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Catholic Culture Solidarity

Quinquagesimo Ante (On His Sacerdotal Jubilee)

by Pope Pius XI


Encyclical of Pope Pius XI Quinquagesimo Ante (On His Sacerdotal Jubilee) promulgated on December 23, 1929.

Larger Work

The Papal Encyclicals 1740-1981

Publisher & Date

Pierian Press, December 23, 1929

To the Patriarchs, Primates, Archbishops, Bishops, and other Local Ordinaries in Peace and Communion with the Apostolic See, and to all Our Beloved Children, Faithful of Christ in the Catholic World.

Venerable Brethren and Beloved Children, Health and the Apostolic Benediction.

Fifty years ago, in the fulness of youth, We received the priesthood in that Lateran Church which is the Mother and Chief of all churches. The memory of that day still lives with Us, and at this time especially brings Us the greatest happiness. At that time no one, least of all Ourselves, could have suspected that the secret providence of God would so raise Our lowliness as to make that very church Our cathedral in the Roman Pontificate.

2. In this change We recognize and humbly marvel at the supreme condescension towards Us of Jesus Christ, the Prince of Pastors. We shall never be able sufficiently to proclaim the favors which He has allowed His unworthy Vicar to enjoy in the course of this Pontificate. The less shall We be able to do so, now that He has added to His other bounties a fiftieth year overflowing with consolation and happiness to Us and all. Desirous to bring down on the labors of the Church in this year the mercy of God; anxious that this year should not pass without its fruits, that the Faithful might be called to better and holier ways of life, and that all human society might come to value more the goods of the spirit-desirous of all this, at the very beginning of this year We established it as an extraordinary Holy Year or Year of Jubilee.

3. Today We can say that by God's grace the hopes We placed in this great communion of prayers were not deluded, but were most fully satisfied. When We think of the many proofs of piety and filial gratitude, of the happenings that have come about in the course of this single year, We can rightly say that our blessed God, from whom we derive "every best thing and every perfect gift," has willed this brief period to appear as a special manifestation of His providence. We take pleasure therefore today in casting, as it were, the balance of these twelve months and in recalling in detail the great benefits granted by God to His Christian people. Accordingly we invite you, Venerable Brethren and beloved children, to join us in thanking the Almighty, who moves the minds of mortals strongly and sweetly and directs time and events to the accomplishment of His own ends.

Settlement of Roman Question

4. Let Us begin with those things that seem more important because they have closer relation to the Holy See and to the government of the Church entrusted by Providence to the Supreme Pontiff. It seems especially opportune in this connection to recall some passages of Our first Encyclical, "Ubi Arcana." In this letter We made the following complaint: "It is scarcely necessary to say with how much pain and grief We see Italy outside this friendly harmony of so many States. For Italy is Our own country, the country in which the overruling hand of God placed and fixed the See of His Vicar on earth. He placed it here in Rome, which had been the capital of that marvelous, yet limited empire, thus making it capital of the entire world. For thus it became the seat of a sovereignty that surpasses all national and political boundaries, that embraces all men and all peoples, like the sovereignty of Christ Himself, whom it represents and whose office it fills. The origin and character of this sovereignty, no less than the inviolable rights of conscience of millions of the Faithful throughout the world, require that it should be, in fact and in appearance, independent and free from every human authority and law, even though it be a 'Law of Guarantees.'"

5. We thus renewed on Our part the protests which Our predecessors had made in turn after the occupation of the city, so as to protect and affirm the rights and dignity of the Holy See. Then, having proclaimed the impossibility of restoring peace without respecting the interests of justice, We added: "It is for God Almighty in His mercy to bring about the coming of that happy day, rich in so much good, whether for the restoration of the Kingdom of Christ, or for a juster regulation of the affairs of Italy and of the world. But it is the part of men of good will so to act that this day shall not dawn in vain."

6. Now this most happy day has indeed dawned, and it has come more quickly than was commonly hoped. For the many grave difficulties that stood in the way made almost everybody believe that it was still far off. This day, We say, arrived when the conventions between the Roman Pontiff and the King of Italy were arranged through the Ministers Plenipotentiary in the Lateran Palace, whence they took their name, and were ratified in the Vatican.

