrictions: both priests and religious are forbidden to open or to conduct elementary schools. It is not permitted to teach children their religion even in a private school. Diplomas or degrees conferred by private schools under control of the Church possess no legal value and are not recognized by the state. Certainly, Venerable Brothers, the men who originated, approved, and gave their sanction to such a law either are totally ignorant of what rights pertain jure divino to the Church as a perfect society, established as the ordinary means of salvation for mankind by Jesus Christ, Our Redeemer and King, to which He gave the full liberty of fulfilling her mission on earth (such ignorance seems incredible today after twenty centuries of Christianity and especially in a Catholic nation and among men who have been baptized, unless in their pride and foolishness they believe themselves able to undermine and destroy the “House of the Lord which has been solidly constructed and strongly built on the living rock”) or they have been motivated by an insane hatred to attempt anything within their power in order to harm the Church. How was it possible for the Archbishops and Bishops of Mexico to remain silent in the face of such odious laws?

10. Immediately after their publication the hierarchy of Mexico protested in kind but firm terms against these laws, protests which Our Immediate Predecessor ratified, which were approved as well by the whole hierarchies of other countries, as well as by a great majority of individual bishops from all over the world, and which finally were confirmed even by Us in a letter of consolation of the date of the second of February, 1926, which We addressed to the Bishops of Mexico. The Bishops hoped that those in charge of the Government, after the first outburst of hatred, would have appreciated the damage and danger which would accrue to the vast majority of the people from the enforcement of those articles of the Constitution restrictive of the liberty of the Church and that, therefore, out of a desire to preserve peace they would not insist on enforcing these articles to the letter, or would enforce them only up to a certain point, thus leaving open the possibility of a modus vivendi, at least for the time being.

11. In spite of the extreme patience exhibited in these circumstances by both the clergy and laity, an attitude which was the result of the Bishops’ exhorting them to moderation in all things, every hope of a return to peace and tranquillity was dissipated, and this as a direct result of the law promulgated by the President of the Republic on the second of July, 1926, by virtue of which practically no liberty at all was left the Church. As a matter of fact, the Church was barely allowed to exist. The exercise of the sacred ministry was hedged about by the severest penalties as if it were a crime worthy of capital punishment. It is difficult, Venerable Brothers, to express in language how such perversion of civil authority grieves Us. For whosoever reveres, as all must, God the Creator and Our Beloved Redeemer, whosoever will obey the laws of Holy Mother Church, such a man, We repeat, such a man is looked on as a malefactor, as guilty of a crime; such a man is considered fit only to be deprived of all civil rights; such a man can be thrown into prison along with other criminals. With what justice can We apply to the authors of these enormities the words which Jesus Christ spoke to the leaders of the Jews: “This is your hour, and the power of darkness.” (Luke xxii, 53)

12. The most recent law which has been promulgated as merely an interpretation of the Constitution is as a matter of fact much worse than the original law itself and makes the enforcement of the Constitution much more severe, if not almost intolerable. The President of the Republic and the members of his ministry have insisted with such ferocity on the enforcement of these laws that they do not permit the governors of the different states of the Confederation, the civil authorities, or the military commanders to mitigate in the least the rigors of the persecution of the Catholic Church. Insult, too, is added to persecution. Wicked men have tried to place the Church in a bad light before the people; some, for example, uttering the most brazen lies in public assemblies. But when a Catholic tries to answer them, he is prevented from speaking by catcalls and personal insults hurled at his head. Others use hostile newspapers in order to obscure the truth and to malign “Catholic Action.”

13. If, at the beginning of the persecution, Catholics were able to make a defense of their religion in the public press by means of articles which made clear the truth and answered the lies and errors of their enemies, it is now no longer permitted these citizens, who love their country just as much as other citizens do, to raise their voices in protest. As a matter of fact, they are not even allowed to express their sorrow over the injuries done to the Faith of their fathers and to the liberty of divine worship. We, however, moved profoundly as We are by the consciousness of the duties imposed upon Us by our Apostolic office, will cry out to heaven, Venerable Brothers, so that the whole Catholic world may hear from the lips of the Common Father of all the story of the insane tyranny of the enemies of the Church, on the one hand, and on the other that of the heroic virtue and constancy of the bishops, priests, religious congregations, and laity ot Mexico.

14. All foreign priests and religious men have been expelled from the country. Schools for the religious education of boys and girls have been closed, either because they are known publicly under a religious name or because they happen to possess a statue or some other religious object. Many seminaries likewise, schools, insane asylums, convents, institutions connected with churches have been closed. In practically all the states of the Republic the number of priests who may exercise the sacred ministry has been limited and fixed at the barest minimum.

