PROVIDENCE — The Diocese of Providence marked the 150th anniversary of Pope Pius IX’s signing of the decree, which founded the new diocese and delineated its boundaries, during the noon Mass at the Cathedral of SS. Peter and Paul on Wednesday, Feb. 16.
Bishop Thomas J. Tobin served as principal celebrant and homilist for the Mass, which was concelebrated by Auxiliary Bishop Robert C. Evans, Vicar General and Moderator of the Curia Msgr. Albert A. Kenney, Chancellor Timothy D. Reilly, Cathedral Rector Msgr. Anthony Mancini and about a dozen priests from across the diocese.
The procession into the sanctuary passed an elaborately framed, archival quality copy of the papal bull with the signature of Pope Pius IX, who erected the Diocese of Providence on Feb. 16, 1872. An English translation of the Latin text contained in the bull flanked the document in the frame. To the side was a painted portrait of Pope Pius IX, also known as Pio Nono.
“It was on this very day, 150 years ago, that Pope Pius IX signed the decree which established the Diocese of Providence. This is our birthday, this is our anniversary,” Bishop Tobin said in his homily.
The bishop spoke of the lasting impact the events of that day at the Vatican, 150 years ago, continues to touch all of our lives today in one way or another.
“We know that the signing of the decree itself was a very official canonical action, as it established this local church. More than that, it seems to me, when Pope Pius signed the decree what he really did was to give birth to a new family, to a family with faith, a family with faith that continues to do the work of God even to this day.”
The papal bull was on display for the second time during the celebration of the anniversary year, with many faithful stopping by the framed historic document to take photos after the Mass.
When the copy of the bull was received from the Vatican archives last year, the task of translating it from Latin to English was given to Father Albert P. Marcello III, J.C.D. (Cand.), who serves as a canon lawyer on the diocesan Marriage Tribunal.
“I was very happy to do it,” Father Marcello said. “I’ve done other Latin translation work and I’m always happy to put my Latin training to use.”
He credits his strong foundation in Latin at Providence College during his priestly formation, before pursuing his licentiate in Canon Law, from the Catholic University of Leuven in Belgium, where he is currently a candidate for a doctorate in the subject.
Father Marcello was given a PDF of the document and a Latin transcription to begin with.
“Sometimes 19th century handwriting is not the easiest to read,” he joked, while noting how powerful and fulfilling the occasion of working with the pope’s very words was for him, given Pope Pius IX’s standing within the Church.
“It was very humbling to read and translate it, especially since he’s a blessed of the church,” Father Marcello said.
While much of the language that’s used in the papal bull is very common standard legal terminology used in papal documents that come out of Rome, he said he always finds it amusing when Latin canonical documents refer to local city and town names.
“For instance, the counties in Massachusetts were written as is, but New York is written ‘Novum Emboracum’ (referring to the city of York in England, which was a Roman town). So I always find Latin place names very interesting, Father Marcello said.
His advice to the faithful is to take any opportunity that may be available as the anniversary celebration draws to a close in the coming months to view the document.
“By all means make an effort to see it,” he said.
Due to uncertainties around the weather at this time of year, it was decided at the opening of the nine-month celebration of the sesquicentennial of the diocese that the largest and most grand recognition of the historic occasion for the whole diocese would come at the end, when a solemn Mass will be celebrated at the cathedral on June 26 to which all of the New England bishops and the papal nuncio have been invited.
Most of those in attendance for the weekday Mass were diocesan employees, and during a luncheon for members of the diocesan family held in the cathedral hall after the Mass, the bishop took the opportunity to thank all those gathered who give of their time and talent in service to the Church.
“Saint Paul talks about the Body of Christ having many members and people share their various gifts with one another, and that’s how the Body of Christ grows in strength and quantity and quality — by everyone sharing their gifts with one another for the sake of Christ and for the sake of the whole Church. And that’s exactly what you do in your service to the church,” Bishop Tobin said.
“Regardless of what particular office or department you’re in you do the work of the Lord and you share your gifts and your talents and your energy so well and you are making the Diocese of Providence the very special and blessed place that it is today,” he added, expressing his gratitude to the staff.
Wednesday, March 23 at 7 p.m., famed author and columnist George Weigel will present “The Catholic Moment: The Church in the United States and the Redemption of American Democracy,” at Our Lady of Mercy Church.
Thursday, April 21 from 7-9 p.m., the Hillbilly Thomists, a band composed of Dominican friars, will perform a concert of bluegrass standards outdoors on the Providence College lawn.
Sunday, May 15 at 5 p.m., New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan will speak at the Cathedral of SS. Peter and Paul.
Saturday, May 21 from noon to 5 p.m., the Catholic School Arts Festival will be held.
Sunday, June 26 at 1 p.m., Closing Mass at the Cathedral of SS. Peter and Paul.