Character of the Settlement

7. Thus we have seen the end of that condition which the Holy See had suffered up to then.

It was a condition intolerable and unjust, for, in addition to the absolute denial of the necessity of civil sovereignty, its actual continuance was interrupted in such a way that the rightful independence of the Roman Pontiff was no longer apparent. This is not the place to discuss in detail the reasons We had for undertaking the grave enterprise, for conducting and completing the negotiations. More than once, indeed, and not obscurely-in fact, very clearly-We have made public the scope of Our plans and desires; what benefits We wished and hoped for during the time that We were uniting our fervent and persevering prayers to the Most High with the utmost efforts of Our soul in the solution of this difficult problem.

8. This much, however, We wish, though briefly, to indicate. Once the full sovereignty of the Roman Pontiff was assured, once his rights were recognized and solemnly sanctioned and the peace of Christ had been restored to Italy, on other points We showed our paternal benevolence and indulgence as far as duty permitted. Thus We gave proof, if there was need of such, that in claiming the sacred rights of the Apostolic See as We had done in the above-mentioned Encyclical, We had not been moved by the vain and selfish desire for an earthly kingdom, but had always entertained "thoughts of peace and not of affliction."

9. Next, as regards the Concordat which at the same time We agreed to and ratified. As We expressly proclaimed at the time, We now reaffirm and proclaim that it is not to be considered as a sort of guarantee of the treaty by which the so-called Roman Question was ended, but that both- Treaty and Concordat-on account of the identical fundamental principle from which they derive, form one indivisible and inseparable whole, so that either both hold good or both perish.

10. Therefore all the Catholics of the world, so desirous of the liberty of the Roman Pontiff, welcomed this memorable event with a universal hymn of praise to the Lord and with messages of congratulations to Ourselves. The joy of the Italians was especially great. Some, after the successful settlement of the ancient difference, laid aside their old prejudices against the Holy See, and reconciled their souls to God. Many others rejoiced because from now on no question could be made of their patriotism, as had been done in the past when the enemies of the Church would not believe in their love of country as long as they declared themselves devout children of the Roman Pontiff. And all Catholics, whether Italians or foreigners, realized that a new era and a new order were about to rise. For these conventions were concluded in the seventy-fifth year after the definition of the Immaculate Conception. They were signed on the exact day on which, a few years later, the Blessed Virgin appeared in the grotto at Lourdes. They seemed, therefore, to be taken under the special protection of the Mother of God. Having been, moreover, ratified on the Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, they seemed to bear the countersign of His approval. And indeed, if all the points agreed upon are conscientiously and faithfully carried out-as there is reason to hope they will be-there is no doubt that the agreement will bring the best results to the Catholic cause, to Our Fatherland, and to all the human family.

Settlement of Other Questions

11. After having spoken more at large of this happy event on account of its unique importance, We think it fitting to add that by God's providence We have also been able this year to settle and ratify other conventions and treaties which, while providing for the liberty of the Church, also confer no little benefit on the States themselves. Besides the convention contracted with the Republic of Portugal for establishing the confines and prerogatives of the Diocese of Meliapor, We also concluded a Concordat with Rumania, and another with Prussia. The result of these will be to avoid in the future every reason for conflict, and to bring the civil and religious authorities together in cooperation for the greater good of Christian people. Certainly in negotiating these Concordats many and grave difficulties were present. For it was a question of determining by law the status of the Catholic Church among peoples mostly non-Catholic. Yet we gladly recognize that the public authorities of those nations cordially helped in overcoming these difficulties.

12. Arrived, then, at the end of the year and looking at the world around Us, We are greatly rejoiced to see that many nations have already, by public conventions, entered upon relations of friendship with the Holy See, or else are on the verge of making or renewing Concordats. It is true We are deeply saddened to think that in the vast regions of Eastern Europe a most terrible war is still being waged not only against the Christian religion but against all law, human and Divine. On the other hand, We are consoled that the horrible persecution of clergy and laity in Mexico seems now to have calmed down and to give place to hope that the wished-for peace is now not far away.

