'Aprobo, Aprobo, Aprobo'
In 1783 the Jesuits were still in some state of limbo. By 1785 Gabriel Lenkiewicz who was the second vicar general based at Polotsk was able to re-establish the religious life that had been put into chaos by the shock of the Brief of Suppression and also the diplomatic uncertainties that had followed. Something that alleviated this uncertainty was the Papal audience given by Pius VI on March 12th 1783, when he was informed about the Jesuits continued existence in Russia, three times he repeated ‘I give my approval’ – the famous Aprobo, Aprobo, Aprobo.
This statement was given in the presence of the coadjutor Bishop of Mohilew, Benislawski. He was able to give the Vicar General a written attestation of the oral approval given by Pius VI. It was ten years since the Bull of Suppression which Catherine had stubbornly refused to promulgate. For the first time it seems that Catherine’s intransigence was paying of with this clear sign that St Petersburg and Rome moving forward together. This also enabled the Jesuits to move forward with a clarity of conscience and greater confidence in the substantial task of reorganising the Society. This oral approval of Pius Vi was to be later confirmed in writing by Pius VII with the publication of the brief Catholicae Fidei in 1801.
It is an indication of the pressure that Pius VI was under that he felt it was only possible to give his oral approval. His ‘Aprobo, Aprobo, Aprobo’ gave much succour to the Jesuits. Nine years earlier – Czerniewicz had turned to Pius VI explaining the dilemma the Jesuits were put in by Catherine’s stance against Rome. Czerniewicz had claimed that as the brief was not promulgated – the Jesuits were bound in conscience to observe their vows and follow the Constitutions. Through an intermediary (Cardinal Rezzonico), an indication from Pius VI was sought. Rather enigmatically the Pope he replied, “May the result of your prayers, as I foresee and you desire, be a happy one’. Pius VI was a consummate politician and he was walking a tightrope.