Even these latter are not allowed to exercise their sacred office unless they have beforehand registered with the civil authorities and have obtained permission from them so to function. In certain sections of the country restrictions have been placed on the ministry of priests which, if they were not so sad, would be laughable in the extreme. For example, certain regulations demand that priests must be of an age fixed by law, that they must be civilly married, and they are not allowed to baptize except with flowing water. In one of the states of the Confederation it has been decreed that only one bishop is permitted to live within the territory of said state, by reason of which law two other bishops were constrained to exile themselves from their dioceses. Moreover, because of circumstances imposed upon them by law, some bishops have had to leave their diocese, others have been forced to appear before the courts, several were arrested, and practically all the others live from day to day in imminent danger of being arrested.

15. Again, every Mexican citizen who is engaged in the education of children or of youth, or holds any public office whatsoever, has been ordered to make known publicly whether he accepts the policies of the President and approves of the war which is now being waged on the Catholic Church. The majority of these same individuals were forced, under threat of losing their positions, to take part, together with the army and laboring men, in a parade sponsored by the Regional Confederation of the Workingmen of Mexico, a socialist organization. This parade took place in Mexico City and in other towns of the Republic on the same day. It was followed by impious speeches to the populace. The whole procedure was organized to obtain, by means of these public outcries and the applause of those who took part in it, and by heaping all kinds of abuse on the Church, popular approval of the acts of the President.

16. But the cruel exercise of arbitrary power on the part of the enemies of the Church has not stopped at these acts. Both men and women who defended the rights of the Church and the cause of religion, either in speeches or by distributing leaflets and pamphlets, were hurried before the courts and sent to prison. Again, whole colleges of canons were rushed off to jail, the aged being carried there in their beds. Priests and laymen have been cruelly put to death in the very streets or in the public squares which front the churches. May God grant that the responsible authors of so many grave crimes return soon to their better selves and throw themselves in sorrow and with true contrition on the divine mercy; We are convinced that this is the noble revenge on their murderers which Our children who have been so unjustly put to death are now asking from God.

17. We think it well at this point, Venerable Brothers, to review for you in a few words how the bishops, priests, and faithful of Mexico have organized resistance and “set up a wall for the House of Israel, to stand in battle.” (Ezech. xiii, 5)

18. There cannot be the slightest doubt of the fact that the Mexican hierarchy have unitedly used every means within their power to defend the liberty and good name of the Church. In the first place, they indited a joint pastoral letter to their people in which they proved beyond cavil that the clergy had always acted toward the rulers of the Republic motivated by a love for peace, with prudence and in all patience; that they had even suffered, in a spirit of almost too much tolerance, laws which were unjust; they admonished the faithful, outlining the divine constitution of the Church, that they, too, must always persevere in their religion, in such a way that they shall “obey God rather than men” (Acts v, 19) on every occasion when anyone tries to impose on them laws which are no less contrary to the very idea of law and do not merit the name of law, as they are inimical to the constitution and existence itself of the Church.

19. When the President of the Republic had promulgated his untimely and unjust decree of interpretation of the Constitution, by means of another joint pastoral letter the Bishops protested and pointed out that to accept such a law was nothing less than to desert the Church and hand her over a slave to the civil authorities. Even if this had been done, it was apparent to all that such an act would neither satisfy her persecutors nor stop them in the pursuit of their nefarious intentions. The Bishops in such circumstances preferred to put an end to public religious functions. Therefore, they ordered the complete suspension of every act of public worship which cannot take place without the presence of the clergy, in all the churches of their diocese, beginning the last day of July, on which day the law in question went into effect. Moreover, since the civil authorities had ordered that all the churches must be turned over to the care of laymen, chosen by the mayors of the different municipalities, and could not be held in any manner whatsoever by those who were named or designated for such an office by the bishops or priests, which act transferred the possessions of the churches from the ecclesiastical authority to that of the state, the Bishops practically everywhere interdicted the faithful from accepting a place on such committees bestowed on them by the Government and even from entering a church which was no longer under the control of the Church. In some dioceses, due to difference of time and place, other arrangements were made.

