Passionists Mark the 2nd Centenary Restoration of our Congregation

Click here to read a summary of the history of the Napoleonic suppression and the Papal included as well.

The following is a timely reflection on the importance of Religious Freedom. This anniversary is being marked during the Fortnight for Freedom being celebrated in the U.S.A.

Letter of the Superior General on the 2nd CENTENARY OF THE RESTORATION OF THE CONGREGATION: 1814 - 2014


Saints John and Paul Basilica Home of the Passionist Generalate in RomeA photo montage from 1773 and today

Dear Brothers, Sisters and Friends in the Passionist Family,

On my daily walks here in Rome, which I am required to do following my surgery, I often ‘drop-in’ to visit churches and basilicas of which there is no shortage. And I am often in awe at the beauty of the art and architecture of these structures, many of which were constructed centuries ago. They were built as “Temples to the glory of God”. Sitting in these ‘Temples’, one cannot but be lifted up in praise to God’s glory, and sense the sacredness and immanent presence of the Divine.

As I enjoy the beauty and peaceful surroundings of these churches today, it is hard to believe that thereby Napoleon on 3 May 1810 leading to the confiscation of all church properties, and the disbanding and displacement of all religious and clergy to their places of origin in the hope that this would bring about the extinction of the church and religious life.

According to our late historian Fr Fabiano Giorgini CP:

As an absolute arbiter, Napoleon did not accept anyone escaping his control and, perhaps, feared … that religious would foment the maxims of Rome in the people, that is, fidelity to the Church’s doctrine and to the directives of the Pope.

Napoleon was also interested in taking over “the goods of religious in order to pay for the great economic debt caused by the war, lodging soldiers, the increase of bureaucrats and for completing public works.”

At the time of the suppression, our Congregation had been in existence for 90 years and was present in 17 communities – all in Italy. This, in fact, meant that the whole Passionist Congregation was suppressed. Our Passionist Nuns were in existence for 39 years and were present in only one monastery in Corneto (Tarquinia). This situation of survival under the conditions of suppression lasted for four years, until 1814.

I write this letter (accompanied with the attached brief history written by Fr Fernando Piélagos CP) to bring to our awareness that on the 27th June 2014 our Congregation commemorates the second centenary (200 years) of its restoration.

Following Napoleon’s authorization for the return of Pope Pius VII to Rome from France, the religious orders were quickly restored - one of the first to attract the Pope’s attention being the Congregation of the Passion, although it was the smallest of all. They were the first to resume the religious habit and community life in our Retreat of Sts John and Paul.

Upon receiving their reinstatement on 27 June 1814, Fr Giorgini comments that the Passionists This decision was realistic and made eminent sense. We can imagine that after 4 years of displacement from the religious house and the discipline of the religious life, not all the religious from the time of the suppression would have returned to the monastery. The numbers would have depleted. Some, of course, would have died in that time, while others would have left the Congregation choosing other paths of life.

This event, marking the second centenary of the restoration of the Congregation, is a moment deserving our reflection in order that we might see and appreciate the guiding and protecting hand of God. It is a part of the history of our salvation! When we reflect back on the history of this time, we see the enormous difficulties and hardships endured by our religious, but we also see their trust in God, and their fidelity to the life and mission of God.

Two hundred years later - since the time of the restoration (1814-2014), as we look back at our Congregation’s story, we cannot but be grateful for the bountiful blessings of God. In His mercy, God raised up Passionist prophets and saints who, with the courage of their conviction in the Charism, would proclaim the message of God’s love seen in the Passion of Jesus to peoples and cultures, outside Italy, in nearly 60 nations of the world.

The second centenary of the restoration of the Congregation is a story of HOPE – founded in the heart of God. Even today, as the Congregation in various parts of the world continues to face hardships and difficulties, prejudice and persecution, we must rely on the strength and power which comes from the Spirit of Jesus; we must continue on the path of fidelity and authenticity, holding firm to the hope founded in our God.

I conclude with the following excerpts from the Acts of the Apostles which details the situation of persecution experienced by the Apostles in the early Christian community. May this inspire and strengthen us, Passionists today, to move forward with hope, for nothing can suppress the Spirit of God!

 “…they arrested the apostles and had them put in prison. But at night the angel of the Lord opened the prison gates and said: ‘Go and take up position in the Temple, and tell the people all about this new Life.’ They did as they were told; they went into the Temple at dawn and began to preach.” (Acts 5:18ff)

“…Peter and the apostles said: ‘Obedience to God comes before obedience to men; it was the God of our ancestors who raised up Jesus…to be leader and Saviour, to give repentance and forgiveness of sins through him…We are witnesses to this, we and the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey him.’” (Acts 5:29ff)

Gamaliel’s intervention to the Sanhedrin: “…I suggest that you leave these men alone and let them go. If this enterprise, this movement of theirs, is of human origin it will break up of its own accord; but if it does in fact come from God you will be unable to destroy them. Take care not to find yourselves fighting against God.” (Acts 5:38ff)

Fr Joachim Rego CP Superior General Feast of SS. John & Paul, 26 June 2014