Old 08-09-2017, 12:14 PM   #1
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Default The Pontifical Zouaves

Papal Power Threatened by Italian Republicanism

In 1860 the French-Canadian writer Arthur Buies volunteered to serve in Garibaldi's army. This was an extraordinary act, since many of Buies's compatriots enlisted in the opposing camp. In the early 1860s some devout Catholic French Canadians went to Italy to enlist in the pontifical army. The Pontifical States, with Rome as their capital, held the centre of the country and fought against the unification of Italy by the supporters of Piedmont and Garibaldi. The most fervent Catholics - the ultramontane - considered that the loss of Pope Pius IX's temporal power over his states would constitute a sacrilege. The pontifical army included a corps specially formed in 1860 for volunteers from various Catholic countries, particularly France and Belgium: the Pontifical Zouave Regiment. In November 1867 the Bishop of Montreal, Monseigneur Ignace Bourget, launched an appeal for volunteers to go and defend the Pope. The idea was taken up by other prelates and was received enthusiastically across Quebec.

In only a few weeks 135 recruits were selected from among 429 volunteers. These men left Montreal on February 19, 1868, to the cheers of some 20,000 people, a fifth of the city's total and a third of its French-speaking population. Other contingents followed, and of the 500 men selected 388 were to serve in the Pontifical Zouave Regiment. But for the strict eligibility criteria and the costs involved - it was necessary, by means of gifts and collections, to cover the cost of transportation of these Zouaves and their pay while in Rome - thousands of French Canadians would no doubt have been recruited. As it was, the operation cost at least $112,000, a considerable amount for the period. The Canadians in Rome had a peaceful time of it, their war efforts limited to chasing after guerillas in the surrounding hills. Only eight of them died, most owing to illness. In the spring of 1870 most of the Zouaves in the first contingent returned to Montreal, where they were welcomed by almost 12,000 people. After symbolic resistance, Rome surrendered on September 20, 1870, and the other Canadian Zouaves were repatriated. When they arrived in Montreal a crowd of approximately 50,000 was there to receive them.

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