1700th Anniversary Of The Edict of Milan: Pius X On The Occasion Of The 1600th Anniversary Of The Promulgation Of The Edict By Constantine

BERNINI, Gian Lorenzo

Address of the Holy Father
to the faithful gathered in Rome
on the occasion of the sixteen hundredth Anniversary
of the Promulgation of the Edict by Constantine
Sunday, February 23, 1913
Your presence, beloved children, fills Us with great joy, as all over the Catholic world we are commemorating the sixteen hundredth anniversary of acknowledging the guardianship of freedom, which Jesus Christ gave to His Church. So, it was quite right that to give proof of their joy and devotion to the Chair of Peter, the uncorrupted children of those who tasted the fruits of that salutary Edict, would be among the first to rejoice.
Thus let Us exult with you, since with this act you are revealing the spirit which is alive in you, as well as your vow which goes back to the time when the Church was granted the power of enjoying that freedom essential to the fruitful exercise of Her ministry for the good of souls and society. We thank Divine Providence for calling Constantine from the darkness of the Gentiles to erect temples and altars to that Religion which his predecessors had tried to exterminate for three centuries. He returned the property stolen from the Christians and granted Christianity full religious liberation.

Now, amidst so much progress in civilization and in so much light in the sciences, we must reclaim that freedom for the Church, even from Christian Governments, which they themselves recognize or should recognize and which is essential in continuing the Church’s supernatural action on earth. 
The Church, this great religious society of men, who live in the same faith and in the same love under the guidance of the Supreme Pontiff, has a higher purpose distinct from that of civil societies, which aim at attaining temporal prosperity here on earth, while She has the goal of perfecting souls for eternity. The Church is a kingdom, which has no other Lord but God Himself, and has a very lofty mission which surpasses all limits and makes of all peoples of every tongue and nation one great family. Therefore, it cannot even be supposed that the kingdom of the soul is subject to that of the body; that eternity becomes an instrument of time, that God Himself becomes a slave to Man.

Jesus Christ, in fact, the Eternal Son of the Father, to Whom all power in Heaven and Earth was given, impressed this mission on the Apostles, the first ministers of the Church: “As the Father hath sent me, I also send you.” (Jn XX,21) – Going therefore; teach ye all nations, baptizing them in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost; teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and behold I am with you all days even to the consummation of the world.” (Mt XXVIII, 19-20)

So the Church has the mission from God Himself to teach, and His Word must be made known to everyone, without obstacles which may hold It back, and also without impositions which may restrain It. Since Christ did not say: your word be directed to the poor, the ignorant, the multitudes - but to all, without distinction, because in the spiritual order you are above all the sovereigns of the earth.
The Church has the mission of governing souls and administering the Sacraments; and since no one for no reason whatever can claim to enter the Sanctuary, She has the duty to rise up against those who claim to invade Her ground with arbitrary interference or unjust encroachments. The Church has the mission of teaching the observance of precepts and exhorting the practice of the evangelical counsels. Woe to those who would teach the contrary thus bringing disorder and confusion to society! The Church has a right to ownership, since it is a society of men and not angels and needs the material goods given to Her through the piety of the faithful. She safeguards legitimate ownership for the accomplishment of the duties of Her ministers, for the exterior exercise of worship, for the construction of churches and for works of charity, entrusted to Her in order that She may live and perpetuate until the end of time.

And such rights are so sacred, that the Church has always had the duty to sustain and defend them, knowing well that if She gave in an inch to the demands of Her enemies, She would not be obeying the mandate received from Heaven and would fall into apostasy. So history points to a series of protests and claims by the Church against those who wanted to render Her a slave. The first words by Peter and the other Apostles to Judaism were: “We ought to obey God, rather than men.” (Acts V, 29). These sublime words were always repeated by their successors and will be repeated until the end of time, perhaps even being confirmed in a baptism of blood.

And of this our adversaries themselves are persuaded, and repeat continuously that every sort of freedom exists under the shadow of their banners. But, in reality, freedom –or rather license – is for everyone, but not for the Church.
Freedom for everyone to profess their own faith and to manifest their own systems; but not for the Catholic, who, as such, is marked for persecutions and mockery as well as discouraged and deprived of those offices of which he has the sacred right.

Freedom to teach; but subject to the monopoly of Governments, who permit the propagation and the defense of every system and of every kind of error in schools. They even prohibit the study of the Catechism to the children.

Freedom of the press, and thus freedom to the most irascible journalism which dishonorably insinuates other forms of government into laws, in order to rouse the mob to revolt, to ferment hate and hostility, to impede the welfare of the workers and the tranquil lives of citizens through strikes and to revile the most sacred things and the most venerated people. By contrast, Catholic journalism, which defends the rights of the Church and champions the principles of truth and justice, must be put under surveillance, recalled to duty and is indicated as antagonistic towards free institutions as well as an enemy of the state.

Freedom to carry out the most rowdy public demonstrations to all of the most subversive associations is granted, but Catholic processions are not allowed out of the church, as they provoke the rival parties, upset public order and disturb peaceful citizens.
Freedom of ministries for all, schismatics and dissidents, but not for Catholics.

Freedom of ownership for all, but not for the Church and for Religious Orders, whose properties are tampered with and given to lay institutions by Governments.

This then, as you well know, is the freedom that the Church enjoys even in Catholic countries! And so We are right then to comfort Ourselves with you fighting for Her in the field of action which up until now is conceded to us. So, courage, beloved children; the more the Church is opposed from every part, the more the false maxims of error and moral perversion infect the air from their pestiferous miasma, the more merit will be acquired by you before God, if you will make every effort to avoid contagion and will not be diverted from your convictions in remaining faithful to the Church. And with your firmness you will work for a fruitful apostolate in persuading adversaries and dissidents that freedom for the Church will provide admirably towards the well-being and tranquility of the people, since in the exercise of the Magisterium divinely entrusted to Her, She will conserve intact and in vigor the principles of truth and justice, on which every order is based and from which springs forth peace, honesty and all culture. In this fight, difficulties, molestations and fatigue will certainly abound, but do not lose heart, because in this battle the Lord will sustain you, bringing you abundant assistance and divine favors.

Such be the pledge of Our Apostolic Benediction, which from the depths of Our heart We impart to you and all your loved ones. We bless the objects you are carrying, with all the indulgences attached and We grant to Parish Priests, Superiors of Institutes and Confessors of Religious Communities, the faculty of imparting, the Apostolic Benediction with a Plenary Indulgence to all those who have confessed and received Holy Communion. Benedictio Dei Omnipotentis Patris + et Filii + et Spiritus + Sancti descendat super vos, et maneat semper.
[Translation: Contributor Francesca Romana]
Rorte Caeli

The Vision of St Helena
I looked about, and there was none to help: I sought, and there was none to give aid: and my own arm hath saved for me, and my indignation itself hath helped me. Isaias


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