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Pius IX

Pope / Religious Figure

Born: 13 May 1792
Died: 7 February 1878
Birthplace: Sinigaglia, Italy
Best known as: The longest reigning pope ever

Name at birth: Giovanni Maria Mastai-Ferretti

One of the most influential popes in the history of the Catholic church, Pius IX is remembered chiefly as the pontiff who advocated the concept of papal infallibility and proclaimed the dogma of Immaculate Conception. Pius IX was a compromise choice for the papacy in 1846, when Europe was undergoing social and political reform in the form of liberal democracy. Early on he was considered a liberal choice, a popular pope who made concessions to political reformers. In 1848 a mob riot drove him from Rome to Gaeta, where he was forced to stay until the French restored him to the Vatican in 1850. As the church lost temporal power, Pius IX became more reactionary. His 32 years as pope is still the record, and through his popularity and interest in Latin America (he had been a priest in Chile) the church spread and became more organized, in spite of the increased separation of church and state. By the 1860s the church had lost temporal power in all but a few territories and he shut himself off in the Vatican. In 1854 he issued the Bull Ineffabilis and defined Mary, the mother of Jesus, as "exempt from all stain of original sin" from the "first moment" of her conception. The notion of Immaculate Conception had been around for a long time (especially advocated by John Duns Scotus in the late 13th century), but Pius IX made it formal dogma. His other famous works include 1864's Syllabus of Errors, an 80-point attack on modernity, and the Vatican Council (1869-70) that promulgated the idea of papal infallibility. In modern times Pius IX has been accused of anti-Semitism, based on his policies toward Roman Jews. He was beatified in 2000 by Pope John Paul II.

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