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What is the official status of the person of Philomena who at one time was “liturgically canonized” by Pope Gregory XVI and not officially canonized?

What are the physical, archeological and scientific historical supports that the Vatican used to suppress her status as a saint in 1961?

She was never officially canonized by the Church.

  1. Ex his festis "devotionis" sequentia e calendariis expungantur, quare ut plurimum in aliis festis aut anni temporibus iam recoluntur, vel cum aliquo tantum loco particulari relationem habent, scilicet :

In translatione almae domus B. Mariae V. (10 decembris) ; In exspectatione partus B. Mariae V. (18 decembris) ; In desponsatione B. Mariae V. cum S. Ioseph (23 ianuarii) ; Fugae D. N. I. C. in Aegyptum (17 februarii) ; Orationis D. N. I. C. (fer. III post dom. Septuagesimae) ; In Commemoratione Passionis D. N. I. C. (fer. III post dom. Sexagesimae) ; S. Spineae Coronae D. N. I. C. (fer. VI post cineres) ; Ss. Lanceae et Clavorum D. N. I. C. (fer. VI post dom. I Quadragesimae) ; S. Sindonis D. N. I. C. (fer VI post dom. II Quadragesimae) ; Ss. Quinque Vulnerum D. N. I. C. (fer. VI post dom. III Quadragesimae) ; Pretiosissimi Sanguinis D. N. I. C. (fer. VI post dom. IV Quadragesimae) ; Eucharistici Cordis Iesu (fer. V post octavam Corporis Christi) ; Humilitatis B. Mariae V. (17 iulii) ; Puritatis B. Mariae V. (16 octobris).

Festum autem S. Philumenae V. et M. (11 augusti) e quolibet calendario expungatur. - Acta Apostolicae Sedis (Page 174)

This subject may be the cause of some strong opinions one way or other as the following questions shows:

In order to limit this question to a more historical nature, I prefer that personal opinions be limited to the interpretation of historical data. I also do not desire to have what any visionaries or Catholic mystics have said about the life of [St.] Philomena. Visions are not considered historical proofs.

This is exactly how Rome approached the investigation into the beatification of Blessed Catherine Emmerich.

At the time of the Emmerich's beatification in 2004, the Vatican position on the authenticity of the Brentano books was elucidated by priest Peter Gumpel, who was involved in the study of the issues for the Congregation for the Causes of the Saints: "It is absolutely not certain that she ever wrote this. There is a serious problem of authenticity". According to Gumpel, the writings attributed to Emmerich were "absolutely discarded" by the Vatican as part of her beatification process.

Thus my question could be phrased as such: What are the historical reasons that lead up to the Vatican’s decision to suppress the cult of [St.] Philomena and is her cult still permitted in our days?

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  • If this question needs tweaking, please feel free to do so! – Ken Graham Mar 15 '20 at 14:20
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    @MattGutting I added a clarification at the end of my question. Hopes this helps. – Ken Graham Mar 15 '20 at 19:37
  • "What are the physical, archeological and scientific historical supports that the Vatican used to suppress her status as a saint in 1961?" The premise of the question is wrong, the Vatican did not suppress St.Philomena status as a saint nor the the cult of St.Philomena was suppress. St.Philiomena remain a saint and the cult stays until today by virtue of St.Pius X declaration that no future pope can alter the decisions on the sainthood & cult of St.Philomena. – itzsophia's vlogs Mar 15 '20 at 23:09
  • @itzsophia'svlogs I beg to differ. My Latin quote proves otherwise. – Ken Graham Mar 17 '20 at 0:36
  • Translate first the Latin into english. The Sacred Congregation of Rites under St.John XXIII only expunged the "liturgical calendar" and not the status of St.Philomena's sainthood and cult, the Congregation has no power to oppose St.Pius X declaration that no future Pope can alter the decisions of his predecessors. – itzsophia's vlogs Mar 17 '20 at 1:34
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What are the physical, archeological and scientific historical supports that the Vatican used to suppress her status as a saint in 1961?

