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Pius IX

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Definition:   The controversial pope who held the longest papal reign – over 31 years from 1846 to 1878. During his tumultuous term as Holy Father he declared Mary the co-mediatrix of salvation, achieved recognition of papal infallibility, and officially condemned both freedom of religion and the separation of Church and state. He also lost the Papal States to a united Italy (see Donation of Constantine). Infamously, he kidnapped a six year old Jewish boy who had been baptized by a Catholic servant of the family (see ex opere operato). Despite worldwide outrage, the pope raised the “now-Catholic” child in the Vatican. His parents were permitted to visit him, but he was never released and eventually entered the priesthood.

Discussion: John Paul II beatified Pius IX in 2000, the next-to-last step to sainthood. [I can only speculate that the Church does not yet have a patron saint for kidnappers]. His body was exhumed and found to be remarkably intact – an alleged sign of holiness.  The corpse, dressed in regal attire and wearing a silver mask, can be viewed and venerated at the Vatican.

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