1878 was a busy year in Rome. Vittorio Emmanuele II died on the 9th January. The Pope died five days after this was published, on 7 February 1878 at 5:40 pm, of epilepsy, which led to a seizure and a sudden heart attack, while saying the rosary with his staff. Pius IX was the longest serving Pope ever, and the last pope who held temporal powers, although Lazio, and Rome itself were absorbed into the Kingdom of Italy in 1870. Meanwhile, the still at this point, Rev. Dr Henry O’Bryen seems to be settled in splendidly, having stopped being a parish priest in Lancashire five years earlier at the age of thirty eight, and moved to Rome. He doesn’t become a papal chaplain until 1881. But he is already preaching at S. Andrea della Fratte, which he continued to do for the next seventeen years.
Rome from our own correspondent Rome Jan 27th 1878
Reports were current in Rome on Thursday the 24th of January that Pius IX had been suddenly taken ill and was at the point of death. For these reports there was absolutely no foundation. His Holiness all through the week held his usual audiences lying on the couch in his private library. On Monday he blessed the two lambs whose wool is intended for the palliums. On that day he received many Cardinals and prelates, and on the following day some laymen of distinction were admitted to special audience in the library. Cardinals Manning and Howard were among the visitors this week to the Vatican. On Thursday a distinguished person, who had an interview with his Holiness for half an hour, found the Pope considerably improved in health and spirits. The wounds in the legs are healing up naturally, new flesh growing in a wonderful manner. The Holy Father was unusually cheerful, and expressed a hope to be able to leave his bed in a month or so when the severe weather shall have disappeared.
GARIBALDI: It is known that General Garibaldi wrote a letter of congratulation to King Humbert on his accession to the throne. It was not published, because Garibaldi, at the close of his letter, advised his Majesty to dismiss all his “reprobate Ministers.”
KING HUMBERT I. : On the 19th of January the new King took the oath to observe the Constitution before the senators and deputies assembled in the Parliament House in Montecitorio. On the same occasion the senators and deputies swore allegiance to the King. The Queen, the young Prince of Naples, and all the Royal visitors and envoys, were present in the diplomatic box, or gallery, where seats were arranged for the ladies. The Archduke Renier, the Prince Imperial of Germany, the heir to the Portuguese throne, and the Queen of Portugal were all close to Queen Margherita. The young Portuguese Prince, a pretty boy of fourteen years, was much admired. But the Prince Imperial of Germany, with his broad shoulders, was the prominent figure, and had the post of honour near the two Queens. The new King made a speech, which was much applauded, but which did not contain a single word in reference to God or the Church, nor did it ask, directly or indirectly, the blessing of Heaven. Perhaps Humbert I., who separates himself by the numeral I. from his ancestor Humbert III., the Blessed, was conscious that any appeal to Divine Providence would be out of place in the declarations of a monarch who succeeds to the usurped patrimony of the Church. King Humbert, rightly or wrongly, is believed to be less religious than his father. Signor Mancini, the present Minister of Grace and Justice, was once his teacher in international and criminal jurisprudence, and from Signor Mancini it is not likely that much reverence for the Catholic religion could be learned by the young Prince. So far as can be inferred from recent events, King Humbert willrely on the army and on the German alliance to support his throne against all Republican attacks. To keep Germany on his side he must obey the behests of Prince Bismarck, and he must adopt a policy of antagonism towards the Holy See more pronounced and severe than that adopted by his father. In this anti-Catholic policy Signor Mancini will be his willing guide.
CARDINAL MANNING: His Eminence Cardinal Manning has lately occupied much attention on the part of the Italian press. Fanjulla devoted to him a long article denouncing him for his want of respect to the memory of Victor Emmanuel, and particularly for refusing a high Mass to be sung for his late Majesty. Of course, it is well known in London that Cardinal Manning granted permission for the High Mass, although he hesitated and required additional in-formation concerning the intentions of the applicants. Other Italian newspapers claim Cardinal Manning as their friend and champion, and gravely assert that his Eminence alone among the Cardinals encourages the Holy Father to condone the loss of the temporal power, and come to terms of amity with the revolution ! He is said also to urge the selection of Malta for the next Conclave, and to have raised the resentment of all the Italian Cardinals against him. In all these statements there is not one syllable of truth.
OUTRAGES AGAINST THE CLERGY: In various cities of Italy the revolutionists have taken the opportunity of the King’s death to insult the Bishops and clergy who do not at once comply with the demands of political partisans. For instance, two members of the municipality of Piacenza waited on the Bishop of that city, and asked the use of the Cathedral for a funeral service for the late King. The Bishop replied that he could not himself pontificate, but would grant the use of the cathedral provided the laws of the Church were observed. He suggested the use of the Church of S. Francesco in Piazza, as more central and better adapted for the occasion than the Cathedral. He desired them to report his remarks to the municipal council, and to return the next day to arrange everything. The members of the municipality, however, misrepresented the words of the Bishop as an absolute refusal of the Cathedral, and inserted a statement to that effect in a local journal. The consequence was a riotous assemblage of roughs, who mobbed the Bishop, broke into his residence, and filled the town with tumult. The military had to be called out to quell the disorder. At Viterbo, Bologna, Venice, and other places, the clergy have been insulted and attacked by mobs of revolutionists. At Parma the Bishop was assailed the citizens were compelled to close their shops as a sign of mourning, and a tricolour flag was hoisted over the episcopal residence.
