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Build church unity, pope tells pilgrims

Pope Francis urges Italian pilgrims to follow the example of Pope Pius VII, a courageous Gospel witness in difficult times
Pope Francis meeting the pilgrims from the Italian Dioceses Cesena-Sarsina, Tivoli, Savona e Imola, on the occasion of the bicentenary of the death of Pope Pius VII.

Pope Francis meeting the pilgrims from the Italian Dioceses Cesena-Sarsina, Tivoli, Savona e Imola, on the occasion of the bicentenary of the death of Pope Pius VII. (Photo: Vatican News)

Published: April 23, 2024 05:02 AM GMT
Updated: April 23, 2024 05:04 AM GMT

Pope Pius VII, a prisoner of Napoleon from 1809 to 1814, endured humiliation but successfully resisted all attempts to fracture the unity of the Catholic Church, Pope Francis said.

When Napoleon was defeated and the pope was able to return to Rome, "the community that emerged was materially poorer, but morally stronger, more cohesive and more credible," the pope told pilgrims from the Italian dioceses of Cesena-Sarsina, Tivoli, Savona and Imola, who were marking the 200th anniversary of the death of Pope Pius VII.

Barnaba Chiaramonti, who would become a Benedictine monk and abbot before being elected pope in 1800, was born in Cesena.

Pope Francis told the pilgrims, "His example spurs us to be, in our time, even at the cost of renunciations, builders of unity in the universal church, in the local church, in parishes and in families: to build communion, to favor reconciliation, to promote peace, faithful to truth in charity!"

Pope Pius VII came from well-off family, Pope Francis told the pilgrims, but he had told the cardinals who elected him that "it is not in splendor … but rather in contempt for riches, in humility, in modesty, in patience, in charity and finally in every priestly duty that the image of Our Creator is portrayed, and the authentic dimension of the church is preserved."

"What he said is beautiful," Pope Francis said.

After Napoleon's troops had invaded Italy, Pope Pius VII tried to negotiate with him and succeeded to some extent until Napoleon invaded the Papal States in 1809 and exiled the pope to Savona and then to France.

"He was a very intelligent man, very pious and astute," Pope Francis said. "He knew how to face his imprisonment with cunning. At times he sent messages in his undergarments, and in this way, he managed to lead the church, through messages in his undergarments. And it is a good thing: he was a man who was intelligent, astute and who wanted to carry out the task of governing that the Lord had given him; this is good."

Pope Francis told the pilgrims to think about Pope Pius VII and try to imitate his "style of meekness and readiness to sacrifice."

"But this does not mean we are stupid, no, no, that is not meekness," the pope said. "Meekness, but cunning as the Lord recommends. Simple as the dove but cunning as the snake."

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DR.CAJETAN COELHO
He is an inspiration for all times and in all places. Meek Pope Pius VII was blessed with immense spiritual cunningness.
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