Tuesday, March 2, 2010

The Vatican celebrates the 200th birthday of Pope Leo XIII

Today 2 March 2010 is the 200th anniversary of the birth of Pope Leo XIII, Gioacchino Pecci, who was born on 2 March 1810, elevated to the See of Peter in 1878 and died in 1903. It may be fitting to recite today the Prayer to Saint Michael the Archangel which he composed:

This is a stain glass picture of Pope Leo XIII at the church of Our Lady of Pompei which is in the Village, I took this picture, I think its a great likeness of this Pope!

Saint Michael the Archangel,defend us in battle;be our protection against the wickedness and snares of the devil.May God rebuke him, we humbly pray:and do thou, O Prince of the heavenly host,by the power of God,thrust into hell Satan and all the evil spiritswho prowl about the world seeking the ruin of souls. Amen.

Pope Leo XIII (2 March 1810 - 20 July 1903), born Count Vincenzo Gioacchino Raffaele Luigi Pecci, was the 257th Pope of the Roman Catholic Church, reigning from 1878 to 1903 in succession to Blessed Pope Pius IX. Reigning until the age of 93, he was the oldest pope, and had the third longest pontificate, behind his immediate predecessor Blessed Pius IX and Venerable John Paul II. He is known for intellectualism, the development of social teachings with his encyclical Rerum Novarum and his attempts to define the position of the Church with regard to modern thinking.

Born in Carpineto Romano, near Rome, he was the sixth of the seven sons of Count Lodovico Pecci and his wife Anna Prosperi Buzi. From 1810 to 1818 he was at home with his family, "in which religion counted as the highest grace on earth, as through her, salvation can be earned for all eternity".

Together with his brother he studied in the Jesuit College in Viterbo, where he stayed until 1824. He enjoyed the Latin language and was known to write his own Latin poems at the age of eleven.

In 1824 he and his older brother Giuseppe Pecci were called to Rome where their mother was dying. Count Pecci wanted his children near him after the loss of his wife, and so they stayed with him in Rome, attending the Jesuit Collegium Romanum. In 1828, Giuseppe entered the Jesuit order, while Vincenzo decided in favour of secular clergy.
He studied at the Academia dei Nobili, mainly diplomacy and law. In 1834 he gave a student presentation, attended by several cardinals, on papal judgements. For his presentation he received awards for academic excellence, and gained the attention of Vatican officials.

Cardinal Secretary of State Luigi Lambruschini introduced him to Vatican congregations and to Pope Gregory XVI, who appointed Pecci on 14 February 1837, as personal prelate even before he was ordained priest on 31 December 1837, by the Vicar of Rome. He celebrated his first mass together with his priest brother Giuseppe. He received his doctorate in theology in 1836 and doctorates of civil and Canon Law in Rome also.

Today we celebrate the birth of Vincenzo Gioacchino Raffaele Luigi Pecci. This remarkable guy ascended the Throne of St. Peter as His Holiness Pope Leo XIII just shy of his 68th birthday. He would go on to serve as Vicar of Christ for 25 years. Next time you think about wanting to retire, remember Pope Leo having to tough it out in the most important job in the world until he was 93.
When I was in college, one day during my Vatican classes, I was looking through the book and I spoted Pope Leo XIII in a picture. I thought he was an interesting man because he was the last pope of the 19th century and the first pope during the beginning of the 20th century. By all accounts, he was an outstanding man with regards to intellect and morality. It was also abit ironic that I found a biography of him in the school's library, I wished I had the opportunity to obtain and purchase that book but it was also ironic that year in my junior year of college, I went to Rhode Island and I went to this town with a unique antique store. I always find something interesting in this store. I believe that year was a key year for me, I said to myself it would be interesting to find an old biography of Pope Leo XIII. I was about to leave the store and something caught my eye. This big red book caught my eye, I went to it and I was amazed it was an old biography of Pope Leo XIII and it was published in the year 1903, the same year on which this pope died. I had to get it and I asked how much was it and the owner allowed me to have it for nothing cause he was closing the shop and I was a great customer today, to this day I still have the book and it is truly a remarkable read and great condition also. Pope Leo XIII has some interesting papal trivia about him. He's the only camerlengo ever elected to the papacy. He's also the first pope that we have film and audio recordings.

