October 6 – Henri Delassus

September 8, 2016

Msgr. Henri Delassus (1836-1921), ordained a priest in 1862, served in parishes in Valenciennes (Saint-Géry) and Lille (Sainte-Catherine and Sainte-Marie-Madeleine). He was names chaplain of the basilica Notre-Dame-de-la-Treille (Lille) in 1874, an honorary canon in 1882, and domestic prelate in 1904. In 1911 he was promoted to protonotary apostolic. In 1914 he became canon of the recently erected diocese of Lille and dean of its cathedral chapter.

Monseigneur Henri Delassus
He authored the following published works: Histoire de Notre-Dame-de-la-Treille, Patronne de Lille (1891), L’Américanisme et la conjuration antichrétienne (1899), Le problèm de l’heure présente: antagonisme de deux civilisations (2 vols., 1904), L’Enciclique Pascendi dominici gregis et la démocratie (1908), Vérités sociales et erreurs démocratiques (1909), La conjuration antichrétienne: le temple maçonnique voulant s’elever sur les ruines de l’Eglise catholique (preface by Cardinal Merry del Val) (3 vols., 1910), Condamnation du
modernisme dans la censure du Sillon (1910), La question juive (extract from La conjuration antichétienne) (1911), La démocratie chrétienne: parti et école vus du diocèse de Cambrai (1911), La mission posthume de Jeanne d’Arc et le règne social de Jésus-Christ (1913), Les pourquoi de la Guerre Mondiale: réponses de la justice divine, de l’histoire, de la bonté divine (3 vols., 1919-1921).
As a journalist, he began contributing to Semaine religieuse du Diocèse de Cambrai in 1872, and he became its proprietor, director, and editor in chief in 1874. He made of this publication “a bastion against liberalism, modernism and every form of anti-Christian conspiracy in the world.” With the erection of the Diocese of Lille, this magazine assumed the name Semaine religieuse du Diocèse de Lille, becoming the official newspaper of the bishopric in 1919. Msgr. Delassus, who had been ordained a priest under Pius IX, exercised the greater part of his priestly activities under Leo XIII and Saint Pius X, dying during the pontificate of Benedict XV.
Always moved by the great concerns that marked the pontificates of Pius IX and Saint Pius X, he had an outstanding role in the ardent polemics that marked the Church’s life during these pontificates. Msgr. Delassus’s way of facing the religious, social, and political problems of Europe and America of his time was very similar to that of Pius IX and St. Pius X, whose policy he defended with intelligence, culture, and unrivaled prowess, both during the reign of these two Ponfiffs and during that of Leo XIII.
As is known, many points of the interpretation given by Leo XIII (both when Cardinal-Archbishop of Perugia and when Pope) to the general religious, social, and political panorama of Europe and America during this period did not coincide-in the measure this may happen among Popes-with the interpretation of Pius IX and Saint Pius X. The fidelity of Msgr. Delassus to the line of thought and action that he had followed under Pius IX and continued to follow during the subsequent pontificates was bound to expose him to misunderstandings, warnings, and cautionary measures on the part of the Roman Curia of Leo XIII’s time. These were probably painful to him, but he bore them with all the reverence prescribed by the Church’s laws while also using the full measure of the liberty that these laws assured him.

Pope St. Pius X
Thus, he was admonished by the local ecclesiastical authorities and by the Holy See itself on account of his attacks against the Ecclesiastical Congress of Rheims (1896) and the Congress of Christian Democracy (1897). In 1898 a letter from Father Sébastien Wyart informed him that his polemical articles displeased the Vatican. Immediately after, the Holy See asked Msgr. Delassus to cease “his refractory campaign and violent polemics.” In 1902 Cardinall Rampolla asked Bishop Sonnois of Cambrai to admonish Msgr. Delassus’s Semaine religieuse.
The ascension of Saint Pius X to the pontifical throne would considerably redress Msgr. Delassus for the displeasure he had suffered. The Holy Pontiff understood, admired, and clearly supported the valiant polemicist, who likewise unreservedly supported Saint Pius X’s anti-liberal and anti0modernist fight. In recognition of the merit of his efforts, Saint Pius X elevated the valiant priest to domestic prelate in 1904 and to protonotary apostolic in 1911. [1]
During the war, Msgr. Delassus understandably suspended his polemics in favor of national unity against the external foe, as did the French polemists of all shades. At the dawn of peace, in 1918, Msgr. Delassus relit his polemical flame. This sacred flame was extinguished shortly thereafter with his death. [2]

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Notes:
[1] On the occasion of the golden anniversary of his priestly ordination, Msgr. Delassus received the following letter from the Pontiff: “With joy We learned that within a few days you will complete fifty years of priesthood. We congratulate you wholeheartedly, asking God for every kind of prosperity to you. We feel Ourselves brought to this act of benevolence which, We know well, you merit as much by your devotion to Our person as by the unequivocal testimonies of your zeal, be it by your defense of Catholic doctrine, by your maintenance of ecclesiastical discipline, or ultimately by your sustenance of all these Catholic works so needed in our epoch. “Because of such holy works, it is with all Our heart that We bestow the deserved eulogies and grant you, with all good will, dear Son, the apostolic blessing, at once a pledge of heavenly graces and a testimony of Our benevolence.
“Given in Rome at the feet of Saint Peter on June 14, 1912, the ninth year of Our pontificate.” (signed) Pius X, Pope (Actes de Pie X [Paris: Maison de la Bonne Presse, 1936], Vol. 7, p. 238).

[2] Cf. Dictionnaire du monde religieux dans la France contemporaine, Vol. 4, Lille – Flandres (Paris: Beauchesne, 1990).

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