20. In spite of all this, do not think, Venerable Brothers, that the Mexican hierarchy lost any opportunity or occasion by means of which they might do their part in calming popular feelings and bringing about concord despite the fact that they distrusted, or it would be better perhaps to say despaired of, a happy outcome to all these troubles. It is sufficient to recall in this context that the Bishops of Mexico City, who act in the capacity of procurators for their colleagues, wrote a very courteous and respectful letter to the President of the Republic in the interests of the Bishops of Huejutla, who had been arrested in a most outrageous manner and with a great display of armed force, and had been ordered taken to the city of Pachuca. The President replied to this letter by means of a hateful angry screed, a fact now become notorious. Again, when it happened that certain personages, lovers of peace, had spontaneously intervened so as to bring about a conversation between the President and the Archbishop of Morelia and the Bishop of Tabasco, the parties in question talked together for a long time and on many subjects, but with no results. Again, the Bishops debated whether they should ask the House of Representatives for the abrogation of those laws which were against the rights of the Church or if they should continue, as before, their so-called passive resistance to these laws. As a matter of fact, there existed many good reasons which seemed to them to render useless the presentation of such a petition to Congress. However, they did present the petition, which was written by Catholics quite capable of doing so because of their knowledge of law, every word of which was, moreover, weighed by the Bishops themselves with the utmost care. To this petition of the hierarchy there was added, due to the zealous efforts of the members of the Federation for the Defense of Religious Liberty, about which organization We shall have something to say later on in this letter, a great number of signatures of citizens, both men and women.

21. The Bishops had not been wrong in their anticipations of what would take place. Congress rejected the proposed petition almost unanimously, only one voting in favor of it, and the reason they alleged for this act was that the Bishops had been deprived of juridical personality, since they had already appealed in this matter to the Pope and therefore they had proven themselves unwilling to acknowledge the laws of Mexico. Such being the facts, what remained for the Bishops to do if not to decide that, until these unjust laws had been repealed, neither they nor the faithful would change in the slightest the policy which they had adopted? The civil authorities of Mexico, abusing both their power and the really remarkable patience of the people, are now in a position to menace the clergy and the Mexican people with even more severe punishments than those already inflicted. But how are we to overcome and conquer men of this type who are committed to the use of every type of infamy, unless we are willing, as they insist, to conclude an agreement with them which cannot but injure the sacred cause of the liberty of the Church?

22. The clergy have imitated the truly wonderful example of constancy given them by the Bishops and have themselves in turn given no less brilliant an example of fortitude through all the tedious changes of the great conflict. This example of extraordinary virtue on their part has been a great comfort to Us. We have made it known to the whole Catholic world and We praise them because “they are worthy.” (Apoc. iii, 4) And in this special context, when We recall that every imaginable artifice was employed, that all the power and vexatious tactics of our adversaries had but one purpose, to alienate both the clergy and people from their allegiance to the hierarchy and to this Apostolic See, and that despite all this only one or two priests, from among the four thousand, betrayed in a shameful manner their holy office, it certainly seems to Us that there is nothing which We cannot hope for from the Mexican clergy.

23. As a matter of fact, We behold these priests standing shoulder to shoulder, obedient and respectful to the commands of their prelates despite the fact that to obey means in the majority of cases serious dangers for themselves, for they must live from their holy office, and since they are poor and do not themselves possess anything and the Church cannot support them, they are obliged to live bravely in poverty and in misery; they must say Mass in private; they must do all within their power to provide for the spiritual needs of their flocks, to keep alive and increase the flame of piety in those round about them; moreover, by their example, counsels and exhortations, they must lift the thoughts of their fellow citizens to the highest ideals and strengthen their wills so that they, too, will persevere in their passive resistance. Is it any wonder, then, that the wrath and blind hatred of our enemies are directed principally and before all else against the priesthood? The clergy, on their side, have not hesitated to go to prison when ordered, and even to face death itself with serenity and courage. We have heard recently of something which surpasses anything as yet perpetrated under the guise of these wicked laws, and which, as a matter of fact, sounds the very depths of wickedness, for We have learned that certain priests were suddenly set upon while celebrating Mass in their own homes or in the homes of friends, that the Blessed Eucharist was outraged in the basest manner, and the priests themselves carried off to prison.

24. Nor can We praise enough the courageous faithful of Mexico who have understood only too well how important it is for them that a Catholic nation in matters so serious and holy as the worship of God, the liberty of the Church, and the eternal salvation of souls should not depend upon the arbitrary will and audacious acts of a few men, but should be governed under the mercy of God only by laws which are just, which are conformable to natural, divine, and ecclesiastical law.

25. A word of very special praise is due those Catholic organizations, which during all these trying times have stood like soldiers side to side with the clergy. The members of these organizations, to the limit of their power, not only have made provisions to maintain and assist their clergy financially, they also watch over and take care of the churches, teach catechism to the children, and like sentinels stand guard to warn the clergy when their ministrations are needed so that no one may be deprived of the help of the priest. What We have just written is true of all these organizations. We wish, however, to say a word in particular about the principal organizations, so that each may know that it is highly approved and even praised by the Vicar of Jesus Christ.

