The seventy-fifth anniversary of the Pius Brazilian
by Pina Baglioni
“A painful day... the mystic Pius-Latin, that is the spiritual union in a single and unique college in the city of Rome, began to disintegrate”. With these sad words some people greeted 3 April 1934, date of the foundation of the Pius Brazilian Pontifical College. That day, in fact, the umbilical cord was cut with the mother house, the Pius Latin-American Pontifical College, founded in Rome in 1858 by Pius IX to train Latin-American seminarians for the priesthood.
Cardinal Gaetano Bisleti laying the foundation stone – blessed by Pius XI – of the Pius Brazilian, 27 October 1929 [© Pius Brazilian Pontifical College]
Seventy-six years later various cardinals and bishops in Brazil, in complete harmony with Pope Pius XI and the Jesuit Superior General, Father Vladimir Ledóchowski, had worked tirelessly to obtain a College intended only for seminarians who came from Brazil. Somewhat because of the language, Portuguese, but especially because of the large number of students who were pressing to come to Rome. The idea had originated much earlier. Perhaps from the election on 11 December 1905 of the Brazilian Joaquim Arcoverde de Albuquerque Cavalcanti, a former alumnus of the Pius Latin and the first Latin-American priest to become cardinal. After him, two other Brazilians received the cardinals’ hat: Sebastiano Leme da Silveira Cintra and Alfredo Vicente Scherer, also alumni of the Pius Latin. In short, the time had come to acknowledge the merits of the Brazilian Church.
In the bright college entrance, where the eye is immediately caught by the large mosaic depicting Nossa Senhora Aparecida, patroness of Brazil, two small busts commemorate the champions of emancipation from the Pius Latin: Cardinal Sebastiano Leme and Cardinal Benedetto Aloisi Masella, an Italian, then apostolic nuncio to Brazil. The agreement between the two stirred the entire Brazilian episcopate which, at Christmas 1927, sent the clergy and Catholics of Brazil a collective pastoral letter appealing to people’s generosity so that the longed-for College might finally be built.
The site chosen was Villa Maffei, an immense spread of Mediterranean maquis on the Via Aurelia, which is no distance from the Vatican. Owned by Pope Pius IX, the area on the left had been used since 1859 to accommodate the students of the Pius Latin for weekends. The Brazilian had the area on the right: five thousand square meters, where, on 27 October 1929, Cardinal Gaetano Bisleti laid the foundation stone, previously blessed by Pope Pius XI, in the presence of the Primate of Brazil, Archbishop Augusto Álvaro da Silva, and all the students of the Pius Latin.
On that occasion the patron of the future College was also chosen: the Sacred Heart of Jesus, devotion to which was very popular in Brazil thanks to the Jesuit priest Bartolomeo Taddei, active in the mission of the Roman province in Brazil at the end of the nineteenth century.
The enormous College, able to accommodate between one hundred and one hundred and thirty students, was inaugurated on the day after the closing of the Holy Door by Pius XI as a concluding act of the Holy Year of Redemption. On the day before the Pius Latin community and the 34 Brazilians – 29 seminarians and 5 priests – who were about to leave, paused, for the last time all together, in front of the statue of the Madonna at the entrance of the Pius Latin, to sing the Salve Regina that she might protect both those who were remaining and those who were leaving.
The following day, the fateful 3 April, after the mass and the act of consecration to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, the Oremus pro Pontifice was intoned and then the document sent by the Secretary of State, Eugenio Pacelli, to Cardinal Bisleti in which the best wishes of Pope Pius XI were conveyed and the granting of the title “Pius” to the new entity was read out. In the midst of cardinals, bishops, ambassadors, ordinary priests and Brazilian pilgrims, there was also that day, among the guests, a simple priest called Don Luigi Orione, founder of the Little Work of Divine Providence.