Onward Christian soldiers Print
By Pope Gregory XVI   
Monday, 27 May 2013

We have learned that certain teachings are being spread among the common people in writings which attack the trust and submission due to princes; the torches of treason are being lit everywhere. Care must be taken lest the people, being deceived, are led away from the straight path. May all recall, according to the admonition of the apostle that “there is no authority except from God; what authority there is has been appointed by God. Therefore he who resists authority resists the ordinances of God; and those who resist bring on themselves condemnation.” Therefore both divine and human laws cry out against those who strive by treason and sedition to drive the people from confidence in their princes and force them from their government.
And it is for this reason that the early Christians, lest they should be stained by such great infamy deserved well of the emperors and of the safety of the state even while persecution raged. This they proved splendidly by their fidelity in performing perfectly and promptly whatever they were commanded which was not opposed to their religion, and even more by their constancy and the shedding of their blood in battle. “Christian soldiers,” says St. Augustine, “served an infidel emperor. When the issue of Christ was raised, they acknowledged no one but the One who is in heaven. They distinguished the eternal Lord from the temporal lord, but were also subject to the temporal lord for the sake of the eternal Lord.” St. Mauritius, the unconquered martyr and leader of the Theban legion had this in mind when, as St. Eucharius reports, he answered the emperor in these words: “We are your soldiers, Emperor, but also servants of God, and this we confess freely . . . and now this final necessity of life has not driven us into rebellion: I see, we are armed and we do not resist, because we wish rather to die than to be killed.” Indeed the faith of the early Christians shines more brightly, if with Tertullian we consider that since the Christians were not lacking in numbers and in troops, they could have acted as foreign enemies. “We are but of yesterday,” he says, “yet we have filled all your cities, islands, fortresses, municipalities, assembly places, the camps themselves, the tribes, the divisions, the palace, the senate, the forum....For what war should we not have been fit and ready even if unequal in forces – we who are so glad to be cut to pieces – were it not, of course, that in our doctrine we would have been permitted more to be killed rather than to kill?...If so great a multitude of people should have deserted to some remote spot on earth, it would surely have covered your domination with shame because of the loss of so many citizens, and it would even have punished you by this very desertion. Without a doubt you would have been terrified at your solitude.... You would have sought whom you might rule; more enemies than citizens would have remained for you. Now however you have fewer enemies because of the multitude of Christians.” – from Mirari Vos, August 15, 1832
 

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