MILAN: At the funeral service in Milan Cathedral, on the 24th, in honour of the late King, the crush was so great that five persons were killed, and many others were injured, and had to be carried to hospitals.
PERE RATISBONNE: On Sunday, the 20th, the Church of S. Andrea della Fratte was magnificently decorated with red satin damask bordered with gold, and an infinity of lights for the anniversary of the miraculous event in the life of Pere Ratisbonne, who, on the 20th of January, 1842, was there converted from Judaism by an apparition of the Blessed Virgin. Masses were said during the morning, and at five p.m. Cardinal Franchi gave solemn Benediction. Padre Giovanni, who possesses perhaps the finest tenor voice at present known, sang; and there was hardly standing room in the church. On Wednesday, the 23rd, the Rev. Dr. O’Bryen preached a sermon on the conversion of Pere Ratisbonne to a crowded audience in the same church. [ Alphonse Ratisbonne who was Jewish, converted to the Church, became a Jesuit, and went on to found the Congrégation de Notre-Dame de Sion, on of whose founding aim was the conversion of the Jews.]
APOTHEOSIS OF VICTOR EMMANUEL: An amusing cartoon has appeared representing the late King rising heavily heavenwards—his well-known features appearing above the white sheet that envelopes his body. In the clouds is seen the Piedmontese Walhalla ” The Superga,” and out of it are issuing the deceased members of the house of Savoy. This cartoon has been considered sufficiently curious for the Bodleian library, to which a copy has been sent.
THE CLERGY HISSED: It appears, unhappily, certain that the small party of clergy who surrounded the Crucifix in the procession of the King’s funeral were hissed. People who saw the procession at different points all assert the same.
OVATION AT THE QUIRINAL: On the return of the King from the Chambers on Saturday, the 19th, there was a great burst of cheering on the part of the crowd assembled in the Piazza del Quirinale; the King, the Queen, their Royal visitors, and the little Prince of Naples all appeared on the balcony—the Prince Imperial of Germany, taking the little Prince of Naples in his arms, held him up, to the great delight of the crowd, and then kissed him.
A PROPHECY: An astrologer of the Apennines, named Barbanera, in whom the Romans have great faith, made a lucky guess this year in his prophetic almanack. He says, ” On January 11th a great catafalque will be erected in Rome !” He also says, ” another will be required on February 10th.” [ I rather like the slightly sneering tone of this, being written before the Pope’s death as obviously ridiculous, and the astrologer being almost spot-on. But given that the Pope was eighty six, it’s not a bad guess.]
THE LATE KING’S DEBTS: The late King, it is stated, unified his large debts some two years ago, and borrowed of a bank at Turin 15,000,000 lire, of which 7,000,000 have been paid. King Humbert takes this debt on himself, and will not burden the country with it.
ROYAL ECONOMY: It would appear that economy is to be studied a little by the new King ; 1,000 horses are to be sold at once out of the Royal stables, and the estate also at Castel Porziano. The Royal stables, built at an enormous cost by the late King, are one of the sights of the city, on account of their vast size and completeness in every respect. It is said that, all told, 2,000 persons are employed in them.
SACRILEGES IN ROME: During the great concourse of strangers into Rome for the late King’s funeral no less than three churches were broken into, and the tabernacles were robbed of the sacred vessels, the consecrated hosts being strewn about.
FEB. 2, 1878: The anniversary of the First Communion of the Holy Father, February 2nd, will be the 75th anniversary of the Holy Father’s first Communion, made at Sinigaglia, his native city. The Cardinal Vicar of Rome invites all the faithful, and especially the young, to make a Communion on that day. There will be a grand function at the Gesù.
MONUMENT TO VICTOR EMMANUEL: The proposed monument to Victor Emmanuel has set all the painters, architects, sculptors, and engineers to work, and many designs are already exhibited ; they all bear evidence of the haste with which they have been drawn, and nothing at all remarkable has been produced. They talk much of a grand façade to Sta Maria degli Angeli ; and that the hemicycle in front should become a colonnade, crowned by the statues of the statesmen and others connected with the unification of Italy, the new street, the Via Nazionale, to be entered under a grand triumphal arch.
THE REQUIEM FOR KING VICTOR EMMANUEL.—On the 9th of February a funeral service will be celebrated in the Pantheon for the repose of the soul of the late King Victor Emmanuel.
The above text was found on p.16, 2nd February 1878, in “The Tablet: The International Catholic News Weekly.” Reproduced with kind permission of the Publisher. The Tablet can be found at http://www.thetablet.co.uk .