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Convention and Accord between Pope Leo XII and William I, King of Belgium and the Netherlands (1827) Convention and Accord between Pope Leo XII and William I, King of Belgium and the Netherlands (1827)

King William I of the United Kingdom of the Netherlands found himself in an increasingly insecure position. Because he favoured the Dutch language and Calvinism of his Northern Provinces he was viewed with suspicion by his Catholic French-speaking subjects in the Southern Provinces. This concordat, concluded shortly before they rebelled against him, looks like an attempt to buy the support of the Church.

 In contrast to the Dutch king, Pope Leo XII had his subjects in the Papal States well in hand. According to the EB11 he was "temperamentally stern", passed "severe ghetto laws which led many of the Jews to emigrate" and ran "a well-nigh ubiquitous system of espionage". When he died "the news was received by the populace with unconcealed joy".

This concordat gives the King a veto in the selection of bishops and obliges them to swear loyalty to him and offer public prayers on his behalf. In return, the King grants state funds to train and pay priests and promises further "generosity" to the Church. The concordat ends with a ritual curse in case someone (the Protestant king?) fails to maintain it. The wrath of God will be shared by St.Paul with his sword and St. Peter who holds the key to heaven.

[Title in Latin]
 In the name of the most sacred and indivisible Trinity


Between the Most Holy Lord Leo XII, Supreme Pontiff and the Most Serene William I, King of the Belgians.

[Title in Dutch]
In the name of the most sacred and indivisible Trinity


Between the Most Serene King of the Netherlands, William I, and the Most Holy Father, Leo XII, Pope.


WILLIAM I, King of the Netherlands, Prince of Orange-Nassau, Grand Duke of Luxemburg, etc., etc., etc., and His Holiness Pope LEO XII:

Desiring to regulate the affairs of the Roman-Apostolic Church in the whole Kingdom of the Netherlands, have named as their plenipotentiaries:

His Majesty, King of the Netherlands, His Excellency, Antonius Philippus Fiacre Ghislain, Count of de Celles, Knight of the Dutch Lion and Commander of the same Degree;

His Holiness the Pope, His Eminence, Maurus Cappellari, Priest of the R. C. Church, Cardinal and Prefect of the Holy Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith.

After the named plenipotentiaries subjoined themselves as assistants, namely the first-registered: the Referendary of the First Class at the Council of State, the Legation Council, Joannes Petrus Ignatius Germain, and the other, the Prelate Franciscus Capaccini, Substitute for the Secretary of the pontifical letters.

And after they further presented and exchanged their credentials, which are found in good and sufficient order, have agreed to the following points.


Article 1

The accord which was entered into in the year 1801 between Pope Pius VII and the French Government, and is in force in the Southern Provinces of the King of the Netherlands, shall be applied to the Northern Provinces.

Article 2

Every bishopric shall have its chapter and its seminary.

Article 3 

As to a case of the kind as provided for in Article 17 of the Accord entered into in the year 1801, the following is to be stipulated:

If the Archepiscopal or the Episcopal chair becomes vacant often, the chapters of those churches will bring, within the time of one month, to be counted from the day of the vacancy, to the knowledge of His Majesty the King , the names of the candidates, belonging tot the Dutch clergy who in their judgement are worthy and capable to manage the Archepiscopal or the Episcopal church, and whom they know are gifted with such devoutness, knowledge and discretion, as is required by the laws of the Church for bishops.

If however by coincidence, one of the candidates is less agreeable to His Majesty the King, the chapters will strike them off the list in a way that there will be enough candidates left from which a new archbishop or bishop can be chosen. The chapters will in that case make their choice for a new archbishop or bishop following the usual canonical prescriptions and send the authentic reports within one month to the Pope.

The Pope will have made the informative reports about the condition of the Church and about the affairs of the one to be elevated to the Archepiscopal or the Episcopal church, according to the prescriptions of URBANUS VIII (of blessed memory) and it follows that the Pope, if he recognizes in the one to be appointed the capacities that are required by the chapters, will confirm him following the appointed rules with apostolic letters.

If however the choice is not made in a sufficiently canonical  way, or if  appears that the one to be appointed does not have the predicted capacities, the Pope will by a particular favour allow that the chapter will make a new choice in a canonical way as mentioned above.


This accord will come into force on both sides, within sixty days or earlier, if possible, in Rome.

Concluded at Rome, the 18th of June 1827.

(L. S.) [Lectori Salutem = "was signed"] Cie DE, CELLES

This accord, which contains the articles mentioned above, and which we, on our own initiative, with knowledge of affairs, after mature consideration, and from the fullness of our apostolic authority, after a congregation, having heard our chosen from our reverent brothers, the cardinals of the Holy Roman Church, we are treating with His Majesty the King of the Netherlands, and by these letters indicate our renewed approval of it. We ratify the same and give full authority and weight by this apostolic confirmation.

