Optime Noscitis

Author: Pius IX | Source:

Optime Noscitis

On The Proposed Catholic University Of Ireland

Encyclical Of Pope Pius IX

March 20, 1854

To the Venerable Brothers, the Archbishops and Bishops of Ireland.

Venerable Brothers, Greetings and Apostolic Benediction.

You know very well how great Our joy and consolation was when We first learned that in your devotion, you willingly followed Our advice and that of the Holy See. In the Synod of Thurles, held in 1850, you decided, among other things, to establish a Catholic university as soon as possible. There the youth of your illustrious nation could be shaped in piety and every virtue and educated in letters and in the more difficult disciplines free from any danger to their faith. You also remember clearly how We approved both the acts of that synod and the establishment of this university in Our apostolic letter published on March 23, 1852. Then in Our encyclical letter of March 25, 1852, which We sent to you, We gave thanks regarding this plan for the advancement of religion and knowledge. We also gave well-deserved praise to those faithful people who had already contributed substantial aid in support of that Catholic university in Ireland.

2. As We greatly desired to see this Catholic lyceum or university founded quickly in Ireland, We recommended in Our apostolic letter to Paul, who was then Archbishop of Armagh, that the office of Apostolic Delegate be prolonged. By this office he could see to it that the decrees of the Synod of Thurles were diligently observed and especially that the establishment of the Catholic university which that synod approved and which We confirmed was brought quickly to the desired result. Therefore, when that venerable brother was transferred to govern the archiepiscopal church of Dublin, it seemed appropriate to Us that he should continue in the office of Apostolic Delegate in the same manner as We set forth in Our apostolic letter of May 3, 1852. We thought for certain, that you would put your hand to the task without delay and that you would apply all of your understanding and enthusiasm toward the speedy founding of this university. We trust that great benefits will flow from it to the faithful.

3. Thus, it was with great annoyance that We learned that this Catholic university, which We and all good people desire, has not yet been founded, although you already have all the necessary materials to build it. Therefore, we write this letter to you and implore you to put aside all hesitation and to direct all your thoughts and attention with redoubled efforts toward its construction. With the goal of accomplishing this pious and salutary work more quickly, We command all of you to hold a meeting within a period of three months after you receive this letter with Paul, the Archbishop of Dublin. We name him as Apostolic Delegate; he will preside over this meeting. You will meet there and convene according to the rule of the sacred canons. After your plans have been discussed again without public celebration and you are all of one mind, may you arrange everything which pertains to the quick building and opening of the university.

4. It will be your episcopal concern in this meeting to adopt appropriate plans so that this university may live up to the sanctity and dignity of the Catholic name with which it is adorned. Therefore, see to it that divine religion is regarded as the soul of the entire institution of learning. For that purpose encourage the fear of God and His worship so that the sacred trust of faith may be preserved and all studies may proceed, joined in a close bond with religion. Thus may the shimmering rays of Catholic doctrine illuminate all kinds of intellectual pursuits. Decorous language should be firmly maintained so that whatever is Catholic, whatever proceeds from this See of Saint Peter, the safe harbor of the whole Catholic communion[1] and the mother and teacher[2] of all churches, may be welcomed and believed. May whatever is against it be rejected, so that every error and profane novelty may be repelled and eliminated. The professors of this university should show themselves to be models of good works in doctrine, in purity, and in seriousness. Their primary concern should be shaping the minds of the youth to piety, decency, and every virtue; instructing them in the finest matters; and educating them carefully in letters and studies according to the teachings of the Catholic Church, which is the pillar and chief support of truth.

5. As We know that you have already chosen Our beloved son, Father John Henry Newman, to govern that university, We want to approve your choice that this priest, blessed with such wonderful gifts of mind and soul and endowed with piety, sound doctrine, and zeal for the Catholic religion, assume the care and governance of this university and preside over it as Rector.

6. We certainly do not doubt that in this same meeting, you will take care to establish by consensus other things which might increase the glory of God in your dioceses, promote the discipline and sanctity of the clergy, and foster the piety and devotion of the people. In addition, you know very well that it is entirely necessary, especially in these harsh times, for the shepherds of the Church to apply untiring care, attention, diligence, and effort toward fulfilling every aspect of the episcopal duty. Therefore do not neglect in that same meeting to make plans by which you, fulfilling your ministry, may preserve the purity of our holy faith in those areas, promote worship, and encourage the proper education and sanctity of the clergy. May these plans enable you to educate the faithful entrusted to you in the commandments of holy religion, to strengthen them through the gifts of heavenly graces, to keep them away from poisoned pastures, and to guide them to good ones. Lead back to the one fold of Christ the unfortunates who stray from it. Destroy the snares, the deceptions, and the errors of our enemies and break their force.

7. Because you are aware of what bountiful fruits holy Missions bring to the Christian people with the help of heavenly grace, you should not neglect to form a company of priests, both secular and regular. This will ensure that you have a ready supply of energetic and industrious workers who, adorned with every virtue and handling the word of truth rightly, can exercise the salutary ministry of the holy Missions beneficially in your dioceses.

8. Now We must stress again with great fervor that you should commit all your efforts and authority to seeing that everyone devoutly obeys the decrees of the Synod of Thurles which We approved and confirmed. They should zealously accomplish all that was ratified in those decrees. In order to more easily accomplish this, promulgate the decrees of the Synod of Thurles more solemnly. Command their observance in both provincial and diocesan synods which, as you know, you should convene according to the rules of the Council of Trent.

9. Moreover, considering on this serious occasion the circumstances and affairs in each diocese and province, do not cease to extend your episcopal fervor so that you may strengthen what is weak, heal what is sick, bind up what is broken, bring back what is discarded, and seek what is lost. Thus by the strength which God supplies, may He be glorified in everything through Jesus Christ Our Lord.[3] Your supreme desire should be to visit the tombs of the apostles Peter and Paul at times specified according to the Apostolic Constitutions and to explain to Us the cares, the condition, and the affairs of your dioceses so that you might receive help to perform your office with eagerness and zeal.

10. We are convinced that because of your eminent devotion and singular piety, love, and obedience toward Us and this Apostolic See, you will accomplish these desires, warnings, requests, and orders of Ours. These requests clearly show how concerned We are for the spiritual well-being and prosperity of your country. Meanwhile, We humbly ask God who is rich in mercy to be with you at all times in the abundance of His divine grace. May He bless you and your pastoral cares and works so that the faithful entrusted to you might daily walk more worthily before God, pleasing Him in everything and bearing fruit in every good work. As a pledge of these things and as a sign of Our paternal affection for you, We lovingly impart Our apostolic blessing to you and to all the clergy and faithful of your churches.

Given in Rome at St. Peter's on the 20th day of March in the year 1854, the eighth year of Our pontificate.

1. St. Jerome, epistle 16.
2. Council of Trent, session 7 on Baptism, canon 3.
3. I Pt 4.11.

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