26. First of all We mention the Knights of Columbus, an organization which is found in all the states of the Republic and which fortunately is made up of active and industrious members who, because of their practical lives and open profession of the Faith, as well as by their zeal in assisting the Church, have brought great honor upon themselves. This organization promotes two types of activities which are needed now more than ever. In the first place, the National Sodality of Fathers of Families, the program of which is to give a Catholic education to their own children, to protect the rights of Christian parents with regard to education, and in cases where children attend the public schools to provide for them a sound and complete training in their religion. Secondly, the Federation for the Defense of Religious Liberty, which was recently organized when it became clear as the noonday sun that the Church was menaced by a veritable ocean of troubles. This Federation soon spread to all parts of the Republic. Its members attempted, working in harmony and with assiduity, to organize and instruct Catholics so that they would be able to present a united invincible front to the enemy.

27. No less deserving of the Church and the fatherland as the Knights of Columbus have been and still are, We mention two other organizations, each of which has, following its own program, a special relation to what is known as “Catholic Social Action.” One is the Catholic Society of Mexican Youth, and the other, the Union of Catholic Women of Mexico. These two sodalities, over and above the work which is special to each of them, promote and do all they can to have others promote the activities of the above-mentioned Federation for the Defense of Religious Liberty. Without going into details about their work, with pleasure We desire to call to your attention, Venerable Brothers, but a single fact, namely, that all the members of these organizations, both men and women, are so brave that, instead of fleeing danger, they go out in search of it, and even rejoice when it falls to their share to suffer persecution from the enemies of the Church. What a beautiful spectacle this, that is thus given to the world, to angels, and to men! How worthy of eternal praise are such deeds! As a matter of fact, as We have pointed out above, many individuals, members either of the Knights of Columbus, or officers of the Federation, of the Union of Catholic Women of Mexico, or of the Society of Mexican Youth, have been taken to prison handcuffed, through the public streets, surrounded by armed soldiers, locked up in foul jails, harshly treated, and punished with prison sentences or fines. Moreover, Venerable Brothers, and in narrating this We can scarcely keep back Our tears, some of these young men and boys have gladly met death, the rosary in their hands and the name of Christ King on their lips. Young girls, too, who were imprisoned, were criminally outraged, and these acts were deliberately made public in order to intimidate other young women and to cause them the more easily to fail in their duty toward the Church.

28. No one, surely, Venerable Brothers, can hazard a prediction or foresee in imagination the hour when the good God will bring to an end such calamities. We do know this much: The day will come when the Church of Mexico will have respite from this veritable tempest of hatred, for the reason that, according to the words of God “there is no wisdom, there is no prudence, there is no counsel against the Lord” (Prov. xxi, 30) and “the gates of hell shall not prevail” (Matt. xvi, 18) against the Spotless Bride of Christ.

29. The Church which, from the day of Pentecost, has been destined here below to a never-ending life, which went forth from the upper chamber into the world endowed with the gifts and inspirations of the Holy Spirit, what has been her mission during the last twenty centuries and in every country of the world if not, after the example of her Divine Founder, “to go about doing good”? (Acts x, 38) Certainly this work of the Church should have gained for her the love of all men; unfortunately the very contrary has happened as her Divine Master Himself predicted (Matt. x, 17, 25) would be the case. At times the bark of Peter, favored by the winds, goes happily forward; at other times it appears to be swallowed up by the waves and on the point of being lost. Has not this ship always aboard the Divine Pilot who knows when to calm the angry waves and the winds? And who is it but Christ Himself Who alone is all-powerful, who brings it about that every persecution which is launched against the faithful should react to the lasting benefit of the Church? As Saint Hilary writes, “it is a prerogative of the Church that she is the vanquisher when she is persecuted, that she captures our intellects when her doctrines are questioned, that she conquers all at the very moment when she is abandoned by all.” (St. Hilary of Poitiers De Trinitate, Bk. VII, No. 4)

30. If those men who now in Mexico persecute their brothers and fellow-citizens for no other reason than that these latter are guilty of keeping the laws of God, would only recall to memory and consider dispassionately the vicissitudes of their country as history reveals them to us, they must recognize and publicly confess that whatever there is of progress, of civilization, of the good and the beautiful, in their country is due solely to the Catholic Church. In fact every man knows that after the introduction of Christianity into Mexico, the priests and religious especially, who are now being persecuted with such cruelty by an ungrateful government, worked without rest and despite all the obstacles placed in their way, on the one hand by the colonists who were moved by greed for gold and on the other by the natives who were still barbarians, to promote greatly in those vast regions both the splendor of the worship of God and the benefits of the Catholic religion, works and institutions of charity, schools and colleges for the education of the people and their instruction in letters, the sciences, both sacred and profane, in the arts and the crafts.

