Giovanni Maria Mastai Ferretti (Pio IX) was the ninth child of Count Girolamo and Caterina Sollazzi. He was born in Senigallia 13 May 1792. Between 1803 and 1808 he was a pupil at the College for noblemen in Volterra. Wanting to become a priest he had to interrupt his studies because of sudden attacks of epilepsy. In 1815, at Loreto, he obtained the grace of a full recovery. He resumed his theological studies in 1819 and was ordained priest. In 1823 he went as a missionary to Chile for two years.
At just 35 years of age he was appointed Archbishop of Spoleto, then in 1832, of Imola. In 1840 he was created Cardinal and on 16 June 1846, on the fourth vote, with 36 votes out of 50 Cardinals at the Conclave, was elected Supreme Pontiff at just 54 years of age. As soon as he became Pope he undertook a number of reforms within the Papal State (freedom of the Press, freedom to Jews, beginning of a railway, promulgation of the Statutes), but when in 1848 he refused to support the war against Austria his “persecution” began.
St John Bosco had his first audience with Pius IX on 9 March 1858. Both of them had the feeling they had encountered a Saint. Pius IX supported and guided Don Bosco in the founding of the Salesian Congregation. It was he who suggested calling it a “Society” in step with the times, of having vows, but not solemn vows, and he suggested a simple habit and an intense but not too complicated practices of piety. He convinced Don Bosco to write his memoirs to leave the Salesians a spiritual legacy.
During his Pontificate he approved the Constitutions and the Salesian Society, the Institute of the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians and the Pious Union of Salesian Cooperators, and was amongst the first to enrol as a member. Don Bosco had great love for Pius IX and accepted all his advice, even when it cost him great sacrifice: “I am ready to face any difficulty”, he would say, “when dealing with the papacy and the Church”. But the Pope too had great esteem for Don Bosco and called him to Rome often to ask his help on delicate issues.
On 8 December 1854 he defined the dogma of the Immaculate Conception. In 1869 he called Vatican Council I, and on 8 December 1870 proclaimed St. Joseph Patron of the Universal Church. On 16 June 1875 he consecrated the Church dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. He died on 7 February 1878, after 32 years of Pontificate. John Paul II beatified him on 3 September together with Pope John XXIII.
Declared Venerable 6 July 1985; beatified 3 September 2000 by John Paul II