Eastern Church Draws Nearer

13. No less consolation and delight come from the fact that during this prosperous year the Eastern Church has demonstrated how close are its bonds with the Apostolic See. It has made this jubilee the occasion to give open and public testimony to its ardent love for the unity of the Church. In doing this, Our children of the Oriental Church have given Us a tribute of gratitude, inasmuch as We, like Our predecessors, have always entertained for the Oriental peoples great feelings of good will and tenderness. They have sent Us letters full of affection and veneration, and they have manifested in solemn and public fashion their joy and happiness.

14. The Patriarchs and Bishops of those churches have visited Us personally or through representatives, to bring out more clearly in the name of their flocks their love for the supreme Pastor of souls. In the past year the Armenian Bishops came to Rome to the Chair of St. Peter to discuss the remedies for the evils that afflict their nation. Following this example, the Ruthenian Bishops, who had never before been all together in Rome, chose a short time ago to hold their meeting near Our side, as though, by their choice of time and place, to show the fond attachment of the whole Ruthenian Church for the successor of the Prince of the Apostles. The result of their meetings was truly such as to satisfy Our hopes most fully. They discussed most important questions, submitting to Us, as was fitting, their deliberations: the course of studies for the young clergy, the establishment of junior seminaries, the development through a period of years of catechetical instructions for the people, the assistance in the codification of Oriental Canon Law, and the promotion among the Faithful of Catholic activities under Our direction. In all these things We recognize that they could not have arrived at decisions more valuable for their clergy and people.

15. The matters of which We have thus far treated may seem of greater importance and may draw more easily public attention and remark. Yet We think that the Church has profited no less by those works and institutions which the Lord has made it possible for Us to begin or complete this year. Such were the many parish houses erected to provide for a more becoming discharge of parochial duties; the International Colleges that the Servites and Minims have built for their young students and which have already opened and begun their scholastic courses; the colleges founded in Rome for the education of the clergy and which have been so numerous in this brief space of time that one should not have expected to see so many rise in a long period of years. Such were the new College of the Propaganda, the Lombard, Russian and Czechoslovak colleges, already finished and completely furnished. We must not omit the new site for the Ethiopian Seminary, which We had placed near the Vatican, nor the two which have laid their cornerstones, the Ruthenian and Brazilian, nor, finally, the new site for the Vatican Seminary of Rome which will shortly begin building.

Joy at Promise of More Priests

16. In regard to these numerous and increasing institutions which are so important for the salvation of the souls which our Divine Redeemer purchased with His blood, We have the greatest confidence that with the Divine help they will furnish many skilled levites for the evangelization of peoples. There is no doubt that these levites here in the center of the Catholic world will be brought up in the pure doctrine of Jesus Christ and will be trained in sacerdotal virtues. Going forth then as priests into their own countries, they will give strenuous effort to render yet more firm the bonds of union between their peoples and the Apostolic See; or, if their peoples are separated from the Roman Church, will recall them little by little to the ancient unity; or, if they are still involved in "darkness and the shadow of death," will try to bring them the light of the Gospel and to enlarge ever more the boundaries of the kingdom of Jesus Christ. Truly the hope of these precious results gives Us such comfort that We cannot sufficiently praise Him who has granted Us such consolation and who has permitted Us to accomplish these great contributions to the welfare of the Church.

17. We wish next, Venerable Brethren and beloved children, to recall with you other events that by the Divine will have rendered this year still further memorable. We say "by the Divine will," since nothing happens by mere chance and all these things are regulated and ordained by God. It is in the nature of men that they should be more ready at certain periods of the year to pause in the recollection of past benefits granted by God to society, and that they should thence draw inspiration for persevering in their enterprises. So it has happened during these twelve months that the Faithful have seized every opportunity of this kind to express their gratitude and love to the Most High God and Father of all. And for Our part, in order to correspond as a father with this filial piety, We have been glad to take part in these solemnities and to render them more imposing by sending to them Our letters and Our legates.