31. One thing more remains for Us to do, Venerable Brothers, namely, to pray and implore Our Lady of Guadalupe, heavenly patroness of the Mexican people, that she pardon all these injuries and especially those which have been committed against her, that she ask of God that peace and concord may return to her people. And if, in the hidden designs of God that day which We so greatly desire is far distant, may she in the meantime console her faithful children of Mexico and strengthen them in their resolve to maintain their liberty by the profession of their Faith.

32. In the meanwhile, as an augury of the grace of God and as proof of Our fatherly love, We bestow from Our heart on you, Venerable Brothers, and especially on those bishops who rule the Church of Mexico, on all your clergy and your people, the Apostolic Blessing.

Given at Rome, at Saint Peter’s, on the eighteenth day of November, in the year 1926, the fifth of Our Pontificate.

Acerba Animi – On Persecution of the Church in Mexico, by Pope Pius XI, 29 September 1932

9kb jpg holy card of Pope Pius XITo Our Venerable Brothers of Mexico, the Archbishops, Bishops, and Ordinaries in Peace and Communion with the Apostolic See. Health, Venerable Brethren, and the Apostolic Blessing.

1. The concern and sorrow which We feel at the present sad plight of human society at large in no way lessen Our special solicitude for Our beloved sons of the Mexican nation and for you, Venerable Brethren, who are the more deserving of Our paternal regard because you have been so long harassed by grievous persecutions.

2. From the beginning of Our Pontificate, following the example of Our Venerable Predecessor, We endeavoured with all Our might to ward off the application of those constitutional statutes which the Holy See had several times been obliged to condemn as seriously derogatory to the most elementary and inalienable rights of the Church and of the faithful. With this intent We provided that Our Representative should take up his residence in your Republic.

3. But whereas other Governments in recent times have been eager to renew agreements with the Holy See, that of Mexico frustrated every attempt to arrive at an understanding. On the contrary, it most unexpectedly broke the promises made to Us shortly before in writing, banishing repeatedly Our Representatives and showing thereby its animosity against the Church. Thus a most rigorous application was given to Article 130 of the Constitution, against which, on account of its extreme hostility to the Church, as may be seen from Our Encyclical Iniquis afflictisque of November 18, 1926, the Holy See had to protest in the most solemn manner. Heavy penalties were then enacted against the transgressors of this deplorable article; and, as a fresh affront to the Hierarchy of the Church, it was provided that every State of the Confederation should determine the number of priests empowered to exercise the sacred ministry, in public or in private.

4. In view of these unjust and intolerant injunctions, which would have subjected the Church in Mexico to the despotism of the State and of the Government hostile to the Catholic religion, you determined, Venerable Brethren, to suspend public worship, and at the same time called on the faithful to make efficacious protest against the unjust procedure of the Government. For your apostolic firmness, you were nearly all exiled from the Republic, and from the land of your banishment you had to witness the struggles and martyrdom of your priests and of your flock; whilst those very few amongst you who almost by miracle were able to remain in hiding in their own dioceses succeeded in effectively encouraging the faithful with the splendid example of their own undaunted spirit. Of these events We took occasion to speak in solemn allocutions, in public discourses, and more at length in the above-mentioned Encyclical Iniquis afflictisque, and We were comforted by the world’s admiration for the courage displayed by the clergy in administering the Sacraments to the faithful, amid a thousand dangers and at the risk of their lives, and for the like heroism of many of the faithful, who at the cost of unheard-of sufferings and enormous sacrifices, gave valiant assistance to their priests.

5. Meanwhile We did not forbear to encourage with word and counsel the lawful Christian resistance of the priests and the faithful, exhorting them to placate by penance and prayer God’s Justice, that in His merciful Providence He might shorten the time of trial. At the same time We invited Our sons throughout the world to unite their prayers to Ours in behalf of their brethren in Mexico; and wonderful were the ardour and whole-heartedness with which they responded to Our appeal. Nor did We neglect to have recourse besides to the human means at Our disposal, in order to give assistance to Our beloved sons. Whilst addressing Our appeal to the Catholic world to give help, and generous alms, to their persecuted Mexican brethren, We urged the Governments with whom We have diplomatic relations to take to heart the abnormal and grievous condition of so many of the faithful.

