THE POPE has praised scholars and rcsearchers who work to produce accurate texts of ancient writers in the Church in a letter marking the centenary of the death of the 19th century French patrologist, Fr Jacques Paul Migne. '
In the letter, addressed to Cardinal Michele Pelligrino, Archbishop of Turin, who is president of the International Committee for the Centenary of Fr Migne, thc Pope said: "We take this occasion to encourage wholeheartedly those who. through labour that is often difficult. work today to prepare critical editions of an cient texts. They use the achievements of science to arrive at an increasingly exact knowledge of these texts, and thus they render a signal service to the Church."
Fr Migne, who died in October, 1875, sought to publish a universal library for the clergy, hoping to publish in 2,000 volumes at a moderate price the whole of Christian writings from the beginnings to his own day.
In his letter the Pope said: "Fr Migne was inspired by the same sentiments as the Fathers
of the Church — steadfast attachment to the Church, an ar
dent desire to ponder the Mystery of Christ, a profound sense of tradition and a boundless love of the Faith."
Fr Migne's initial attempt at writing, a pamphlet on the
French Revolution entitled De La Liberte brought him into conflict with his bishop in
Orleans. He was permitted to go to Paris where he founded three unsuccessful newspapers
before making a success of 'L'univers Religieux. This he abandoned in 1836 to start work on his universl library for the clergy.
Fr Migne had difficulties with the Archbishop of Paris over financial matters but found
favour with the Bishop of Versailles and founded his own
publishing house, Ateliers Catholiques. at PetitMontrouge, near Paris.
He published successively a
Theologiae Cursus Compktus in 25 volumes, a Scripturae Sacrae Cursus Completus in 24 volumes, a 20-volume collection of Christian apologetics, a 99-volume collection of French sermons, three theological encyclopedias of 52, 53 and 66 volumes, a 27-volume course crt Church history and a 13-volume series on the Blessed Virgin Mary.
Fr Migne employed 300 people in his Ateliers Catholiques and went on to produce his possibly most noted work, The Patrologies. His 221-volume Series Latina covered Latin Authors from Tcrtullian to Innocent III.
In 1868 fire destroyed Fr Migne's presses and stores. After long litigation he was awarded the insurance money and rebuilt the Ateliers but his efforts to finance the new printshop by the use of mass stipends caused the Archbishop of Paris to suspend him. He died almost totally blind, aged 75.
The Catholic En vyclopaedia's review of Fr Mignc states that "his accomplishment is a phenomenon in the world of erudition. His genius for organising, directing and financing a vast publication was unique in his age."
Fr Migne was a master craftsman of the printing trade. lie resolved problems in the use of Greek type and invented devices that saved time and money and great care was taken with proofreading. Even today his texts are considered indispensable for almost every held of ecclesiastical study.