On The Immaculate Conception
Pope Pius IX
February 2, 1849
Our Venerable Brothers, Patriarchs, Primates, Archbishops and
Bishops of the Entire Catholic World.
Give You Greetings, Venerable Brothers, and Our Apostolic
No sooner had We been elevated to the sublime Chair of the Prince
of the Apostles and undertook the government of the universal
Church (not, indeed, because of Our own worthiness but by the
hidden designs of Divine Providence) than We had the great
consolation, Venerable Brethren, in recalling that, during the
pontificate of Gregory XVI, Our Predecessor of happy memory, there
was in the entire Catholic world a most ardent and wondrous
revival of the desire that the most holy Mother of God - the
beloved Mother of us all, the immaculate Virgin Mary - be finally
declared by a solemn definition of the Church to have been
conceived without the stain of original sin.
Both to Our Predecessor and to Us this most devout desire was
clearly and unmistakably made manifest by the petitions of
illustrious bishops, esteemed canonical chapters, and religious
congregations, among whom was the renowned Order of Preachers.
These appeals vied with one another in the insistent request that
official permission be granted for the word Immaculate to be
publicly used and be added to the sacred liturgy, particularly in
the Preface of the Mass of the Conception of the Blessed Virgin.
With the greatest delight, both Our Predecessor and We acceded to
Moreover, Venerable Brethren, many of you have sent letters to Our
Predecessor and to Us begging, with repeated insistence and
redoubled enthusiasm, that We define as a dogma of the Catholic
Church that the most blessed Virgin Mary was conceived immaculate
and free in every way of all taint of original sin.
do we lack today eminent theologians - men of intellectual
brilliance, of virtue, of holiness and sound doctrine - who have
so effectively explained this doctrine and so impressively
expounded this proposition that many persons are now wondering why
this honor has not already been accorded to the Blessed Virgin by
the Church and the Apostolic See - an honor which the widespread
piety of the Christian people so fervently desires to have
accorded to the Most Holy Virgin by a solemn decree and by the
authority of the Church and the Holy See.
Welcome indeed have such requests been to Us. They have filled Us
with joy. From our earliest years nothing has ever been closer to
Our heart than devotion - filial, profound, and wholehearted - to the
most blessed Virgin Mary. Always have We endeavored to do
everything that would redound to the greater glory of the Blessed
Virgin, promote her honor, and encourage devotion to her.
Accordingly, from the very beginning of Our supreme pontificate We
have most fervently directed Our energies and Our thoughts to this
matter of such great importance. Nor have We failed, through
humble and fervent prayers, to beg almighty God to enlighten Our
mind with the light of His grace in order that We might know what
We should do in this matter.
indeed is Our trust in Mary. The resplendent glory of her merits,
far exceeding all the choirs of angels, elevates her to the very
steps of the throne of God.(1) Her foot has crushed the head of
Satan. Set up between Christ and His Church,(2) Mary, ever lovable
and full of grace, always has delivered the Christian people from
their greatest calamities and from the snares and assaults of all
their enemies, ever rescuing them from ruin.
And likewise in our own day, Mary, with the ever merciful
affection so characteristic of her maternal heart, wishes, through
her efficacious intercession with God, to deliver her children
from the sad and grief-laden troubles, from the tribulations, the
anxiety, the difficulties, and the punishments of God's anger
which afflict the world because of the sins of men. Wishing to
restrain and to dispel the violent hurricane of evils which, as We
lament from the bottom of Our heart, are everywhere afflicting the
Church, Mary desires to transform Our sadness into joy. The
foundation of all Our confidence, as you know well, Venerable
Brethren, is found in the Blessed Virgin Mary. For, God has
committed to Mary the treasury of all good things, in order that
everyone may know that through her are obtained every hope, every
grace, and all salvation. For this is His will, that we obtain
everything through Mary.(3)
We have appointed certain priests of recognized piety and
theological learning, as well as several cardinals of the Holy
Roman Church who are renowned because of their ability, piety,
wisdom, prudence, and knowledge of the things of God; and We have
directed them to make, carefully and thoroughly, a most diligent
examination into this most important matter and then provide Us
with a complete report. Through such a procedure, We feel that We
are following in the clearly marked footsteps of Our Predecessors
and that We are emulating their example.
Wherefore, Venerable Brethren, We sent you this communication that
We may effectively encourage your admirable devotion and your
pastoral zeal and thus bring it about that each of you, in such
manner as you will see fit, will arrange to have public prayers
offered in your diocese for this intention: that the most merciful
Father of all knowledge will deign to enlighten Us with the
heavenly light of His Holy Spirit, so that in a matter of such
moment We may proceed to do what will redound to the greater glory
of His Holy Name, to the honor of the most Blessed Virgin, and to
the profit of the Church Militant.
eagerly desire, furthermore, that, as soon as possible, you
apprise Us concerning the devotion which animates your clergy and
your people regarding the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed
Virgin and how ardently glows the desire that this doctrine be
defined by the Apostolic See. And especially, Venerable Brethren,
We wish to know what you yourselves, in your wise judgment, think
and desire on this matter.
And inasmuch as We have already granted to the clergy of Rome
permission that, instead of what is contained in the common
breviary, they may recite the special canonical hours, in honor of
the Conception of the Blessed Virgin, which were recently arranged
and published, We likewise, by this present Letter, grant to you,
Venerable Brethren, the faculty, if you wish to use it, of
permitting the clergy of your own diocese to recite, licitly and
validly, the same canonical hours of the Conception of the Blessed
Virgin now in use with the clergy of Rome. This may be done
without obtaining further authorization from Us or from the Sacred
Congregation of Rites.
well, Venerable Brethren, your tender devotion toward the Blessed
Virgin Mary, We are sure that it will be your pleasure to
cooperate, zealously and diligently, with Our wishes and that you
will hasten to supply Us with the replies which We have requested.
Meanwhile, receive as a pledge of all celestial favors, and above
all as a witness of Our good will towards you, the Apostolic
Benediction which We give from the bottom of Our heart to you,
Venerable Brethren, as well as to all the clergy and the faithful
entrusted to your guidance.
at Gaeta, on the 2nd day of February, in the year 1849, in the
third year of Our Pontificate.
St. Gregory, Pope, de Exposit. in libros Regum. | 2. St. Bernard,
Serm. in cap. XII Apocalyps. | 3. St. Bernard, In Nativit. S.
Mariae de Aquaeductu.
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