On May 24, 1802, in the Catacombs of Priscilla on the Via Salaria Nova, an inscribed loculus (space hollowed out of the rock) was found, and on the following day it was carefully examined and opened. The loculus was closed with three terracotta tiles, on which was the following inscription: lumena paxte cumfi. It was and is generally accepted that the tiles had not been positioned in the sequence of the words, and that the inscription originally read, with the leftmost tile placed on the right: pax tecum Filumena ("Peace with you, Philomena"). Within the loculus was found the skeleton of a female between thirteen and fifteen years old. Embedded in the cement was a small glass phial with vestiges of what was taken to be blood. In accordance with the assumptions of the time, the remains were taken to be those of a virgin martyr named Philomena. Her name means 'daughter of light'. Philomena is the patron saint of infants, babies, and youth. - St. Philomena (Wikipedia)

Archeological basis and people who oppose

The belief that such vials were signs of the grave of a martyr was still held in 1863, when a December 10 decree of the Sacred Congregation of Rites confirmed a decree of April 10, 1668. But this view has been rejected in practice since the investigations of Giovanni Battista De Rossi (1822–1894).[6]

The questions were raised in particular by Orazio Marucchi, whose conclusions won the support of Johann Peter Kirsch, an archaeologist and ecclesiastical historian who is the author of the article on Philomena in the Catholic Encyclopedia,[6]

Who is Orazio Marucchi?

Orazio Marucchi (1852 - January 1931, Rome) was an Italian archaeologist and author of the Manual of Christian Archaeology. He served as Professor of Christian Archaeology at the University of Rome and director of the Christian and Egyptian museums at the Vatican Museums. He was also a member of the Pontifical Commission of Sacred Archaeology and was a scrittore of the Vatican Library.

And what are the findings of Peter Kirsch?

The inscription on the three tiles that had provided the Latin name "Filumena" ("Philomena" in English) belonged to the middle or second half of the second century,[6] while the body that had been found was of the fourth century, when the persecutions of Christians had ended.[8] Not only the name but also the leaf, the two anchors and the palm that decorated the three tiles, and which had been believed to indicate that Filumena was a martyr (though the necessary connection between these symbols and martyrdom has been denied), had no relation to the person whose remains were found.[6]

Kirsch, Johann Peter. "St. Philomena." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 12. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1911. 29 Apr. 2013 - St. Philomena (Wikipedia)

Problems with the question of the OP

  1. The Vatican in 1961 did not suppress the status of St. Philomena as a Saint.

  2. The Vatican in 1961 did not suppress the cult of St. Philomena.

  3. The Vatican thru the Congregation of Rites in 1961 published the Congregation's decision in Acta Apostolicae Sedis "ordered the feast of St. Philomena Virgin-Maryr to be expunged from all liturgical calendars. The Congregation's did not order to suppress St. Philomena's status as a saint and the did not order to suppress any devotion to Her cult that a Supreme Pontiff had clearly proclaimed.

To know more about Acta Apostolicae Sedis here is some pertinent information;

Acta Apostolicae Sedis (Latin for "Register of the Apostolic See"), often cited as AAS, is the official gazette of the Holy See, appearing about twelve times a year. It was established by Pope Pius X on 29 September 1908 with the decree Promulgandi Pontificias Constitutiones, and publication began in January 1909. It contains all the principal decrees, encyclical letters, decisions of Roman congregations, and notices of ecclesiastical appointments. The laws contained in it are to be considered promulgated when published, and effective three months from date of issue, unless a shorter or longer time is specified in the law.

The AAS also contain the "decisions of the Roman congregation". The Latin text cited was a decision not by Pope St. John XXIII but by the Congregation of Rites only.

Is the Congregation of Rites decisions superior over the decision or declaration of the Supreme Pontiff? The answer is No. The Pope is the Supreme Interpreter, Legislator and Guarantor of Faith and not the Congregation of Rites.

The Latin text cited above and published in Acta Apostolicae Sedis was a decision coming only from the Congregation of Rites and does not bear the decision or the prudential judgement or even the approval of Pope St. John XXIII. In contrast to the Congregation of Rites in the year 1837 where the decision of the Prefect of the Congregation of Rites bears the approval of Pope Gregory XVI.

In 1837, the Prefect of Congregation of Rites publicly asserted that Pope Gregory XVI had approved the Congregation's decision permitting the local recitation of the Office,and celebration of the Mass of the Virgin-Martyr, in honor of Philomena in August 11. - Source

Here, we can see the force of authority of the Congregation of Rites issued in Acta Apostolicae Sedis has been put into question because it does not bear the approval of Pope St.John XXIII that had cause confusions among the faithfuls in the year they issued the Congregation's decision in 1961.

