One of the things I like to do when I am at Saints John and Paul is spend some time at the Passionist General Archives, located above the Chapter Hall where I have spent the last three weeks. Today I took some pictures for those who have never been there. The archives hold many original letters of Saint Paul of the Cross (all of which have been published both in Italian and in English); there are also some interesting collections of letters written to Paul, such as the letters of Cardinal Marcello Crescenzi (below), who was one of Paul’s first friends in Rome when a young monsignor; some of these were written from Paris where Crescenzi later worked as Nuncio.
Also in the archives are various papal documents, probably the most important being the Bull Supremi Apostolatus of Pope Clement XIV (1769) by which we were recognised as a Congregation with the privilege of exemption and all the other privileges of the older orders. This was the first time this had been done for a Congregation of simple vows (as opposed to an Order of Solemn Vows), and all congregations which enjoy these privileges today do so in virtue of Supremi Apostolatus. Here is the original document.
The Bull was Pope Clement XIV’s solution to a deadlock which had existed in the time of his predecessor, Clement XIII. Saint Paul of the Cross wanted the Passionists to have the stability and freedom of an Order so he requested solemn vows; the commission which examined the question would only approve our taking solemn vows if the rule were altered to make the life less austere, particularly in relation to poverty. Paul would not do this, so reluctantly he had to see us remain a congregation with simple vows, which in those days did not carry the same notion of permanence. With the help of Monsignor (later Cardinal) Francesco Saverio de Zelada, the new Pope (-Clement XIV was elected in 1769) resolved the difficulty by giving Paul the privileges he sought (principally that of having his own subjects ordained with greater ease) while in the same Bull recognising the Passionists as a Congregation of Pontifical Right, giving rise to the saying that the Passionists were not a new religious order, but rather a new order of religious. The word “Bull” is from the Latin Bulla, referring to the seal attached to the document; here is the lead Bulla of Pope Clement XIV.
This picture shows the main reading room in the General Archives.
This section holds books on Passionist history and spirituality.
Among the items seen here are bound manuscripts of the Annals of the Passionist Congregation, begun by Father Giammaria Cioni, who was the confessor of Saint Paul of the Cross, some early biographies of Saint Paul of the Cross, and Mass registers signed by him.
My last photograph from the archives shows some of the manuscripts of Blessed Dominic Barberi. Blessed Dominic taught theology in Rome for a number of years, before coming to England. His writings cover many different areas of theology. Unfortunately, hardly any of these have been published in English. The photograph shows about a quarter of the collection of theological works, in his own very-difficult-to-decipher handwriting. Here in Italy, a number of doctoral theses have been written on his works, including one on his Mariology and another on his Ecumenical Spirituality. A member of the community here has just begun work on a doctoral thesis on Blessed Dominic’s Moral Theology.