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Miecislas Halka Ledochowski

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Count, cardinal, Archbishop of Gnesen-Posen, b. at Gorki near Sandomir in Russian Poland, 29 October, 1822; d. at Rome, 22 July, 1902. After studying at Radom and Warsaw, he entered the Accademia dei Nobili Ecclesiastici in Rome in 1842, and was ordained priest 13 July, 1845. He became domestic prelate of Pius IX in 1846, auditor of the papal nunciature at Lisbon in 1847, Apostolic delegate to Colombia and Chile in 1856, nuncio at Brussels and titular Archbishop of Thebes in 1861, and finally Archbishop of Gnesen-Posen in December, 1865. He was preconized on 8 January, 1866, and enthroned on 22 April of the same year. Being on friendly terms with the King of Prussia, he was sent to Versailles by Pius IX in November, 1870, to ask the services of Prussia for the re-establishment of the Pontifical States , and to offer the services of the pope as mediator between France and Germany, but his mission proved fruitless.

Shortly after the outbreak of the German Kulturkampf, the Prussian Government, without the knowledge or co-operation of Ledochowski, passed an ordinance that, after Easter, 1873, all religious instruction in Posen should be imparted in the German language only. It was but natural that the Polish people should object to such an unjust ordinance, especially since most of the children were either entirely ignorant of the German language or understood it only with difficulty. When the Government ignored the urgent request of the archbishop to revoke the ordinance, he issued a circular on 22 February, 1873, to the teachers of religion at the higher educational institutes, ordering them to use the vernacular in their religious instructions in the lower classes, but permitting the use of the German language in the higher classes, beginning with the secunda. Pius IX approved this act of the archbishop in a Brief dated 24 March, 1873. All the teachers of religion were obedient to their archbishop and, in consequence, the Government deprived them of their positions. Religion being thus no longer taught at many institutions, the archbishop erected private religious schools, but in an ordinance of 17 September, 1873, the Government forbade all pupils of the higher institutions to obtain religious instruction at those private schools. As all protests of the archbishop proved useless, he disregarded the unjust ordinances of the Government, and, after being fined repeatedly, he was finally ordered on 24 November, 1873, to present his resignation. The archbishop's answer was that no temporal court had the right to deprive him of an office which God had imposed upon him through His visible representative on earth. Before he was formally deposed, he was arrested between 3 and 4 o'clock in the morning of 3 February, 1874, and carried off to the dungeon of Ostrowo, because he refused to pay the repeated fines imposed upon him. While in prison, he was created cardinal by Pius IX on 13 March, 1874. The Prussian Government declared him deposed on 15 April, 1874. On 3 February, 1876, he was released from prison, but was ordered to leave Prussia. He continued to rule his diocese from Rome, and was sentenced to imprisonment for "arrogating episcopal rights " on three occasions, viz., 9 Feb. and 26 May, 1877, and 7 Nov., 1878. After being appointed secretary of papal Briefs in 1885 he voluntarily resigned his archdiocese in the interests of peace. In 1892 he became Prefect of the Propaganda, an office which he held until his death. An official reconciliation between the cardinal and the Prussian Government took place when Emperor William II visited Rome in 1893.

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