Saepe Venerabiles Fratres – On Thanksgiving For Twenty-Five Years Of Pontificate, by Pope Pius IX, 5 August 1871
To Our Venerable Brothers the Patriarchs, Archbishops, Bishops and all Local Ordinaries of the Catholic World Who are in Loving Communion with the Apostolic See. Venerable Brothers, We give You Greeting and Our Apostolic Blessing.
1. Often, venerable brothers, in the course of Our long pontificate, We have addressed you and let you know how pleased We were to receive proof of your devotion and love for Us and this Apostolic See which the God of mercies has inspired in you and in the faithful entrusted to your care. Certainly when the enemies of God began to invade His civil realm in order to defeat Jesus Christ and His Church, the Christian people and yourselves, never stopped beseeching Cod “Whom winds and seas obey” to calm the storm. You never stopped reiterating the testimonies of your love and performing every service which could console Us in Our affliction. But after Our city was taken and We were delivered into the hands of Our attackers, you and your people redoubled your prayers, and with frequent denunciations, you affirmed the sacred rights of religion and justice which are being trodden down with unbelievable effrontery.
Record Length of Papacy
2. We have reached the twenty-fifth year of Our papacy, an unusual event which has never before occurred in the succession of Roman pontiffs since the days of Saint Peter. You have been so joyful for Us, and you have shown so clearly the vigorous life which everywhere inspires the Christian family, that We have been deeply touched. By joining Our prayers to Yours, We have gained new strength to await with greater confidence the full and complete triumph of the Church.
Response of the Faithful
3. Thronging crowds everywhere filled the holy churches to pray for Us. All over the world the faithful attended in very great numbers to give thanks to God for the lengthy Papacy conferred on Us, and to request urgently from Him the victory of the Church. Our sorrow and anxieties were not only relieved but turned into joy, We felt, by the congratulation, obedience, and prayers manifested in your letters, and by the arrival of great numbers of people here from all parts of the world. Among these, many were remarkable for nobility of birth or their ecclesiastical or civil rank, but they were still more remarkable for their faith. They all assembled here from widely scattered places and joined in loving action with many of the citizens of this city and the occupied provinces. They wanted to face the same dangers and insults to which We are subjected, in order to give personal witness to their own religious feelings for Us and to the feelings of their fellow-citizens. They also wanted to present Us with scrolls to which many hundreds of thousands of the faithful of every race had put their own names in sharp disapproval of the invasion of Our realm, demanding its restitution on compelling grounds of religion, justice, and even of politics.
Gifts for the Faithful
4. On this occasion too the poor as well as the rich made an unusually large contribution to offset Our recent lack of resources. We also received many kinds of remarkable gifts, a splendid tribute of Christian art and invention which was very well suited to aid Our twofold spiritual and royal power granted by God to Us. We received in addition an abundant and fine supply of sacred vestments and utensils so that We could everywhere remedy the poverty and need of so many churches. It was assuredly a wonderful spectacle of Catholic unity and plainly showed that although the universal Church is spread throughout the whole world and composed of peoples with different customs, talents, and pursuits, it is still inspired by the one spirit of God. The more madly impiety persecutes and oppresses it, and the more cunningly it attempts to deprive the Church of all human aid, the more wonderfully God strengthens the Church.
5. Great and ardent thanks be then to Him Who, while giving glory to His own name, lifts the hopes of the afflicted to certain triumph by the very effective demonstration of His power and might. But while We refer these gifts to the Giver of all good things, We feel the greatest gratitude at the same time towards those who showed themselves instruments of the divine Providence and gave Us lavishly the service of their aid, consolation, obedience, devotion, and love. Lifting Our eyes and hands to heaven, We offer to the Lord everything of this kind that Our sons sent Us in His Name. We urgently beseech Him soon to grant their united prayers for the liberty of this Holy See, the victory of the Church, and the peace of the world. In this way, He can return generous thanks, since We are unable to do so, to each one in heaven and on earth.
6. We would like to thank each person individually, but the very abundance of services offered from every side in goods, letters, and words obviously prevents Us. So We ask you to reveal and proclaim Our feelings to your clergy and people with eloquence. Exhort them all however to persevere firmly with you in confident prayer: for since Scripture assures us that the urgent prayer of the just man passes through the clouds and does not depart until the most High beholds, and since Christ has promised the He will be present where even two are joined in agreement in His name and that the heavenly father will do whatever they request then, all the more should the universal Church at last, by unceasing and united prayer, obtain the sight of the powers of hell crushed, the efforts of human wickedness scattered and destroyed, and peace and justice brought back to the earth.
7. Strive to achieve the closest unity among yourselves so as to advance in full phalanx against the enemies of God who are still attacking the Church with novel stratagems. Although the Church cannot be destroyed by any force, unite in order to withstand their onset and rout their ranks with greater ease and effect. This is what We greatly desire and strive to obtain; this is what We wholeheartedly pray for you and the entire Catholic family. In the meantime, as an augury of that desired event and of God’s favor, and as a sure witness of Our particular benevolence and gratitude, We lovingly bestow from Our heart on each one of you, venerable brothers, and on the clergy and all the people committed to your separate care, Our Apostolic blessing.
Given at Rome in Saint Peter’s on the 5th day of August the feast of Saint Mary on the Esquiline in the year of the Lord 1871 in the 26th year of Our Pontificate