Monte Cassino Fourteenth Centenary

18. Thus the Apostolic See could not but favor the famous family of the Father and Lawgiver St. Benedict, when it was preparing the celebration of the fourteenth centenary of the Archabbey of Monte Cassino, of that which was the "chief place of training in the monastic rule" and which has for so long deserved so well of die Holy See and of civilization generally. In saying and repeating this, We say something that is not only known by the learned, but which is familiar to the people, who have now formed a just concept of these merits. For it is the custom to repeat to the people, especially here in Italy, the maxim of the holy Patriarch, "Work and pray." No one is ignorant of the fact that the monks of the Archabbey, and indeed the whole family of St. Benedict, promoted the fine arts; that they passed on to posterity the monuments of both Divine and human wisdom; that they sent preachers of the Gospel into distant regions. They did all this with such benefit to both the Faith and civilization that Our predecessor of happy memory, Pius X, wishing to express briefly and forcibly the just praise of Monte Cassino, could say with perfect truth that its annals are in great part the very history of the Church of Rome. There is thus no reason for surprise in the fact that on the occasion of the centenary such a multitude of travelers from every quarter rivaled each other in the desire to visit that holy mountain and to venerate the memory of the saintly father, Benedict, and to purify their souls with penance.

Sweden's Great Celebration

19. Somewhat less distant in history is the event commemorated at Stockholm, the capital of Sweden, with a splendor unusual for a place where there is such a small number of Catholics. t was the celebration of the coming of St. Ansgar, who landed in Sweden eleven hundred years ago, after his unwearying zeal had already evangelized Denmark.

20. A solemn triduum was celebrated. There were present representatives, so to speak, of fourteen nations, two Cardinals, some bishops and abbots of the Benedictine Order, and more than a thousand of the Faithful. Addresses were made on the work of St. Ansgar and his marvelous apostolate according to the latest research. The letters which We had sent with Our blessing were received with great applause. The participants were welcomed with great honors in the City Hall were Stockholm. Messages of homage and good wishes were sent to Us and to the King of Sweden.

21. This centenary will not appear of slight importance when We reflect that seventy years ago things were so bad for the Catholic religion in Sweden that conversion to the Catholic Church was still punished with exile and forfeiture of the right of inheritance. With reference to the same subject, it is worthy of note that recently in those countries a number of the most cultivated men and women have embraced Catholicism. This very year, too, in Iceland, which is subject to Denmark, the Cardinal Prefect of Propaganda had the happiness of dedicating the new Cathedral. In consequence, We number among the Divine benefits of the year the consoling hopes that have come to Us that, under the patronage of St. Ansgar, from this time on, a much more abundant harvest will be reaped by the Vicars Apostolic, the priest, the Religious of both sexes who give their heavy toil in that great portion of the vineyard of the Lord.

French and Czechoslovak Fetes

22. Inasmuch as We had sent as our representative to Monte Cassino a Cardinal to assist at the celebrations there, We also sent a Legate a latere from the Sacred College to France for the fifth centenary of the entry into Orleans of the holy virgin so beloved by her nation, Joan of Arc. Assuredly Our own presence in the person of Our Legate must have helped to make the celebration of that triumph more pleasing to the citizens and more helpful to Catholics.

23. We thought it also Our duty to take part through Our Apostolic Nuncio with the citizens of the Czechoslovak Republic in the second centenary of the canonization of St. John Nepomucene, and especially in the thousandth anniversary of the death of St. Wenceslas, the famous Duke of Bohemia and the Patron of the Republic, who was slain by his brother's hand. As We recently stated in Consistorial Allocution, it gave Us great happiness to learn that a part was taken in these celebrations not only by very great numbers of citizens and strangers, but also by representatives and high officials of the Government. How could we have failed to be happy at witnessing such a common enthusiasm! After the terrible war, public disturbances had brought great danger to Catholic unity and to Catholic activity. But this was succeeded by such peace and by such conditions of public life as, at the arrival of the feast, We had prayed God and St. Wenceslas to bring about and to maintain. Oh, that the issue may correspond to Our desires! There is no one who can fail to see how much cooperation between Church and State would contribute to the true prosperity of that nation.

Emancipation Centenary

24. Most wonderful to Us was the manner in which Our fiftieth anniversary was honored by Our most beloved children of England, Scotland and Ireland, second to none in their fervent loyalty to their Faith and in their ardent piety. With magnificent display and an almost incredible attendance of people from all parts of the world, they too commemorated a centennial. It was the completion of a century since Catholics, in other times persecuted and cruelly outraged, and later excluded from civil rights, had finally through public recognition gotten back their rights and the freedom to profess their own religion. It was a great pleasure to see how English, Scotch and Irish conducted their celebration in such a way as not to reproach anyone for past injustices, but rather in the desire to use their recovered liberty more and more for the more faithful observance and the wider spread of the law of Christ, more and more for the public welfare in proper deference to the civil power.