In fact, when one of the faithful who had a deep devotion to St. Philomena asked St.Pope Paul VI about the issues & confusions sorroundings the Congregation's decision, simply said "Just don't mind it, continue your devotion".

St. Pius X declaration raising the cult of St. Philomena to Universal Archconfraternity cannot be alter by any future Popes much more by a mere Congregation of Rites decision.

The Confraternity of Saint Philomena was raised to the rank of Archconfraternity by Pope Leo XIII, November, 1886

On June 16th, 1907, the Supreme Pontiff Pius X, receiving in audience Father Petit, from Paris, the director of the Work of Saint Philomena, exclaimed: "Ah, Saint Philomena! It is very sad to read what has been written recently against her" (The Holy Father was referring to certain detractors of the cult of Saint Philomena who dared to maintain that our Little Saint did not even exist.) "It is incredible," continued the Holy Father, "that such things can come about without them (the detractors) looking at the great argument in favor of the saint, the Holy CurÉ of Ars. By her, in her name, and through her intercession, he obtained innumerable graces and continual prodigies."

To definitively affirm the cult of Saint Philomena and to give the final word, on May 21, 1912, Pope Pius raised the Venerable Archconfraternity of Saint Philomena into the Universal Archconfraternity with the Apostolic Brief, "Pias Fidelium Societates," in which he states very clearly: "We decree with the present words that it shall remain always stable, valid and effective, that it receive and obtain its effects fully and completely, in this way it must be regularly judged and defined, and if it proceeds in any other way, it will be null and without value, whatever the authority might be…" - The History of the Universal Archconfraternity of Saint Philomena

St. Pius X had made a decree in May 21, 1912 with a very clear statement that no future decision can alter the decision they had made raising the cult of St.Philomena to Universal Archconfraternity.

Did the Congregation of Rites in 1961 oppose this decree of St.Pius X? The answer is No.

or the better question is;

Can the Congregation of Rites has a canonical power to oppose the Decree made by St. Pius X in May 21, 1912?

The clear answer is NO. Therefore, the devotion to the Cult of St. Philomena stays and the status of St. Philomena as a saint remain because the Congregation of Rites in 1961 cannot also oppose the Congregation of Rites decision in 1837 to celebrate the Office and offering of the Mass in honor of St. Philomena Virgin Martyr because it has the expressed public approval of Pope Gregory XVI, while the latter has none.

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  • Just for for clarity, the Acts of the Holy See although signed by the Cardinal Prefect were in fact authorized by by the very person of Pope John XXIII. The last paragraph makes that quite clear. Source – Ken Graham Mar 18 '20 at 10:25
  • Pope St. Pius X was not writing infallibly in regards to the cult of St. Philomena. He wrote using string wording, but did not invoke papal infallibility here. – Ken Graham Mar 18 '20 at 10:33
  • @KenGraham If you could only be more clear & translate your Latin text into English text cited in AAS, you will know that the order of Congregation of Rites is very specific and limited only. They only "ordered the feast of St. Philomena Virgin-Maryr to be expunged from all liturgical calendars. St.Pius X stated "We Decree", it's more than infallible, it is a direct challenge to all who would dare oppose & alter their decision. – itzsophia's vlogs Mar 18 '20 at 21:59
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What is the official status of the person of Philomena who at one time was liturgically canonized by Pope Gregory XVI?

Due to the liturgical manner that Pope Gregory XVI allowed the liturgical cult of [St.] Philomena to be introduced into the liturgy and the fact that the Prefect of the Congregation of Rites officially suppressed the liturgical cult of [St.] Philomena with the approval of the then Pope St. John XXIII, there is a lot of confusion about this subject matter.

Nothing was known of any historical Philomena. Eminent archeologists insisted that the tiles came from a nearby tomb. Despite these efforts to dampen the enthusiasm of those who declared these the bones of a martyr, within two decades there was a flourishing cult of Philomena, a detailed biography, and reports of many miracles. In 1961 the Congregation of Rites struck her feast from the Roman Calendar for lack of historical evidence of her existence, along with that of St. Christopher. The rise of Philomena's cult and her continuing veneration into the twenty-first century need to be read against the background of the duel between traditional religiosity and modern rationalism.

