Being the sixth, and last under the Sovereign Pontiff, Julius III., celebrated on the twenty-eighth day of April, MDLII.
DECREE FOR THE SUSPENSION OF THE COUNCIL
The sacred and holy, oecumenical and general Synod of Trent, lawfully assembled in the Holy Ghost, the most reverend lords, Sebastian, Archbishop of Siponto, and Aloysius, Bishop of Verona, Apostolic Nuncios, presiding therein, as well in their own names as in that of the most reverend and illustrious lord, the Legate Marcellsu Crescenzio, Cardinal of the holy Roman Church, of the title of Saint Marcellus, who is absent by reason of a most grievous illness,–doubts not that it is well known to all Christians, that this ocecumenical Council of Trent was first convoked and assembled by Paul, of happy memory, and was afterwards, at the instance of the most august Emperor, Charles V., restored by our most holy lord, Julius III., for this cause especially, that It might bring back to its pristine state, religion which was miserably divided into diverse opinions in many parts of the world, and especially in Germany; and might amend the abuses and the most corrupt manners of Christians ; and whereas very many Fathers, without any regard to their personal labours and dangers, had for this end cheerfully assembled together from different countries, and the business was proceeded with earnestly and happily, in the midst of a great concurse of the faithful, and there was no slight hope that those Germans who had excited these novelties would come to the Council, and that so disposed as to acquiesce unanimously in the truthful reasons of the Church; when a kind of light, in fine, seemed to have dawned upon things; and the Christian commonwealth, before so cast-down and afflicted, began to lift up its head; of a sudden such tumults and wars were enkindled [Page 127] by the craft of the enemy of mankind, that the Synod was at much inconvenience compelled as it were to pause, and to interrupt its course, and all hope was taken away of further progress at that time; and so far was the holy Synod from remedying the evils and troubles existing amongst Christians, that, contrary to its intention, It irritated rather than calmed the minds of many. Whereas, therefore, the said holy Synod perceived that all places, and especially Germany, were in a flame with arms and discord; that almost all the German bishops, and in particular the Electoral Princes, had withdrawn from the Council, in order to provide for their own churches ; It resolved, not to struggle against so pressing a necessity, but to be silent till better times ; that so the Fathers, who could not now act, might return to their own churches to take care of their own sheep, and no longer wear away their time in unemployment, useless in both regards. And accordingly, for that the state of the times has so required, It decrees that the progress of this ocecumenial Synod of Trent shall be suspended during two years, as It doth suspend it by this present decree; with this condition however, that if things be settled sooner, and the former tranquillity restored, which It hopes will happen be fore long through the blessing of the all good and all powerful God, the progress of the Council shall be considered (as resumed, and) to have its full force, power and authority. But if, which may God forefend, the lawful impediments aforesaid shall not have been removed at the expiration of the two years, the said suspension shall, as soon as those impediments shall have ceased, be thereupon accounted removed, and the Council shall be, and be understood to be, restored to its full force and authority, without another fresh convocation thereof, the consent and authority of his Iloliness, and of the holy Aposotlic See, having been given to this decree. Meanwhile, however, this holy Synod exhorts all Christian princes, and all prelates, to observe, and respectively to cause to be observed, as far as they are concerned, in their own kingdoms, dominions, and churches, all and singular the things which have been hitherto ordained and decreed by this sacred oecumenical Council.
Paul, Bishop, servant of the servants of God, for the perpeual memory hereof.
Immediately on being called, by the alone mercy of God, to the Government of the Church, though unequal to so great a burthen, casting the eyes of our mind over every part of the Christian commonweal, and beholding, not without great horror, how far and wide the pestilence of heresy and schism had penetrated, and how much the morals of the Christian people stood in need of correction; we began, as the duty of our office required, to apply our care and thoughts to the means of extirpating the said heresies, of doing away with so great and so pernicious a schism, and of amending morals so much corrupted and depraved. And whereas we were sensible that, for the healing of these evils, that remedy was the most suitable which this Holy See had been accustomed to apply, we formed the resolution of convoking, and, with God’s help, of celebrating an ocecumenical and general Council. That Council had indeed been already indicted by our predecessors, Paul III., of happy memory, and by Julius, his successor; but, having been often hindered and interrupted from various causes, It could not be brought to a conclusion. For Paul, after having indicted it first for the city of Mantua, then for Vicenza, he, for certain reasons expressed in his letters, first of all suspended, and afterwards transferred it to Trent. Then, after that the time of Its celebration had been, for certain reasons, then also postponed, at length, the suspension having been removed, It was begun, in the said city of Trent But, after a few Sessions had been held, and certain decrees made, the said Council afterwards, for certain reasons, with the concurrence also of the Apostolic See, transferred Itself to Bologna. But Julius, who succeeded him, recalled it to the same city of Trent, at which time certain other decrees were made. But as fresh tumults were raised in the neighbouring parts of Germany, and a most fierce war was enkindled in Italy and