25. There was more than one reason which made Us wish to take a large part in this centenary. It is always fitting that the Vicar of Jesus Christ should be associated in the joy of his children. Much more is this the case here when We commemorate emancipation from those penalties which the ancestors of these Catholics so nobly and generously bore in defense of their Faith and of their union with the Holy See. For by God's will We had the good fortune to be able to increase the happiness of these Catholics by solemnities corresponding to their own. Not long ago, after a rigorous and canonical investigation, We placed on the rolls of the Blessed that brave band of men who fought in those countries in the long age of persecution; who fought, not all at the same time, but all in the same cause of Christ and His Church; who incurred their glorious martyrdom in the defense of Papal authority. So Our fiftieth year, which earlier had been honored by the beatification of the Armenian martyr, Cosmas of Carbognano, who shed his blood for Catholic unity, arrived at its close made brighter still by the awarding to these numerous victims of persecution the martyr's crown and the honors of our altars.

Other Beatifications

26. From this victory of the martyrs it becomes evident that the undying power and strength of the Holy Spirit runs, so to speak, through the Church's veins. But was it not evident also in the month of June when We proposed still other heroes of holiness to the veneration and imitation of the Faithful?

27. It is enough merely to recall what a multitude of citizens and strangers came with Us to the Vatican Basilica to venerate the newly beatified: Claude de la Colombiere, that illustrious Jesuit who was called a "faithful servant" by Christ Himself, whom Christ gave as counselor to Margaret Mary Alacoque, and to whom He entrusted the charge of propagating the devotion to His Sacred Heart among the Faithful; Teresa Margaret Redi, the Florentine Carmelite, a flower of youth and innocence; Francis Mary of Camporosso, the Capuchin, practically a contemporary, who for forty years went about begging for his Order, who by the example of his unblemished life, by his counsels full of a heavenly prudence, by his appealing exhortations to holiness, made on all classes of the people an impression so like that of St. Francis that the Genoese loved and honored him in life and gratefully remembered him and venerated him after death.

28. Again, how can We describe the joy We felt when We beatified John Bosco and paid him public veneration in the Vatican Basilica. In the dawning years of Our Priesthood We had the happiness of listening to that great man's conversation. Remembering this, We could not but admire the mercy of God who is so wonderful in His saints, the mercy of God who raised up this man to oppose so long and so well the bitterness and sectarian spirit of those who were bent on the destruction of the Christian religion and on the degradation of the supreme authority of the Roman Pontiff through accusation and calumny. From his youth he had been in the custom of gathering young men of his own age for common prayer and for instruction in the elements of Christian doctrine. After he became a priest, he turned all this thought and care to the salvation of youth from the deceits and evils to which it is exposed. He drew the young to himself so as to hold them far from danger, instructed them in the law of the Gospel, and trained them in upright character. He associated with himself companions to spread this work, and was so successful as to add to the Church a new and numerous band of soldiers of Christ. He founded colleges and workshops at home and abroad to instruct the young in study and in the crafts. And finally he sent out a great number of missionaries to propagate among the infidels the Kingdom of Christ.

29. We thought of all this during that visit to St. Peter's. We reflected how the Lord is accustomed in times of adversity to come to the aid of His Church and to strengthen her in fitting ways. And it impressed Us as a special providence of the Author of all good that the first one to whom We gave the honors of the altar after the conclusion of the peace with Italy was John Bosco. For he was one who deplored greatly the violation of the rights of the Holy See, and who tried several times to reestablish those rights and to put an end to the sad difference by which Italy had been wrested from the paternal embrace of the Pope.

