Encyclical of Pope Pius IX
January 6, 1873
To Our Venerable Brothers Anthony Peter IX, Patriarch of Cilicia, and the Archbishops, Bishops, Clergy and Laity, Our Beloved Children of the Armenian Rite Who are in Loving Communion with the Apostolic See.
Venerable Brothers and Beloved Children, We give you Greetings and Our Apostolic Blessing.
Four and twenty years have now gone by since We addressed Our Apostolic letter to the men of the East (ad Orientales)(1) at this most holy season in which a new star shone forth in the East to enlighten the nations. We wrote that letter to strengthen Catholics in the faith and to call back to the one fold of Christ those who were unhappily outside the Catholic Church. We entertained a joyous and vivid hope that with the help of God and our Savior Jesus Christ, the purity of the Christian faith would be spread abroad and the zeal for ecclesiastical discipline flourish once again in the East. We promised to support with Our authority the establishment of this discipline in accordance with the sacred canons. Our great concern for the men of the East and the kindness and charity which We have shown them since that time are known to God. But all men too know what We took on Ourselves to achieve this purpose—if only all men correctly understood this as well! However by the mysterious judgment of God, these affairs have developed far differently from Our hopes and desires, and far from rejoicing, We must rather grieve and lament a new disaster which is afflicting some of the Eastern Churches.
Schism in Constantinople
2. Long ago Christ warned that many would come in His name, stating that they were the Christ, and as a result, seduce many;(2) this has proved true. For by means of the new schism which arose three years ago among the Armenians in Constantinople, the common enemy of the human race is wholly engaged in undermining faith, destroying truth and disrupting unity by worldly wisdom, heretical discussion, subtle, clever deceit, and even, where possible, by the use of force. While exposing the pretenses and plots of this enemy, St. Cyprian lamented that "he snatches human beings out of the very church and while they think they have already drawn near to the light and escaped from the night of the world, he brings darkness over them once more in ways of which they are unaware. Thus, although they do not observe Christ's gospel and His law, they call themselves Christians and judge that they possess the light while they walk in darkness, attracted and deceived by the adversary. For he transfigures himself like an angel of light, as the Apostle says (2 Cor 11.14) and disguises his ministers as ministers of justice who present night as day, ruin as salvation, hopelessness in the guise of hope, faithlessness under the pretext of faith, the antichrist with the title of "Christ." Thus while telling lies which resemble truths, they make vain the truth by their subtlety."(3)
3. The beginnings of this new schism were, as is usually the case, complicated by many contributory factors. However, We observed its wickedness and its dangers beforehand, and resisted it at once in two Apostolic letters, one February 24, 1870, Non sine gravissimo, and the other on May 20 in the same year, Quo impensiore.(4) The affair has gone so far, however, that despite the urging, warnings and censures of this Apostolic See, the originators of this schism and their adherents have fearlessly chosen for themselves a false patriarch. We have declared in Our letter of 11 March 1871, Ubi prima,(5) that this election is wholly invalid and schismatic, and that the man elected and those who elected him have incurred canonical penalties. Furthermore, they have taken possession of Catholic churches by violent means: they have forced the lawful Patriarch, Our venerable brother Anthony Peter IX, to depart from the territories of the Ottoman Empire; they have even seized with military aid the patriarchal see of Cilicia which is in Lebanon; and having won the civil command of this province, they have assailed the Catholic people of Armenia, and are trying by every means to detach them from their communion with and obedience to the Apostolic See. John Kupelian, one of the neo-schismatic priests, is working vigorously to ensure that the affair proceeds according to their plan. By Our authority, this man has previously been publicly and specifically excommunicated and declared cut off from the Catholic Church by the Apostolic delegate for Mesopotamia and other districts, Our venerable brother Nicholas Archbishop of Mardin; the specific charge was encouraging disorder and fomenting schism in the state of Diarbekr or Amida. After being sacrilegiously consecrated as bishop by the pseudo-patriarch, and having gained power, he now attempts by argument and by open threats to bring the Catholics of the Armenian rite under his rule. If this should ever come about, the Catholics would be quite reduced to their wretched state of forty-two years ago when they were subjected to the power of the old schismatics of their rite.
Appeal to the Ottoman Emperor
4. We have indeed left no means untried in order to free you from this great evil. In this We follow the custom of Our predecessors whose authority, protection and help has usually been requested at such critical junctures by all the respected bishops and fathers of the Eastern Churches. To this end also We have sent an extraordinary legate to that region. We recently asked the supreme Ottoman emperor himself in a special letter that the losses suffered by Armenian Catholics be made good by process of law, and that their exiled shepherd be restored to his flock. But the fulfillment of Our wishes has been hindered by those men who call themselves Catholics, but are the enemies of the Cross of Christ.