France, the Council was again suspended [Page 129] and postponed; the enemy of mankind, to wit, striving, and throwing difficulties upon difficulties and hindrances in the way, to retard at least as long as possible, though unable entirely to prevent, a thing so advantageous to the Church. But how greatly, meanwhile, the heresies were increased and multiplied, and propagated, how widely schism spread, we can neither think of, nor tell without the greatest sorrow of mind. But at length the Lord, good and merciful, who is never so angry as not to remember mercy, vouchsafed to grant peace and unanimity to Christian kings and princes. Which opportunity being offered us, we have, relying on His mercy conceived the strongest hope that, by the said means of a Council, an end may be put to these so grievous evils of the Church. We, therefore, have judged that the celebration thereof is no longer to be deferred; to the end that schisms and heresies may be taken away; that morals may be corrected and reformed; that peace may be pre-served amongst Christian princes. Wherefore, upon mature deliberation had with our venerable brethren the Cardinals of the holy Roman Church, and having also acquainted with this our purpose our most dearly beloved sons in Christ, Ferdinand, Emperor elect of the Romans, and other kings and princes whom,–even as we had promised ourselves from their exceeding piety and wisdom,–we found very ready to aid in the celebration of the said Council: We,–to the praise, honour, and glory of Almighty God, and for the good of the Universal Church, and relying on and supported by the authority of God Himself, and of the Blessed Apostles Peter and Paul, which (authority) we also exercise on earth,-indict a sacred oecumenical and general Council in the city of Trent for the next ensuing most sacred day of the Lord’s Resurrection; and We ordain and appoint, that, all suspension soever removed, It be there celebrated. Wherefore, We do earnestly exhort and admonish in the Lord, and we do also strictly charge and command,–by virtue of holy obedience, and by the obligation of the oath which they have taken, and under the penalties which [Page 130] they know are appointed by the sacred canons against those who neglect to assemble at general Councils,–our venerable brethren of all nations, patriarchs, archbishops, bishops, and our beloved sons the abbots, and others who, by common law, or by privilege, or ancient custom, are allowed to sit, and give their opinion in a general Council, to meet, by the aforesaid day, there to celebrate a Council; unless they happen to be hindered by a lawful impediment, which impediment nevertheless they shall be bound to prove to the Synod by lawful proctors. We furthermore admonish all and each, whom it doth and may concern, that they fail not to be present at the Council. And we exhort and beseech our most dearly beloved sons in Christ, the Emperor elect of the Romans, and the other Christian kings and princes,–who it were sincerely to be wished could be present at the Council,–that, should they not be able to be themselves present thereat, they would send at least prudent, grave, and pious men as their ambassadors, to be present thereat in their name; and that they take diligent care, worthy of their piety, that the prelates of their kingdoms and dominions perform, without denial or delay, their duty to God and the Church at this so urgent a conjuncture: doubting not they will also provide that there be kept a safe and free passage through their kingdoms and dominions for the prelates and their domestics, attendants, and all others who are proceeding to or returning from the Council, and that they be treated and received in all places kindly and courteously; as we also will similarly provide as far as we are concerned, who have resolved not to omit anything that can by us, who have been placed in this position, be done towards the completion of so pious and salutary a work; seeking, as God knows, nothing else, proposing nothing else, in celebrating this Council, but the honour of God, the recovery and the salvation of the sheep that are scattered, and the perpetual tranquillity and repose of the Christian commonweal. And to the end that this letter, and the contents thereof may come to the knowledge of all whom it concerns, and that none may plead as an excuse that he knew not thereof, especially as there may not, perhaps, be free access to all, who ought to be made acquainted with this our letter: We will [Page 131] and ordain that, in the Vatican Basilica of the prince of the apostles, and in the Lateran Church, at the time when the people is wont to assemble there to be present at the solemnities of the mass, it be publicly read in a loud voice by officers of our court, or by certain public notaries; and that it be, after being read, affixed to the doors of the said churches, also to the gates of the apostolic Chancery, and to the usual place in the Campo di Fiore, where it shall for some time be left to be read by and made known to all men: and when removed thence, copies thereof shall remain affixed in those same places. For we will that, by being so read, published, and affixed, this letter shall oblige and bind, after an interval of two months from the day of being published and affixed, all and each of those whom it includes, even as if it had been communicated and read to them in person. And we ordain and decree, that, without any doubt, faith be given to copies thereof written, or subscribed, by the hand of a public notary, and guaranteed by the seal of some person constituted in ecclesiastical dignity. Wherefore, let no one infringe this our letter of indiction, statute, decree, precept, admonition and exhortation, or with rash daring go contrary thereunto. But if any one shall presume to attempt this, let him know that he will incur the indignation of Almighty God, and of His Blessed Apostles, Peter and Paul. Given at Rome, at Saint Peter’s, in the year MDLX of the Lord’s Incarnation, on the third of the calends of December, in the first year of our Pontificate.
ANTONIUS FLORIBELLUS LAVELLINUS.