Thursday, June 13, 2013
The Long Forgotten Prayer to the Emperor in the Exultet of Easter
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Image: Francis II, Holy Roman Emperor

Until 1955, the Exsultet ended with a long prayer for the Holy Roman Emperor:
Respice etiam ad devotissimum imperatorem nostrum [Nomen] cujus tu, Deus, desiderii vota praenoscens, ineffabili pietatis et misericordiae tuae munere, tranquillum perpetuae pacis accommoda, et coelestem victoriam cum omni populo suo.
Look also upon our most devout Emperor [Name], the desires of whose longing you, O God, know beforehand, and by the inexpressible grace of your kindness and mercy grant him the tranquility of lasting peace and heavenly victory with all his people.
The head of the Holy Roman Empire alone could be prayed for with this formula, and the resignation in 1806 of the prerogatives of that position by Emperor Francis II of Austria, left that position unfilled thereafter, so that the prayer was in practice not used.  And so, after 1804, the prayer actually ended with the immediately preceding petition for the members of the Church:
Precamur ergo te, Domine: ut nos famulos tuos, omnemque clerum, et devotissimum populum: una cum beatissimo Papa nostro N. et Antistite nostro N. quiete temporum assidua protectione regere, gubernare, et conservare digneris.
However, by the decree Imperii Galliarum of 10 September 1857, Pope Pius IX allowed Emperor Napoleon III of France to be prayed for in the Exsultet from 1858 to 1870, not with the formula reserved for the Holy Roman Emperor, but only by adding "necnon gloriosissimo Imperatore nostro N." to the preceding petition, which became:
Precamur ergo te, Domine: ut nos famulos tuos, omnemque clerum, et devotissimum populum: una cum beatissimo Papa nostro N. et Antistite nostro N. necnon gloriosissimo Imperatore nostro N. quiete temporum assidua protectione regere, gubernare, et conservare digneris.
In 1955 Pope Pius XII added a phrase to the prayer for the members of the Church and definitively removed the prayer for the Holy Roman Emperor, replacing it with a generic prayer for the civil authorities inspired by the prayer for the Emperor:
Precamur ergo te, Domine: ut nos famulos tuos, omnemque clerum, et devotissimum populum: una cum beatissimo Papa nostro N. et Antistite nostro N. quiete temporum concessa, in his paschalibus gaudiis, assidua protectione regere, gubernare, et conservare digneris. Respice etiam ad eos, qui nos in potestate regunt, et, ineffabili pietatis et misericordiae tuae munere, dirige cogitationes eorum ad iustitiam et pacem, ut de terrena operositate ad caelestem patriam perveniant cum omni populo tuo.

We beseech Thee therefore, O Lord, that Thou wouldst grant peaceful times during this Paschal Festival, and vouchsafe to rule, govern, and keep with Thy constant protection us Thy servants, and all the clergy, and the devout people, together with our most holy Father, Pope N...., and our Bishop N.... Have regard, also, for those who reign over us, and, grant them Thine ineffable kindness and mercy, direct their thoughts in justice and peace, that from their earthy toil, they may come to their heavenly reward with all Thy people.
Pope Leo III restored the Western Roman Empire, when he crowned Charlemagne Roman Emperor on Christmas Day, in 800 A.D. In 962 A.D, Pope John XII restored the Roman Empire again, when he crowned Otto Ist Emperor. The actual term “Holy Roman Empire” dates from 1254 A.D.

The Encyclical Quas Primas states that “not only private individuals but also rulers and princes are bound to give public honour and obedience to Christ”, and adds: “nor is there any difference in this matter between the individual and the family or the State; for all men, whether collectively or individually, are under the dominion of Christ”. As a consequence, the Catholic Faith must be the “State Religion”. The State professes it, and encourages its development, while it restrains as much as possible the circulation of errors by virtue of a “tolerance” adapted to the necessities of social peace and public order (restrictions on public worship for false religions and on errors of all kinds, and hence restriction imposed upon the use of mass media): this issue pertains to the virtue of prudence.

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