Session 17 – The Council Of Trent
Under the Supreme Pontiff, Pius IV, Bishop, servant of the servants of God, for a perpetual remembrance hereof given in the year of 1560
Called by the divine providence of God to the government of the Church, though unequal to so great a burden, and immediately casting the eyes of our mind over every part of the Christian commonwealth, and beholding, not without great horror, how far and wide the pest of heresy and schism have penetrated and how much the morals of the Christian people are in need of reform, we began in accordance with the duty of our office to devote our care and thought to the means whereby we should be able to exterminate those heresies, destroy so great and pernicious a schism, and reform the morals so much corrupted and depraved. And since we understand that for the correction of these evils that remedy is the most suitable which this Holy See has been accustomed to apply, namely, an ecumenical and general council, we formed the resolution to assemble and with the help of God to celebrate one.
The same had indeed already been summoned by our predecessor, Paul III, of happy memory, and Julius, his successor, but due to frequent hindrance and interruption by various causes, it could not be brought to a conclusion. For Paul, having convoked it at first in the city of Mantua, then in Vicenza, for reasons expressed in his letters first suspended it and afterwards transferred it to Trent; then, when for certain reasons the time of its celebration was postponed here also, it was at length, after the removal of the suspension, begun in the city of Trent. After a few sessions had been held, however, and some decrees enacted, the council for certain reasons and with the concurrence of Apostolic authority, transferred itself to Bologna. But Julius, who succeeded him, recalled it to the city of Trent, at which time some more decrees were enacted. But since new disturbances were stirred up in the neighboring parts of Germany, and a very grave war enkindled in Italy and France, the council was again suspended and postponed; the enemy of the human race exerting himself exceedingly and throwing hindrances and difficulties in the way to retard at least as long as possible, since he could not entirely prevent, such a great advantage to the Church. But how greatly the heresies in the meantime increased, multiplied and propagated, how widely the schism spread, we can neither ponder nor relate without the greatest sorrow of mind. But at length the good and merciful Lord, who is never so angry that He forgets mercy, deigned to grant peace and unanimity to the Christian kings and princes. By this proffered opportunity we, relying on His mercy, entertained the strongest hope that by the same means of a council an end may be put to these grave evils in the Church. That therefore schisms and heresies may be destroyed, morals corrected and reformed, and peace among the Christian princes preserved, we have judged that its celebration should no longer be deferred. Wherefore, after mature deliberation with our venerable brethren, the cardinals of the holy Roman Church, and having also made known our intention to our most dear sons in Christ, Ferdinand, Emperor-elect of the Romans, and other kings and princes, whom, as we expected from their great piety and wisdom, we found very well disposed to aid in the celebration of the council, we, to the praise, honor and glory of the Almighty God, for the benefit of the universal Church, with the advice and consent of the same venerable brethren, and relying on and supported by the authority of God Himself and of the blessed Apostles Peter and Paul, which we also exercise on earth, summon a holy, ecumenical and general council to the city of Trent for the next following most holy day of the Lord’s resurrection, and ordain and decree that, all suspension being removed, it be celebrated there. Wherefore, we urgently exhort and admonish in the Lord and also strictly command in virtue of holy obedience, and in virtue also of the oath which they have taken, and under the penalties which they know are prescribed by the sacred canons against those who neglect to attend general councils, our venerable brethren wherever located, patriarchs, archbishops, bishops, and our beloved sons the abbots, and others who by common law, privilege or ancient custom are allowed to sit and express their opinion in a general council, unless they happen to be prevented by a legitimate impediment, which they must prove to the council by ‘awful procurators. We furthermore admonish each and all whom it does or may concern that they do not neglect to attend the council. Our most dear sons in Christ, the Emperor-elect of the Romans and other Christian kings and princes, whose presence at the council would be earnestly desired, we exhort and beseech that if they themselves should not be able to be present at the council, they at least send as their deputies prudent, reputable and pious men to be present in their name, who, animated by their piety, will see to it that the prelates of their kingdoms and dominions perform without refusal and delay their duty to God and the Church at this so urgent a time; neither do we doubt in the least that they will also see to it that a safe and free road through their kingdoms and dominions is open to the prelates, their attendants, followers and all others who are proceeding to or returning from the council, and that they will be received and treated in all places kindly and courteously, as we also will provide so far as it concerns us, for we have resolved to omit absolutely nothing that we, who have been placed in this position, can do toward the completion of so pious and salutary a work, seeking nothing else, as God knows, and in the celebration of the council having no other desire but the honor of God, the recovery and salvation of the scattered sheep, and the lasting peace and tranquillity of the Christian commonwealth. And that this document and its contents may come to the knowledge of all whom it concerns, and that no one may offer the excuse that he was ignorant of it, especially since there may not perhaps be safe access to all who ought to have knowledge of this letter, we wish and command that it be read publicly and in a loud voice by messengers of our court or by some public notaries in the Vatican Basilica of the Prince of the Apostles and in the Church of the Lateran, at a time when the people are accustomed to assemble there for the celebration of the masses; and that, after having been read, it be affixed to the doors of those churches, also to the Apostolic Chancery, and at the usual place in the Campo di Fiore, where it shall be left for some time that it may be read and made known to all. When it is removed, copies thereof shall remain affixed in the same places. For we wish that by this reading, publication and affixture each and all of those whom it includes, shall after two months from the day of publication and affixture be so obligated and bound as if it had been published and read in their presence. We also ordain and decree that unshaken faith be given to the transcripts thereof, written or subscribed by the hand of a public notary and provided with the seal and signature of some person constituted in ecclesiastical dignity. Therefore, let no one infringe this letter of our summons, statute, decree, admonition and exhortation, or with foolhardy boldness oppose it. But if anyone 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 on the thirtieth of November in the year 1560 of the Lord’s incarnation and in the first year of our pontificate.
Antonius Florebellus Lavellinus.
1 Supra, Sess. VIII.
2 Ibid ., Sess. XI.
3 Hab. 3:2.
Does it please you, for the praise and glory of the holy and undivided Trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, for the increase and exaltation of the faith and of the Christian religion, that the holy, ecumenical and general Council of Trent, lawfully assembled in the Holy Ghost, all suspension being removed, be celebrated from this day on, which is the eighteenth of the month of January of the year 1562 after the Nativity of the Lord, consecrated to the chair at Rome of blessed Peter, the Prince of the Apostles, according to the form and tenor of the letter of our most holy Lord, the sovereign pontiff, Pius IV, and that, due order being observed, those things be considered therein which at the suggestion and under the presidency of the legates shall appear suitable and proper to the council for alleviating the calamities of these times, adjusting religious controversies, restraining deceitful tongues, correcting the abuses of depraved morals, and to bring about true and Christian peace in the Church?
<They answered:> It pleases us.
Summoning Of The Next Session
Does it please you that the next following session be held and celebrated on the Thursday after the second Sunday of Lent, which will be on the twenty-sixth day of the month of February? <They answered:> It pleases us.