6. In the face of the firm and generous resistance of the oppressed, the Government now began to give indications in various ways that it would not be averse to coming to an agreement, if only to put an end to a condition of affairs which it could not turn to its own advantage. Whereupon, though taught by painful experiences to put scant trust in such promises, We felt obliged to ask Ourselves whether it was for the good of souls to prolong the suspension of public worship. That suspension had indeed been an effective protest against the arbitrary interference of the Government; nevertheless, its continuation might have seriously prejudiced civil and religious order. Of even greater weight was the consideration that this suspension, according to grave reports which We received from various and unexceptionable sources, was productive of serious harm to the faithful. As these were bereft of spiritual helps necessary for the Christian life, and not infrequently were obliged to omit their religious duties, they ran the risk of first remaining apart from and then of being entirely separated from the priesthood, and in consequence from the very sources of supernatural life. To this must be added the fact that the prolonged absence of almost all the Bishops from their dioceses could not fail to bring about a relaxation of ecclesiastical discipline, especially in times of such great tribulation for the Mexican Church, when clergy and people had particular need of the guidance of those “whom the Holy Ghost has placed to rule the Church of God.”

7. When, therefore, in 1929 the Supreme Magistrate of Mexico publicly declared that the Government, by applying the laws in question, had no intention of destroying the “identity of the Church” or of ignoring the Ecclesiastical Hierarchy, We thought it best, having no other intention but the good of souls, to profit by the occasion, which seemed to offer a possibility of having the rights of the Hierarchy duly recognized. Seeing, therefore, some hope of remedying greater evils, and judging that the principal motives that had induced the Episcopate to suspend public worship no longer existed, We asked Ourselves whether it were not advisable to order its resumption. In this there was certainly no intention of accepting the Mexican regulations of worship, nor of withdrawing Our protests against these regulations, much less of ceasing to combat them. It was merely a question of abandoning, in view of the Government’s new declarations, one of the methods of resistance, before it could bring harm to the faithful, and of having recourse instead to others deemed more opportune.

8. Unfortunately, as all know, Our wishes and desires were not followed by the peace and favourable settlement for which We had hoped. On the contrary, to Bishops, priests, and faithful Catholics continued to be penalized and imprisoned, contrary to the spirit in which the modus vivendi had been established. To Our great distress We saw that not merely were all the Bishops not recalled from exile, but that others were expelled without even the semblance of legality. In several dioceses neither churches nor seminaries, Bishops’ residences, nor other sacred edifices, were restored; notwithstanding explicit promises, priests and laymen who had steadfastly defended the faith were abandoned to the cruel vengeance of their adversaries. Furthermore, as soon as the suspension of public worship had been revoked, increased violence was noticed in the campaign of the press against the clergy, the Church, and God Himself; and it is well known that the Holy See had to condemn one of these publications, which in its sacrilegious immorality and acknowledged purpose of anti-religious and slanderous propaganda had exceeded all bounds.

9. Add to this that not only is religious instruction forbidden in the primary schools, but not infrequently attempts are made to induce those whose duty it is to educate the future generations, to become purveyors of irreligious and immoral teachings, thus obliging the parents to make heavy sacrifices in order to safeguard the innocence of their children. We bless with all Our heart these Christian parents and all the good teachers who help them, and We urge upon you, Venerable Brethren, upon the clergy secular and regular, and upon all the faithful, the necessity of giving their utmost attention to the question of education and the formation of the young, especially among the poorer classes, since they are more exposed to atheist, masonic, and communistic propaganda, persuading yourselves that your country will be such as you build it up in the children.

10. An effort has been made to strike the Church in a still more vital spot; namely, in the existence of the clergy and the Catholic hierarchy, by trying to eliminate it gradually from the Republic. Thus the Mexican Constitution, as We have several times deplored, while proclaiming liberty of thought and conscience, prescribes with the most evident contradiction that each State of the Federal Republic must determine the number of priests to whom the exercise of the sacred ministry is allowed, not only in public churches, but even within private dwellings. This enormity is further aggravated by the way in which the law is applied. The Constitution lays down that the number of priests must be determined, but ordains that this determination must correspond to the religious needs of the faithful and of the locality.