He confronted the problems of modern secularism by writing letters to leaders and nations all over the world, including America. Ecumenical issues were dealt with, even when doing so meant reality checks for the opposition, as was the case when he declared Anglican orders invalid. Before St. Pius X was fighting modernism, Pope Leo was already standing in the breach, though he admittedly was condemning the heresy one doctrine at a time rather than treating it as a cohesive object.

As soon as he was elected to the papacy, Leo XIII worked to encourage understanding between the Church and the modern world. When he firmly re-asserted the scholastic doctrine that science and religion co-exist, he required the study of Thomas Aquinas and opened the Vatican Secret Archives to qualified researchers, among whom was the noted historian of the Papacy Ludwig von Pastor.

Leo XIII was the first Pope of whom a sound recording was made. The recording can be found on a compact disc of Alessandro Moreschi's singing; a recording of his performance of the Ave Maria. He was also the first Pope to be filmed on the motion picture camera. He was filmed by its inventor, W. K. Dickson, and blessed the camera. I have this footage and it is truly an amazing film footage!

Leo XIII was the first Pope to come out strongly in favour of the French Republic, upsetting many French monarchists. In his relations with the Italian state, Leo XIII continued the Papacy's self-imposed incarceration in the Vatican stance, and continued to insist that Italian Catholics should not vote in Italian elections or hold elected office. In his first consistory in 1879 he elevated his older brother Giuseppe a cardinal.

Pope Leo XIII and the United States: The United States at many moments in time attracted the attention and admiration of Pope Leo. He confirmed the decrees of the Third Plenary Council of Baltimore (1884), and raised James Gibbons, archbishop of that city, to the cardinalate in 1886.American newspapers criticized Pope Leo because they claimed that he was attempting to gain control of American public schools. One cartoonist drew Leo as a fox unable to reach grapes that were labeled for American schools; the caption read "Sour grapes!"

According my book, "Lives of the Popes" by Ricard P.McBrien, he ranks Pope Leo XIII as the 10th above average popes . According to McBrien, "Pope Leo XIII was the 1st pope to attempt to reconcile the Catholic Church in the modern world and condemneding Americanism without really understanding the difference between American democracy and certain views that are being expressed at that particular time period". Plus he is the 1st pope to speak out towards non-Catholics like Protestants and Orthodox to return into a union within Rome. I also was pleased that he allowed an individual in Church history to convert from an Anglican to a Catholic and he became a great theologian in the Catholic. His name is Venerable Cardinal John Henry Newman whom Pope Benedict XVI will be beatifying him in London when he goes there this year. His canonisation would make Newman the first English person to have lived since the 17th century to be declared a saint. In 1991, Newman was proclaimed "Venerable" by the Congregation for the Causes of Saints. His beatification is expected to be officially proclaimed on 19 September 2010.

There is another person in the time of Pope Leo XIII's papacy on whom I believe should be recoginzed in celebration. Her name is Saint and Mother Frances Xavier Cabrini. She visited Rome to obtain an audience with Pope Leo XIII. The Pope told Frances to go "not to the East, but to the West" to New York rather than to China as she had expected. She was to help the thousands of Italian immigrants already in the United States. In 1889, New York seemed to be filled with chaos and poverty, and into this new world stepped Mother Frances Cabrini and her Sister companions. Cabrini organized catechism and education classes for the Italian immigrants and provided for the needs of the many orphans. She established schools and orphanages despite tremendous odds. Within two weeks Mother Cabrini had made contacts in high places, and had several interviews with Cardinal Parocchi, who became her loyal supporter, with full confidence in her sincerity and ability. She was encouraged to continue her foundations elsewhere and charged to establish a free school and kindergarten in the environs of Rome. Pope Leo XIII received her and blessed the work. He was then an old man of seventy-eight, who had occupied the papal throne for ten years and done much to enhance the prestige of the office. Known as the "workingman's Pope" because of his sympathy for the poor and his series of famous encyclicals on social justice, he was also a man of scholarly attainments and cultural interests. He saw Mother Cabrini on many future occasions, always spoke of her with admiration and affection, and sent contributions from his own funds to aid her work. So I believe she should get some recoginiation in this celebration of this pope's 200th birthday!

