Vatican I: A Look Back at an Unfinished Council (1)

Source: FSSPX News

150 years ago, the first Vatican Council opened under the leadership of Pope Pius IX. FSSPX.News is going back over the history of the Council which was the theater of opposition between liberals and ultramontanes. At the end of the Council, the dogma of papal infallibility was proclaimed.

Pope Pius IX took advantage of the grandiose celebrations of 1867 which had been organized on the occasion of the 18th centenary of the martyrdom of the holy apostles Peter and Paul, to announce his intention to convene an ecumenical council in the Vatican. Its purpose was to consolidate the work of doctrinal restoration of which the Syllabus constituted the spearhead. He intended in particular to do against theoretical rationalism and ambient liberalism what the Council of Trent had done against the Protestant heresy.

A year after this first announcement, Pope Pius IX summoned the bishops from around the world. The opening was set for December 8, 1869, which marked the 15th anniversary of the proclamation of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary.

In an effort to bring the separated Christians into unity with the Church, several letters of invitation were sent “to all the bishops of the Eastern rite who are not in communion with the Apostolic See,” as well as to the Protestants in general. Apart from a few Lutheran pastors and Anglicans, this call for unity went unheeded.

Upon the announcement of the Council, Freemasons became enraged and had the nerve to organize an anti-council in Naples which also opened in December 1869. This parody was hardly followed.

Solemn Opening of the First Vatican Council

On December 8, 1869, a grand papal ceremony inaugurated the Council. It lasted nearly seven hours, in the presence of 20,000 foreign pilgrims and 700 bishops, two-thirds of the world's episcopate. The sessions took place in the right transept of Saint Peter’s Basilica, set up to accommodate the debates.

Among the participants were the famous bishop and future cardinal of Poitiers, Msgr. Louis-Edouard Pie, as well as Saint Antony Mary Claret, Archbishop of Santiago de Cuba, founder of the Sons of the Immaculate Heart of Mary (Claretians): both were to be ardent defenders of papal infallibility.