It does not prescribe that the Ecclesiastical Hierarchy is to be ignored in this matter, and this point was explicitly recognized in the declarations of the modus vivendi. Now in the State of Michoacan one priest was assigned for every 33,000 of the faithful, in the State of Chiapas one for every 60,000, while in the State of Vera Cruz only one priest was assigned to exercise the sacred ministry for every 100,000 of the inhabitants. Everyone can see whether it is possible with such restrictions to administer the Sacraments to so many people, scattered for the most part over a vast territory. Indeed, the persecutors, as though sorry for having been too liberal and indulgent, have imposed further limitations. Some Governors closed seminaries, confiscated canonries, and determined the sacred buildings and the territory to which the ministry of the approved priest would be restricted.

11. The clearest manifestation of the will to destroy the Catholic Church itself is, however, the explicit declaration, published in some States, that the civil Authority, in granting the licence for priestly ministry, recognizes no Hierarchy; on the contrary, it positively excludes from the possibility of exercising the sacred ministry all of hierarchic rank—namely, all Bishops and even those who have held the office of Apostolic Delegates.

12. We wished briefly to rehearse the salient points in the grievous condition of the Church in Mexico, so that all lovers of order and peace among nations, on seeing that such an unheard-of persecution differs but little, especially in certain States, from the one raging within the unhappy borders of Russia, may from this iniquitous similarity of purpose conceive fresh ardour to stem the torrent which is subverting all social order. At the same time it is Our intention to give a new proof to you, Venerable Brethren, and to all Our beloved sons of Mexico, of the paternal solicitude with which We follow you in your tribulation: the same solicitude that inspired the instructions which We gave you last January through Our Beloved Son the Cardinal Secretary of State, and which was communicated to you by Our Apostolic Delegate. In matters strictly connected with religion, it is undoubtedly Our duty and Our right to establish the reasons and norms that all who glory in the name of Catholics are under the obligation of obeying. In this connection We are anxious to recall to mind that when We issued these instructions We gave due consideration to all the reports and advices that came to Us either from the Hierarchy or the faithful. We say all, even those that appeared to counsel a return to a severer line of conduct, with the total suspension of public worship throughout the Republic, as in 1926.

13. Concerning, therefore the conduct to follow, since the number of priests is not equally limited in every State, nor the rights of the Ecclesiastical Hierarchy everywhere equally disregarded, it is evident that, according to the different application of the unhappy decrees, different likewise must be the conduct of the Church and the Catholics. Here it seems just to pay a special tribute of praise to those Mexican Bishops who, according to advices received, have wisely interpreted the instructions We have inculcated time and again. To this We wish to call attention; for if some persons, urged rather by zeal for the defence of their own faith than by the prudence so necessary in delicate situations, may from diverse conduct in diverse circumstances have imagined contradictory judgments on the part of the Bishops, let them now be certain that such an accusation is utterly unfounded. Nevertheless, since any restriction whatever of the number of priests is a grave violation of divine rights, it will be necessary for the Bishops, the clergy, and the Catholic laity to continue to protest with all their energy against such violation, using every legitimate means. For even if these protests have no effect on those who govern the country, they will be effective in persuading the faithful, especially the uneducated, that by such action the State attacks the liberty of the Church, which liberty the Church can never renounce, no matter what may be the violence of the persecutors.

14. And therefore, just as We have read with satisfaction the protests recently made by the Bishops and priests of the diocese that are victims of the deplorable measures of the Government, so We join Our protests to yours before the whole world, and in a special manner before the Rulers of the Nations, to make them realize that the persecution of Mexico, besides being an outrage against God, against His Church, and against the conscience of a Catholic people, is also an incentive to the subversion of the social order, which is the aim of those organizations professing to deny God.

15. Meanwhile, in order to remedy to some extent the calamitous conditions that afflict the Church in Mexico, We must avail ourselves of those means which We still have in hand, so that, by the maintenance of divine worship as far as possible in every place, the light of faith and the sacred fire of charity may not be extinguished among those unhappy populations. Certainly, the laws are iniquitous that are impious, as We have already said, and condemned by God for everything that they iniquitously and impiously derogate from the rights of God and of the Church in the government of souls. Nevertheless, it would be a vain and unfounded fear to think that one is co-operating with these iniquitous legislative ordinances which oppress him, were he to ask the Government which imposes these things for permission to carry out public worship, and hence to hold that it is one’s duty to refrain absolutely from making such a request. Such an erroneous opinion and conduct might lead to a total suspension of public worship, and would, without doubt, inflict grievous harm on the entire flock of the faithful.