Great Throngs of Pilgrims

30. And now, Venerable Brethren and beloved children, We must speak of the extraordinary number of Catholics who came to Rome as pilgrims during the past year. Perhaps it is not right to call them pilgrims or strangers, since no one can be considered a stranger in the house of the father of all. In this We witnessed something most delightful to Us for many reasons. For did not this harmony between nations otherwise so different, so divided in character, feelings and customs, did not this harmony in their Faith and their veneration for the Chief Shepherd of souls argue clearly to the unity and universality which the Divine Founder gave as the peculiar characteristics of His Church? At certain periods of the year. not a day passed without its crowds of Faithful visiting Rome's famous temples, after coming here from the dioceses of Italy, from the other nations of Europe and even from the distant lands beyond the sea. Nor must We forget that the citizens of Rome, who are nearer the Pope, their Bishop, rivaled the strangers and pilgrims in their frequent processions to the basilicas for the gaining of the indulgences. On the first of December such a great number of them came to the Basilica of St. Peter's for the jubilee indulgence that We have probably never seen that great temple so crowded.

31. We very willingly granted audience to the great crowds who sought it, and we were made very happy by their presence. The several thousand men, and especially the young ones that came listened to Our Words with such attention, and with the display of so much affectionate eagerness and love for Us burst into shouts of applause, that We felt certain of having attained the end proposed in the promulgation of a new Holy Year.

32. As We noted at the beginning of this letter, We had no other end in view than to lay open the way for a betterment of private and public morals by arousing to greater fervor the faith and piety of Christian people. For, as Our predecessor Leo XIII said: "The more individuals increase in perfection, so much the more will honesty and virtue be evident in public morals and in social life."

Examples of Piety and Virtue

33. What splendid examples of piety and virtue did We not see this year! There was a sort of holy rivalry to attain the everlasting riches from that treasury entrusted to Us and which We opened with paternal generosity. It stood in contrast with the worldliness and desire for earthly riches displayed in the world around. All those who made the jubilee, especially those who might have availed themselves of it at home and who yet preferred the inconveniences and expense of the journey, all of these proclaimed by their actions that there are goods superior to the vain and passing values of the world, goods more worthy of an immortal soul, into whose pursuit therefore we must put a more intense desire.

34. To this consolation was added the further one that, from Our daily interviews with so many of Our children, We became certain how generously they are working nowadays to strengthen the kingdom of Christ in Catholic countries and to introduce it among peoples alien to our religion and our culture. Hence there was an increase this year in Catholic activity aimed at helping and sustaining the clerical apostolate. More abundant contributions were made to the missions. And here We must thank also those who took occasion of the Jubilee to offer a great supply of vases, ornaments and other things useful for the missions.

35. Finally, We repeat the desire We expressed in the beginning of this letter, Venerable Brethren and beloved children; that is, that you join with Us in thanking God for giving Us this long term of priestly years, for granting Us such mighty aid, and for giving Us such consolation, more particularly during this year. Then, after having attributed to God, as is just, this great accumulation of goodness, let us cordially thank also those whom He has used, in His Divine providence, as His instruments in these benefits that He has heaped upon Us: the heads of States who showed their respectful good will in Our regard by their magnificent gifts and by facilitating the visits of their subjects; the great Catholic family that gained the indulgence, whether in their own countries or at Rome, thereby giving splendid evidence of their faith and piety to Us and to the Faithful. These fruits of virtue shall not diminish nor weaken with the passing of time-such is Our prayer to the Divine Founder and Ruler of the human race. On the contrary, it is Our hope that, when party passions have been softened everywhere by Christian charity, and when public and private morals have been regulated by the principals of the Gospel, citizens will preserve unbroken such peace among themselves and with the civil authority, and will show themselves to everyone adorned with such great virtues, as to complete most happily their pilgrimage to their heavenly country.

Indulgence Period Extended

36. From various quarters, and many times in the past months, We have been asked to prolong a little this happy period of special spiritual advantages. It is a request that it is not customary to allow. But through Our anxiety for the common good, and through Our desire to show Our gratitude more fully, We are driven to consent. Therefore, by Our Apostolic authority, We extend to the end of the month of June of the year 1930, everything to the contrary notwithstanding, that same plenary remission to be gained under the same conditions as those cited in the Apostolic Constitution "Auspicantibus Nobis" of January 6, in which We appointed a second extraordinary Holy Year.

Meanwhile, in pledge of that peace which Jesus Christ at His birth brought down to men, and as evidence of Our fatherly benevolence, We impart to you with all Our heart, Venerable Brethren and beloved children, Our Apostolic Benediction.

Given at Rome at St. Peter's the twenty-third day of December, 1929, the eighth of Our Pontificate.

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