Concordat of 1801

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The Concordat of 1801 was an agreement between the Pope and Napoleon Bonaparte in 1801 that restored the Catholic Church in France after its suppression during the French Revolution. It did not restore the vast church properties, but it normalized relations for 100 years, until laws of 1905 passed by anti-Catholic elements.

Working with his talented secretary of state, Ercole Cardinal Consalvi, Pope Pius VII accepted the initiative of Napoleon Bonaparte, ruler of France, and signed the Concordat of 1801.

The French Government recognized the Catholic religion as the religion of the great majority of Frenchmen. However it was no longer as in former times, the official "religion of the State".

It gave the French government the right to nominate bishops (long a demand of Gallicanism). The bishops were to appoint as parish priests such persons only as were acceptable to the government and who swore an oath of allegiance to the French government. The government paid Church salaries and the upkeep of churches and seminaries. It reorganized the system of bishoprics and parishes throughout France. The Pope renounced claims for the vast lands and properties owned by the Church and seized during the French Revolution. Pius called upon French bishops in exile to resign. Thirty-six refused but the resulting schism was of short duration. At the time of the publication of the Concordat (1802) Napoleon published 77 Organic Articles of strong Gallican tendencies which for the most part remained in force along with with the Concordat until 1905.

The Concordat restored Catholicism and ended the schismatic "Constitutional Church."

But without consulting the Pope, Napoleon issued the "Organic Articles", which were laws regulating the conduct of religion in France. No papal messages or legates could enter France without express consent from the government. Neither could the decrees of an ecumenical council be published in France until the government gave its consent. The Organic Articles also regulated the manner of worship, such as those dealing with the ringing of church bells and with clerical attire. Finally, they required that the Four Gallican Articles of 1682 be taught in all French seminaries.

Further reading

  • Goyau, Georges. "The French Concordat of 1801." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 4. (1908) online edition
  • Margaret M. O'Dwyer. Papacy in the Age of Napoleon and the Restoration: Pius VII, 1800-23 (1986)
  • Weber, Nicholas. "Pope Pius VII." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 12. (1911). online edition
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