Warning from the Holy See
5. We must now greatly fear that the originators of the new schism and their adherents may succeed in their plan of seducing both the weak in faith and the less prudent Catholics of the Armenian and other rites, leading them off on the path of perdition. Therefore We are compelled to address you again, and by dispelling that darkness and thick mist which, conceals the truth, to warn all men. It is Our duty to strengthen those who stand firm, to support the wavering, and also to recall to goodness, those men who have wretchedly abandoned the truth and Catholic unity, if only, they are willing to listen.
6. The chief deceit used to conceal the new schism is the name of "Catholic." The originators and adherents of the schism presumptuously lay claim to this name despite their condemnation by Our authority and judgment. It has always been the custom of heretics and schismatics to call themselves Catholics and to proclaim their many excellences in order to lead peoples and princes into error. St. Jerome, presbyter, referred to these men, among others, when he said: "The heretics are accustomed to say to their king or to Pharaoh, 'We are the sons of wise men who have handed down to us from the beginning the Apostolic teaching; we are the sons of ancient kings who are called kings of the philosophers; and we possess the knowledge of the scriptures in addition to the wisdom of the world.'"(6)
7. But to prove that they are Catholics, the neo-schismatics appeal to what they call a declaration of faith, published by them on February 6, 1870, which they insist disagrees in no regard with the Catholic faith. However it has never been possible to prove oneself a Catholic by affirming those statements of the faith which one accepts and keeping silence on those doctrines which one decides not to profess. But without exception, all doctrines which the Church proposes must be accepted, as the history of the Church at all times bears witness.
8. That the statement of faith which they published was deceitful and sophistical is proved also by the fact that they rejected the declaration or profession of faith which was proposed to them on Our authority in accordance with custom. They were commanded to accept it by Our venerable brother Anthony Joseph Archbishop of Tyana, Apostolic Delegate at Constantinople, in a letter of warning sent to them on September 29 of the same year. For any man to be able to prove his Catholic faith and affirm that he is truly a Catholic, he must be able to convince the Apostolic See of this. For this See is predominant and with it the faithful of the whole Church should agree.(7) And the man who abandons the See of Peter can only be falsely confident that he is in the Church.(8) As a result, that man is already a schismatic and a sinner who establishes a see in opposition to the unique See of the blessed Peter(9) from which the rights of sacred communion derive for all men.(10)
Authority of the Papacy
9. This fact was well known to the illustrious bishops of the Eastern Churches. Hence at the Council of Constantinople held in the year 536, Mennas the bishop of that city affirmed openly with the approval of the fathers, "We follow and obey the Apostolic See, as Your Charity realizes and we consider those in communion with it to be in communion with us, and we too condemn the men condemned by it."(11) Even more clearly and emphatically St. Maximus, abbot of Chrysopolis, and a confessor of the faith, in refer ring to Pyrrhus the Monothelite, declared: "If he wants neither to be nor to be called a heretic, he toes not need to satisfy random individuals of his orthodoxy, for this is excessive and unreasonable. But just as all men have been scandalized at him since the chief man was scandalized, so also when that one has been satisfied, all men will doubtless be satisfied. He should hasten to satisfy the Roman See before all others. For when this See has been satisfied, all men everywhere will join in declaring him pious and orthodox. For that man wastes his words who thinks that men like me must be persuaded and beguiled when he has not yet satisfied and beseeched the blessed Pope of the holy Roman Church. From the incarnate word of God Himself as well as from the conclusions and sacred canons of all holy councils, the Apostolic See has been granted the command, authority and power of binding and loosing for all God's holy churches in the entire world."(12) For this reason John, Bishop of Constantinople, solemnly declared-and the entire Eighth Ecumenical Council did so later—"that the names of those who were separated from communion with the Catholic Church, that is of those who did not agree in all matters with the Apostolic See, are not to be read out during the sacred mysteries."(13) This plainly meant that they did not recognize those men as true Catholics. All these traditions dictate that whoever the Roman Pontiff judges to be a schismatic for not expressly admitting and reverencing his power must stop calling himself Catholic.
10. Since this does not please the neo-schismatics, they follow the example of heretics of more recent times. They argue that the sentence of schism and excommunication pronounced against them by the Archbishop of Tyana, the Apostolic Delegate in Constantinople, was unjust, and consequently void of strength and influence. They have claimed also that they are unable to accept the sentence because the faithful might desert to the heretics if deprived of their ministration. These novel arguments were wholly unknown and unheard of by the ancient Fathers of the Church. For "the whole Church throughout the world knows that the See of the blessed Apostle Peter has the right of loosing again what any pontiffs have bound, since this See possesses the right of judging the whole Church, and no one may judge its judgment."(14) The Jansenist heretics dared to teach such doctrines as that an excommunication pronounced by a lawful prelate could be ignored on a pretext of injustice. Each person should perform, as they said, his own particular duty despite an excommunication. Our predecessor of happy memory Clement XI in his constitution Unigenitus against the errors of Quesnell forbade and condemned statements of this kind.(15) These statements were scarcely in any way different from some of John Wyclif's which had previously been condemned by the Council of Constance and Martin V. Through human weakness a person could be unjustly punished with censure by his prelate. But it is still necessary, as Our predecessor St. Gregory the Great warned, "for a bishop's subordinates to fear even an unjust condemnation and not to blame the judgment of the bishop rashly in case the fault which did not exist, since the condemnation was unjust, develops out of the pride of heated reproof."(16) But if one should be afraid even of an unjust condemnation by one's bishop, what must be said of those men who have been condemned for rebelling against their bishop and this Apostolic See and tearing to pieces as they are now doing by a new schism the seamless garment of Christ, which is the Church?