Even when her feast was officially suppressed, her devotees continued to ask for and attribute cures to her intercession. Her omission from the calendar was not a prohibition of private devotion, but it does mean that the Congregation of Rites found insufficient evidence regarding her to mandate a place in the calendar or to allow the naming of official Catholic institutions for her. - The Legend of St. Philomena

First of all let us take a look at historically happened!

  • On May 24/25 1802 in the Catacomb of Priscilla, the remains of a young girl/woman was discovered.
  • The inscription on the tiles sealing the tomb read: “LUMENA / PAX TE / CUM FI”.
  • A vile containing a dry substance found in the tomb was believed to be blood, but is not proof of a martyr’s tomb in itself. Behold the glass vase, containing blood, which was found inside the tomb of Saint Philomena. Now if the vile should be considered authentic, and the tomb as being undisturbed since the third century, why is the vile if fact broken? The tomb was obviously refurbished for unknown artifacts.

Philomena’s glass vile

  • In a decree of the Sacred Congregation of Rites, confirmed by the Pope on January 30, 1837, the feast of Saint Philomena was established as the eleventh of August. This was in fact not a canonization promulgated by Pope Gregory himself, as would be required by Pope Urban VIII's Cælestis Hierusalem Cives nor was it solemnly decreed as it was the Sacred Congegation of Rites that issued the decree and not the Sovereign Pontiff himself, even though Pope Gregory confirmed the decree.
  • The Roman Martyrology contains the names of all the saints who have been formally canonized. It does not now contain the name of Philomena and in fact never included the name of this Philomena, which can be seen to be absent in the 1856 edition, published some twenty years after the 1837 decree. It is absent also in more recent editions also.
  • On February 14, 1961 the Sacred Congregation of Rites issued a liturgical directive removing St. Philomena's feast day, August 11th, from all liturgical calendars. See the Acta Apostolicae Sedis, Page 174. Pope St. John XXIII approved the decree.

Now let us look more closely at the evidence.

Discovered in 1802, in a tomb in the Catacombs of St. Priscilla, but there is no historical evidence that Philomena truly existed. Believed to have been a martyr of the 4th century. No Church Father or ecclesiastical historian ever mentions or even makes an illusion that Philomena actually existed. From the 4th century until 1802, for all intensive purposes she was unknown in any hagiographies whatsoever. Notwithstanding this there does exist a real St. Philomena of the 5th century and she is inscribed in the Roman Martyrology with a Feast day of July 5th.

In 1634, through the decree Cælestis Hierusalem Cives, Pope Urban VIII forbade the existence of any public cultus for a purported saint unless his/her martyrdom or heroic virtues had been formally recognized by the Congregation of Rites. Likewise, the cult of anyone regarded as a saint may not be licit unless it was proven in a process per viam cultus that he/she had been the object of an immemorial public veneration at least one hundred years before the publication of the decree. [St.] Philomena did not fulfill this primary objective of Pope Urban VIII.

In fact, we do not even know that the name of Philomena is to be properly attributed to the remains found in the tomb. The tiles (bricks) were not in the correct order; thus leading some to believe the the tomb was refurbished with another Christian person.

Some have gone on to speculate that the name fi-lumina should in fact be filia lumina and translated as daughter of light. If so, she may possibly be a martyr of a unknown name.

In 1802, during a relic hunt in the catacombs, a loculus was found which was sealed with three tiles bearing the following inscription: Lumena pax te cum fi.

The tiles sealing the tomb in question were discover as such:

Lumena pax te cum fi

On the face of it, this could have been read as sub-literate Latin for: Lumina [et] pax tecum, fi[li/a], or "Lights and peace to you, O son/daughter", with no name being given. - (Source)

Other believe the tiles should have been in another order: Filumena pax tecum.

The inscription on the three tiles that had provided the Latin name "Filumena" ("Philomena" in English) belonged to the middle or second half of the second century, while the body that had been found was of the fourth century, when the persecutions of Christians had ended. Not only the name but also the leaf, the two anchors and the palm that decorated the three tiles, and which had been believed to indicate that Filumena was a martyr (though the necessary connection between these symbols and martyrdom has been denied), had no relation to the person whose remains were found. The disarrangement of the tiles was something fourth-century sextons regularly did when re-using materials already engraved, with the aim of indicating that it was not the same person who was now buried in the place. - (Source)

It should also be noted that not a single miracle attributed to [St.] Philomena has been approved by Rome!

