What was the origin of Eugene’s understanding of and relationship with the Pope?

When Eugene arrived in Paris in 1808 to prepare himself to become a priest he was plunged into the world of conflict between Napoleon and the Church and Pope. Napoleon had occupied Rome, and the following year arrested Pope Pius VII and imprisoned him in Savona. He also brought the Cardinals of the curia from Rome to Paris. The Seminary of St Sulpice was one of the secret centers of helping them in their opposition to Napoleon, and because he was fluent in Italian, Eugene served the cardinals in Paris in many ways, particularly as a conduit to translate and pass them information. ( See http://www.eugenedemazenod.net/?p=2278) Years later he recalled:

While only a deacon and then as a young priest, I had the privilege, despite the most active surveillance of a suspicious police force, of devoting myself to the daily reports connected with the service of the Roman cardinals, who at that time had been brought to Paris and shortly after persecuted because of their loyalty to the Holy See. The good fortune of being useful to these illustrious exiles and of being increasingly inspired by their spirit more than compensated me for the danger to which I was continually exposed.

Letter to Cardinal Gousset, 21 July 1852, quoted by Rey, II, 423.

In June 1812, the ailing Pope endured a cruel and painful journey over the Alps to Paris, where he was only to be released in 1814, ending six years of confinement. Eugene experienced, first-hand, all this persecution of the Church and was thus molded into a lifetime of being a fierce fighter for the Church and its leader.

Through the eyes of the Crucified Savior, he looked at the sufferings of the Pope, and wrote:

Thus it is that the disciple is not above his master (Luke 6:40) and that the Vicar of the Divine Savior portrays the one he represents.

Pastoral Letter, June 9, 1846

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“A church that suffers no persecution but enjoys the privileges and support of the things of the earth – beware! – is not the true church of Jesus Christ.”    Blessed Oscar Romero


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  1. Eleanor Rabnett, Oblate Associate says:

    When I come here these mornings whose eyes I do I look through? It is through my own – limited and bound by my own woundedness and frailties? Or can it be through the eyes of our Crucified Saviour? Have I allowed a part of myself to be lulled into thinking I can do it on my own? I silently remind myself that again I must let go, surrender.

    If I am not careful I may find myself not only struggling with the Pope but perhaps the bishops, and then the priests, then with the person sitting next to me – small steps to lead me down a an ill-chosen path. Every bit as dangerous as taking that first drink.

    I must always be on guard and so am incredibly grateful that places such as this are here for people such as myself to come to and be taught and retaught, reminded… I think for a moment of Eugene and thought enters of the ways in which he was reminded by Tempier and others especially towards the very end of his “Icosia Affair”.
    I think of Peter and how very human he was and how Jesus appointed him to lead the others. Not his most beloved disciple but Peter who had denied him three times.

    I do love my church in spite of any and all imperfections as I see them with my limited vision. And I who could not say the same thing of me. A decision made – again – to let go, to surrender my small self and look through the eyes of Christ our crucified Saviour -only then is communion possible for me.

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