Pope Leo XIII and Thomism: As Pope, he used all his authority for a revival of Thomism, the theology of Thomas Aquinas. On 4 August 1879, Leo promulgated the encyclical Aeterni Patris (“Eternal Father”) which, more than any other single document, provided a charter for the revival of Thomism—the medieval theological system based on the thought of Aquinas—as the official philosophical and theological system of the Roman Catholic Church. It was to be normative not only in the training of priests at church seminaries but also in the education of the laity at universities.

He canonized the following saints:1881: Clare of Montefalco (d. 1308), John Baptist de Rossi (1696-1764), and Lawrence of Brindisi (d. 1619) 1883: Benedict Joseph Labre (1748-1783) 1888: Seven Holy Founders of the Servite Order, Peter Claver (1561-1654), John Berchmans (1599-1621), and Alphonsus Rodriguez (1531-1617) 1890: Blessed Giovenale Ancina (1545-1604) 1897: Anthony M. Zaccaria (1502-1539) and Peter Fourier of Our Lady (1565-1640) 1900: John Baptist de la Salle (1651-1719) and Rita of Cascia (1381-1457) In addition, he beatified Gerard Majella in 1893 and Edmund Campion in 1886. His Holiness also approved the cult of Cosmas of Aphrodisia.

Audiences: In 1901, Pope Leo XIII welcomed Eugenio Pacelli, his later successor Pope Pius XII, on his first day of fifty-seven years of service in the Vatican (1901-1958)One of the first audiences Leo XIII granted was to the professors and students of the Collegio Capranica, where in the first row kneeled in front of him a young seminarian, Giacomo Della Chiesa, his eventual successor, Pope Benedict XV.

While on a pilgrimage with her father and sister in 1887, the future Saint Thérèse of Lisieux attended a general audience with Pope Leo XIII and asked him to allow her to enter the Carmelite order. Even though she was strictly forbidden to speak to him because she was told it would prolong the audience too much, in her autobiography, Story of a Soul, she wrote that after she kissed his slipper and he presented his hand, instead of kissing it, she took it in her own hand and said through tears, "Most Holy Father, I have a great favor to ask you. In honor of your Jubilee, permit me to enter Carmel at the age of 15!" Pope Leo XIII answered, "Well, my child, do what the superiors decide." Thérèse replied, "Oh! Holy Father, if you say yes, everybody will agree!" Finally, the Pope said, "Go... go... You will enter if God wills it" after which time two guards lifted Thérèse (still on her knees in front of the Pope) by her arms and carried her to the door where a third gave her a medal of the Pope. Shortly thereafter, the Bishop of Bayeux authorized the prioress to receive Thérèse, and in April 1888, she entered Carmel at the age of 15. While known for his cheerful personality, Leo also had a gentle sense of humor as well. During one of his audiences, a man claimed to have had the opportunity to see Pius IX at one of his last audiences before his death in 1878. Upon hearing the remarkable story, Leo smiled and replied, "If I had known that you were so dangerous to popes, I would have postponed this audience further".
Leo XIII was the first Pope to be born in the 19th century. He was also the first to die in the 20th century: he lived to the age of 93, the longest living pope. At the time of his death, Leo XIII was the second-longest reigning pope, exceeded only by his immediate predecessor, Blessed Pius IX. Leo was not entombed in St. Peter's Basilica, as all popes after him were, but instead at St. John Lateran, a church in which he took a particular interest.

Pope Leo XIII :You are truly one of the most influential Popes in the 20th century, thanks for being a powerful leader in the Vatican, happy 200th birthday!

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