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Throwback Thursday: Cincinnati an archdiocese for 165 years

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From the Oct. 12, 1850 edition of The Catholic Telegraph and Advocate. (Archdiocese of Cincinnati Archives)
From the Oct. 12, 1850 edition of The Catholic Telegraph and Advocate. (Archdiocese of Cincinnati Archives)

Staff Report

Catholic Journalism in the 1800s was a different thing. If a diocese became an archdiocese in the U.S. today, it’d probably make the front page as soon as word reached the editor.

The situation played out differently in 1850. On July 19, 1850, Pope Pius IX elevated the diocese of Cincinnati to the status of archdiocese. This Sunday will mark 165 years since the elevation.

The information didn’t appear in The Catholic Telegraph and Advocate until the Oct. 12 edition of that year. Even then, it’s on page four, and the headline and first sentence fail to mention the local connection.

Today that’s called “burying the lead” in journalistic lingo.

Under the header, “Organization of the Church in the United States,” the article likely author Father Edward Purcell wrote;

“We believe that all the expected documents from the Holy See have at length arrived. The Most Rev. Archbishop Eccleston is, doubtless, and to the heartfelt joy of every member of our holy church in this country, raised to the dignity of Primate; New York and New Orleans, as well as Cincinnati, have, we presume, at least, been erected into Archi-episcopal sees. The Apostolic brief for the erection of the see of Cincinnati to the rank of a metropolis, having Louisville, Vincennes, Detroit and Cleveland for its suffragans, was received from Rome, on Tuesday by the bishop of this diocese.”

The Archbishop Eccleston referenced is The Most Rev. Samuel Eccleston of Baltimore. Baltimore being the premier see of the church in the U.S., he was raised to primate in the same action by the Holy Father that made New York, New Orleans and Cincinnati archdioceses. Eccleston wouldn’t have the honor long, as he died in April of 1851.

A handwritten rough draft of a letter in Latin from Archbishop of Cincinnati John B. Purcell to Pope Pius IX from 1850. (Archdiocese of Cincinnati Archives)
A handwritten rough draft of a letter in Latin from Archbishop of Cincinnati John B. Purcell to Pope Pius IX from 1850. (Archdiocese of Cincinnati Archives)

The closing words of Father Edward Purcell’s article, expressing gratitude for the elevation in importance, are worth remembering even 165 years later.

“May we endeavor to prove by increased fidelity to God and fervor in his service, and to the discharge of our moral and social duties, our sense of this high favor!”

Among the documents preserved relating to Cincinnati’s elevation is a handwritten rough draft of a letter from Archbishop John Baptist Purcell to the Holy Father in Rome, thanking him for the elevation of Cincinnati to that of archdiocese. The letter, written in Latin, can be seen at right.

 

Welcome to The Catholic Telegraph’s edition of Throwback Thursday. Throwback Thursday is a weekly online activity wherein users of social media share an old photo or anecdote about times gone by.We use Throwback Thursday to highlight the history of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, and our publication.

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