11. The charity which obliges priests in particular to attend to the faithful should derive "from a pure heart and a good conscience and faith unfeigned"(17) as the Apostle warned. In reviewing the qualities which we ought to display as ministers of God, he also included "in charity unfeigned, in the word of truth."(18) But Christ Himself, however, the God who "is charity,"(19) openly declared that those who do not listen to the Church should be regarded as gentiles and publicans.(20) And Our predecessor St. Gelasius answered Euphemius, Bishop of Constantinople, when he stated that "the flock ought to follow the shepherd who calls them back to safe pastures, rather than the shepherd follow the flock as it wanders off the road."(21) For "the people must be taught, not followed: and if they do not know, we must impress on them what is permitted and not permitted, rather than give them our approval."(22)
Definition of a Schismatic
12. But the neo-schismatics say that it was not a case of doctrine but of discipline, so the name and prerogatives of Catholics cannot be denied to those who object. Our Constitution Reversurus, published on July 12, 1867,(23) answers this objection. We do not doubt that you know well how vain and worthless this evasion is. For the Catholic Church has always regarded as schismatic those who obstinately oppose the lawful prelates of the Church and in particular, the chief shepherd of all. Schismatics avoid carrying out their orders and even deny their very rank. Since the faction from Armenia is like this, they are schismatics even if they had not yet been condemned as such by Apostolic authority. For the Church consists of the people in union with the priest, and the flock following its shepherd.(24) Consequently the bishop is in the Church and the Church in the bishop, and whoever is not with the bishop is not in the Church. Further more, as Our predecessor Pius VI warned in his Apostolic letter condemning the civil constitution of the clergy in France,(25) discipline is often closely related to doctrine and has a great influence in preserving its purity. In fact, in many instances, the holy Councils have unhesitatingly cut off from the Church by their anathema those who have infringed its discipline.
Authority of the Holy See
13. But the neo-schismatics have gone further, since "every schism fabricates a heresy for itself to justify its withdrawal from the Church."(26) Indeed they have even accused this Apostolic See as well, as if We had exceeded the limits of Our power in commanding that certain points of discipline were to be observed in the Patriarchate of Armenia. Nor can the Eastern Churches preserve communion and unity of faith with Us without being subject to the Apostolic power in matters of discipline. Teaching of this kind is heretical, and not just since the definition of the power and nature of the papal primacy was determined by the ecumenical Vatican Council: the Catholic Church has always considered it such and abhorred it. Thus the bishops at the ecumenical Council of Chalcedon clearly declared the supreme authority of the Apostolic See in their proceedings; then they humbly requested from Our predecessor St. Leo confirmation and support for their decrees, even those which concerned discipline.
14. Indeed, "the successor of blessed Peter, by the very fact that he is such, has been assigned the whole flock of Christ, so that together with his bishopric he receives the power of universal rule. Then the other bishops must be assigned their portions of the flock so that they can rule over their flock."(27) If the supreme authority of this assignment to blessed Peter and his successors is rejected, the very foundations and prerogatives of the patriarchal churches in particular would be shaken. "Even if Christ willed that Peter and the other leaders have something in common, the other leaders have this only through Peter."(28) "And in fact Peter himself honored the See (of Alexandria) when he sent his disciple, the evangelist: he strengthened the See (of Antioch) which he occupied for seven years, even though he was going to leave it."(29) And both Anatolius,(30) Bishop of Constantinople, and Marcian,(31) the emperor, openly acknowledged that the approval and confirmation of the Apostolic See was altogether necessary to the decrees of the Council of Chalcedon concerning the see of Constantinople.
15. Accordingly, then, unless they abandon the unchanging and unbroken tradition of the Church which is so clearly confirmed by testimonies of the Fathers, the neo-schismatics can in no way convince themselves that they are Catholics even if they declare themselves such. If We did not thoroughly know the clever and subtle deceits of heretics, it would be incomprehensible that the Ottoman regime still regards as Catholics people it knows to be cut off from the Catholic Church by Our judgment and authority. For if the Catholic religion is to continue safe and free in the Ottoman dominion as the Emperor has decreed, then the essence of this religion should also be allowed, for instance the primacy of jurisdiction of the Roman Pontiff. Most men f