Vatican Council the nineteenth and last ecumenical council of the Roman Catholic Church, assembled in the Vatican at-Rome Dec. 8, 1869, and continued nearly a year. It was called by pope Pius IX, in the twenty-third year of his pontificate, by an encyclical dated June 29, 1868. The attendance was larger than on any previous council. At the opening there were 719 prelates from all parts of the globe, including 49 cardinals, 9 patriarchs, 4 primates, 121 archbishops, 479 bishops, 57 abbots and generals of monastic orders; This number afterwards increased to 764; but after the outbreak of the Franco-Prussian war it dwindled down to less than 200. The whole number of prelates invited and entitled to a seat in the council was 1037. Of those present a large majority were Italian, while the French and German were least in number, although strongest in learning and importance of the dioceses they represented. The deliberations of the council were conducted in strict secrecy, and the results solemnly proclaimed in four public sessions. The proceedings were made public only through information obtained from members of the council by their friends. The management of the council was entirely in the hands of the pope and his cardinals and advisers. The proceedings were entirely in Latin, the official language of the Roman Catholic Church. The subjects for consideration were classified under four heads, or divisions, and each division assigned to a congregatio, or commission, of twenty-six prelates, presided over by a cardinal appointed by the pope. The divisions were faith, discipline, religious orders, and rites. The decrees were prepared by a commission of the most eminent prelates and theologian of the Catholic world, previous to the assembling of the council, in the form of schemata, or programmes; and on the basis of these the different comissions presented decrees for: the adoption of the council. These were discussed and adopted in secret session and, the results proclaimed publicly; "The chief object of the council was to protest against modern infidelity and settle the question of papal infallibility (q.v.). The first two public sessions were held Dec. 8,1869 and Jan. 6,1870. The third was held April 24, 1870, and it was here that the "decrees on the dogmatic constitution of the Catholic faith" were unanimously adopted. These decrees are directed against modern rationalism, pantheism, materialism, and atheism, and proclaim the orthodox doctrine of God the creation, and the relations of faith and reason. At the fourth "solemn session," which was held July 18, 1870, the "decrees on the dogmatic constitution of the Church of Christ" were adopted with two dissenting voices. These decrees set forth the doctrine of papal absolutism and infallibility, and caused much discussion and the departure of a number of bishops before the public vote. The council was adjourned and indefinitely postponed Oct. 20, 1870, on account of the Franco-Prussian war, and the occupation of Rome by Italian troops.
See Manning, Petri Privilegium (Lond. 1871); Gladstone, The Vatican Decrees (1874); id. Vaticanism (1875); Bacon, An Inside View of the Vatican Council (1872).