On January 27, 1894, Pope Leo XIII awarded Joan of Arc the title of “venerable,” paving the way for the saint's canonization some 26 years later. On this occasion, the Pope declared: “Joan is ours.” At the same time, in France, the anticlericalism that reigns over political life was attacking the rights of the Church.
Buried under the weight of the centuries and the many upheavals that have marked the history of France, the cause of Joan of Arc came out of oblivion in the 19th century. Between 1841 and 1849, voluminous accounts of the trials of Joan of Arc were updated by the archivist Jules Quicherat.
These reliable documents produced with rigor by the Chartist—a former pupil of Michelet and an accomplished anticlerical—reveal Joan’s virtues and her strength of character. They provoke a renewed interest in the Maid, in all circles, Catholic as well as anticlerical.
In response to Republican writings locking Joan into the role of national heroine, Fr. Barthélémy de Beauregard reacted: he was the first Catholic author to publish, in 1847, a biography of Joan of Arc. A few years later, the historian Henri Wallon achieved great success in Catholic circles with his Histoire de Jeanne d´Arc in 1860.
The Bishop of Orleans, Félix Dupanloup, was overwhelmed by the various publications, and declared in 1855: “Joan of Arc was truly an messenger from God.”
The prelate would be the linchpin of the recognition by the Church of the holiness of the maid of Orleans: it was he who in 1869 filed the official request for canonization, and launched the creation of the preparatory file for the cause.
Msgr. Albert de Briey, bishop of Saint-Dié, for his part piloted the erection of a basilica in Domrémy, where he launched in 1878 the first major Catholic pilgrimage.
A few years later, when the third masonic and anticlerical republic increasingly attacked the interests of the Church and of French Catholics, Pope Leo XIII signed the decree awarding Joan the title of venerable: it was on January 27, 1894.
On this occasion, the successor of Peter pronounced these memorable words: “Joan is ours.”
With great joy, France greeted the news of this first success of the cause of Joan of Arc, and in all the important cities—especially Paris and Orleans—festivals were organized. The bishops summoned the faithful to their cathedrals to sing the praises of the Maid and hear speeches in her honor.
Thus, at Notre-Dame de Paris, on April 22, 1894, there was great solemnity for the blessing of a banner, a facsimile of the one Joan carried. At first, the civil and military authorities accepted the invitations of the clergy for these very French demonstrations, but, after some time, the government prohibited this official participation: the rupture was soon to be consummated.
The decree of January 27, 1894 gave Rome the initiative for the cause; henceforth no one could work on it except on Rome’s orders. The rest is known: beatified on April 18, 1909 by Pope St. Pius X, St. Joan of Arc was to be included in the catalog of saints of the Universal Church, on May 16, 1920, by Pope Benedict XV.