16. It is well to observe that to approve such an iniquitous law, or spontaneously to give to it true and proper co-operation, is undoubtedly illicit and sacrilegious. but absolutely different is the case of one who yields to such unjust regulations solely against his will and under protest, and who besides does everything he can to lessen the disastrous effects of the pernicious law. In fact, the priest finds himself compelled to ask for that permission without which it would be impossible for him to exercise his sacred ministry for the good of souls; it is an imposition to which he is forced to submit in order to avoid a greater evil. His behaviour, consequently, is not very different from that of one who having been robbed of his belongings is obliged to ask his unjust despoiler for at least the use of them.

17. In truth, the danger of formal cooperation, or of any approval whatever of the present law, is removed, as far as is necessary, by the protests energetically expressed by this Apostolic See, by the whole Episcopate and the people of Mexico. To these are added the precautions of the priest himself, who, although already appointed to the sacred ministry by his own Bishop, is obliged to ask the Government for the possibility of holding divine service; and, far from approving the law that unjustly imposes such a request, submits to it materially, as the saying is, and only in order to remove an obstacle to the exercise of the sacred ministry: an obstacle that would lead, as We have said, to a total cessation of worship, and hence to exceedingly great harm to innumerable souls. In much the same manner the faithful and the sacred ministers of the early Church, as history relates, sought permission, by means of gifts even, to visit and comfort the martyrs detained in prison and to administer the Sacraments to them; yet surely no one could have thought that by so doing they in some way approved or justified the conduct of the persecutors.

18. Such is the certain and safe doctrine of the Church. If, however, the putting of it into practice should cause scandal to some of the faithful, it will be your duty, Venerable Brethren, to enlighten them carefully and exactly. If, after you have performed this office of explanation and persuasion, according to these Our directions, anyone should cling stubbornly to his own false opinion, let him know that he can hardly escape the reproach of disobedience and obstinacy.

19. Let all, then, continue in that unity of purpose and obedience that We have praised in the clergy, on another occasion, at length and with lively satisfaction. And, putting aside all uncertainties and fears easily understood in the first moments of the persecution, let the priests with their proved spirit of abnegation render ever more intense their sacred ministry, particularly among the young and the common people, striving to carry on a work of persuasion and of charity especially among the enemies of the Church, who combat her because they do not know her.

20. And here We recommend anew a point that We have greatly at heart, namely, the necessity of instituting and furthering to an ever greater extent Catholic Action, according to the directions communicated at Our command by Our Apostolic Delegate. This is undoubtedly a difficult undertaking in its first stages, and especially in the present circumstances-an undertaking slow at times in producing the desired effects, but necessary and much more efficacious than any other means, as is abundantly proved by the experience of every nation that has been tried in the crucible of religious persecution.

21. To Our beloved Mexican sons We recommend with all Our heart the closest union with the Church and the Hierarchy, manifesting it by their docility to her teachings and directions. Let them not neglect to have recourse to the Sacraments, sources of grace and strength; let them instruct themselves in the truths of religion; let them implore mercy from God on their unhappy nation, and let them make it both a duty and an honour to co-operate with the apostolate of the priesthood in the ranks of Catholic Action.

22. We wish to pay a special tribute of praise to those members of the clergy, secular and regular, and of the Catholic laity, who, moved by burning zeal for religion and maintaining themselves in close obedience to this Apostolic See, have written glorious pages in the recent history of the Church in Mexico. At the same time We exhort them earnestly in the Lord to continue to defend the sacred rights of the Church with that generous abnegation of which they have given such a splendid example, always following the norms laid down by this Apostolic See.

23. We cannot conclude without turning in a very special manner to you, Venerable Brethren, who are the faithful interpreters of Our thoughts. We wish to tell you that We feel all the more closely united to you, in proportion to the hardships you are meeting with in your apostolic ministry. We are certain that, being so close to the heart of the Vicar of Christ, you will draw comfort and strength from this knowledge to persevere in the holy and arduous enterprise of leading to salvation the flock entrusted to you. And that the grace of God may ever assist you and His Mercy support you, with all paternal affection, We impart to you and to Our beloved sons so sorely tried, the Apostolic Benediction.

Given at Rome, at Saint Peter’s, on the feast of the Dedication of Saint Michael the Archangel, the twenty-ninth day of September in the year 1932, the eleventh of Our Pontificate.

Martyrs of Nicomedia



Three Christians martyred together.


  • Nicomedia, Bithynia (in modern Turkey)


Additional Information

MLA Citation

  • “Martyrs of Nicomedia“. 19 July 2014. Web. 22 July 2014. <>

Saint Straton of Nicomedia

Also known as

  • Stratone





  • Nicomedia, Bithynia (in modern Turkey)


Additional Information

MLA Citation

  • “Saint Straton of Nicomedia“. 19 July 2014. Web. 22 July 2014. <>