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Longest reigning pope (after St. Peter) might soon be canonized

POPE PIUS IX
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Pius IX proclaimed the dogma of the Immaculate Conception.

The canonization process for Blessed Pope Pius IX (1846-1878) is accelerating, said his postulator, Bishop Carlo Liberati, in Vatican News. Bishop Liberati added that the Holy See could proceed soon to an examination of the pope’s body.

Beatified in 2000 by Pope John Paul II at the same time as John XXIII, Giovanni Maria Mastai Ferretti — Pius IX — will be exhumed as part of the regular process of canonization causes. The exhumation will probably take place before the summer, Bishop Liberati said, because “the process of canonization is moving along.” 

This “recognition of the body” consists in observing its state of decomposition. A well-preserved body could help move the pontiff’s cause further along. 

Longest pontificate in history

Pope Pius IX (1792-1878) died 140 years ago, at the end of the longest pontificate in the history of the Church with the exception of St. Peter: 32 years.

(Peter was likely martyred in the year 64 or 67, meaning his pontificate lasted 34 or 37 years. John Paul II, with 26 years on Peter’s Throne, is the third longest-reigning pope.)

Reigning at the definition of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception, in 1854, and during the rise of devotion to the Sacred Heart, Pius IX, as the 255th pope, was also the last sovereign of the Papal States, which disappeared in 1870 — except for the tiny Vatican State, established in 1929.

His pontificate, inaugurated in 1846, was also the occasion of a new missionary impulse, recalled Bishop Liberati: 133 episcopal seats and 50 apostolic vicariates were created as mission territories.

Pius IX also convened the First Vatican Council, which defined papal infallibility.

Pius IX is also known for his condemnation of 80 modern errors in the Syllabus, in 1864, which rejects rationalism, socialism, and also the idea that all religions are equal. According to Bishop Liberati, Freemasons opposed his canonization because the pontiff had also condemned the participation of Catholics in Masonic lodges, with the apostolic exhortation Multiplices Inter in 1865.

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