Not a single one the stories of “miraculous cures” which have been disseminated by the shrine in Mugnano for decades has ever been approved by Rome. The clergy and others who declare that “person X has been cured through the intercession of St. Philomena” have absolutely no authorization to make such statements, and are thus in direct violation of Church Law on this subject. The fact is, for a miracle to be officially attributed by the Church to the intercession of a particular person, a lengthy investigation - involving detailed examinations by both medical experts and by the Vatican. - Why is Philomena No Longer Considered a Saint?

Now if Pope Gregory XVI allowed the cult of this particular Philomena to be celebrated liturgically through the Congregation of Rites; it stands to reason that Pope St. John XXIII through this same Roman Congregation could suppress her cult all together, because she was never formally canonized by any Supreme Pontiff to date. Only the Pope can canonize saints, not the Sacred Congregation of Rites.

Notwithstanding all the above, a number of prelates had recourse to Pope Paul VI regarding the dilemmas caused by the degree under Pope John XXIII. Pope Paul VI generally responded in words similar to the following:

“Do not let it disturb you and do not disturb your people; let devotion to St. Philomena continue as before.” - It is Time to Meet St. Philomena

Since 1961, she has been almost forgotten both because we know there are people bestowing her name on their children, and because of the laity perhaps not being totally clear on what exactly the Church was saying.

From what we can tell, the Church is not saying she’s not a saint, but that universal liturgical honours are not to be given to her. The following article made a good argument although it can not be verified at the present moment:

Now, a question that must be addressed in this essay is what the Sacred Congregation of Rites said in regard to Saint Philomena. They removed the feast of Saint Philomena from the calendar based on the lack of historical evidence for her existence. It is very important to note at this point that the Congregation of Rites did not have any ecclesiastical power of any kind. It was only a “liturgical directive”. This directive however left many people confused, and rightfully so. In fact, it left bishops concerned too. Bishop Sebastião Fernandes of Mysore, India, whose cathedral was consecrated in Philomena’s honor, sent a letter to Pope Paul VI in 1964. This correspondence was sent to Mugnano by Bishop Fernandes as follows:

“What must I do for the people in my diocese who are greatly troubled by the decree of the Sacred Congregation regarding St. Philomena?” Paul VI responded, “Do not let it disturb you and do not disturb your people; let devotion to St. Philomena continue as before” (proseguiva come prima). - Saint Philomena: Myth or Reality?

Thus in closing, it is safe to conclude that the cult of St. Philomena has been officially (liturgically) been suppressed by the Vatican, but devotions towards St. Philomena are nevertheless tolerated by Rome.

More information may be gleaned from the following articles:

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  • "It should also be noted that not a single miracle attributed to [St.] Philomena has been approved by Rome!" This is a direct ignorance of history why Pope Gregory XVI confirmed the Congregation of Rites decision in 1837 to celebrate the Office and Holy Mass in honor of St.Philomena. Pope Gregory XVI is a direct witness to a first class miraculous healing of Blessed Pauline Jaricot."Pauline's "Miracle at Mugnano"philomena.org/foundress.asp#Paulines_Miracle_at_Mugnano – itzsophia's vlogs Mar 19 '20 at 0:57
  • Source? click the cited link. Is publicly approving the Office and the Holy Mass in honor of St.Philomena in 1837 after Pope Gregory XVI had witnessed the miraculous healing of Pauline Jaricot, and to make sure the healing was authentic, he instructed Pauline to stay in Rome for one more year to validate the miracle. Pope Gregory XVI had confirmed liturgical feast because of the "first class miracle" and not based on historical evidence of Philomena's existence. Are you still not convince that a "liturgical feast" in 1837 cannot be approved without a miracle? – itzsophia's vlogs Mar 19 '20 at 1:19
  • your own cited source "It is time to meet St.Philomena" has all the answer to your confusions. A simple logic is the answer, how can the Congregation of Rites in 1837 formed a basis for a celebration of a liturgical feast if there are no miracles attributed to St.Philomena who has no solid historical records? Did the Congregation in 1837 made their decision out of thin-air and Pope Gregory XVI approved even without basis? – itzsophia's vlogs Mar 19 '20 at 4:54

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