Therefore we declare and appoint, first:

That the Accord between the Papal Chair and the French Government, of the 15th July 1801, entered into and confirmed by our predecessor PIUS VII, through his Apostolic Letters of the 14th of August of the same year (to which one should adhere) and which is in force in the Southern Provinces of the Kingdom of the Netherlands will also be enforced on the Northern Provinces so that in one and the same Empire all ecclesiastical affairs will be guided and treated on the same basis.

Because however, for this new accord to be completely executed, it is necessary, as it was at the time of the Accord in the year 1801, that the number of bishoprics is established and the same borders be drawn, we have, with the approval of His Majesty the King William, for the wellbeing of the Catholic Religion and for the salvation of souls, established that, besides the five presently existing Episcopal chairs, in addition to those another three will be restored or newly formed so that the whole of the Kingdom of the Netherlands will be divided into eight bishoprics and the same number of cathedral churches will be sees of which one will be the Metropolitan and the others will be the suffragan or subordinate churches; whilst we indicate the borders of the bishoprics, only in general, according to provinces.

The Mechlin Church will therefore be the Metropolitan Church, whose territory will consist of the complete provinces of the South, namely, Brabant and Antwerp, whilst the 7 suffragan churches will be those of Liège, Namur, Doornik, Ghent (these four already existing) and the three others, which we declare with this accord, will be formed, namely, Brugge, Amsterdam and Bois-le-Duc.

The bishopric of Liège will be composed of the complete provinces Liège and Limburg, the bishopric of Namur, of the provinces Namur and the Grand Duchy Luxembourg. The bishopric of Doornik, of the province Henegouwen; the bishopric Ghent, of the province East Flanders. The bishopric of Amsterdam, of the provinces Holland (the northern and southern area), Utrecht, Overijssel, Frisland, Groningen and Drenthe; the bishopric of Brugge, of the complete province of West Flanders and finally the bishopric of Bois le Duc, of the provinces Northern Brabant, Gelderland and Zeeland.

Further, at each cathedral church, there will be a chapter and for each of these there will be a proper and fixed income, as also to each of the Episcopal chairs, to be reassured, while we deeply trust that the state of the Episcopal chairs from day to day and by the generosity of the Illustrious King, will be improved and more favoured.

All the rest that is related, whether to a more precise description of the bishoprics, or to a more perfect organisation of the Episcopal chairs or the chapters in the Kingdom of the Netherlands, will be appointed by further apostolic letters, which we will shortly determine.

After the formation of the chapters of all Churches, as mentioned above, we grant to those, as long as the state of affairs in the 17th article of the Accord of 1801 shall last, the competence, every time that one of the Archiepiscopal or the Episcopal chairs becomes vacant, to call the chapter of the vacant Church together so that all canons of the same church will meet and, respecting the Canon Law, will choose a new capitular from among those Dutch clerics who, being worthy and following the canonical rules, are suitable as mentioned in the 3rd article of the new accord . [A capitular is elected by the canons of the cathedral chapter when the episcopal see becomes vacant.]

For this first trip, however, we reserve the right for ourselves to provide the Churches of the Kingdom of the Netherlands with shepherds in the same way as was done for the Mecchlin Church, by our predecessor PIUS VII (of blessed memory).

Likewise we reserve for ourselves and for our successors, when — due to the extensiveness of the territory, the bishops of the bishopric may need assistance from persons who themselves ought to have a episcopal character — the right to add for such bishops of the (cathedral) chapter — if deemed necessary according to our judgement — coadjutors or assistant bishops, who will serve as suffragans and will be of help in the fulfilment of their episcopal tasks and to whom His Majesty in that case will pay a salary corresponding their rank.

We grant as well that the archbishops and each bishop of the churches as mentioned above, in the Kingdom of the Netherlands, after having obtained from the Apostolic See a Canonical Institution and before exercising his duties, will take the oath of loyalty to His Majesty the King as has been established in Article 6 of the Accord of the year 1801 in the following words:

I swear and promise by God on the holy Gospel obedience and loyalty to H. M. the King of the Netherlands, my sovereign King. Further I promise to have no relations; attend no council; to not belong to a suspicious undertaking, either inside or outside the kingdom  that is disadvantageous to the public peace, and when I, in my bishopric or elsewhere, discover that something is being planned that is disadvantageous to the state, I will surely let My Lord the King know.

In the same way we grant that the same oath will be taken by the clerics of the second order from the hands of the civil government that is appointed by the King, as laid down in the 7th article of the aforementioned Accord.

And to avoid any ambiguity we declare that, to apply the [paper] formula of the prayers in Art. 7 of the Accord of 1801 [i.e., Napoleon’s concordat where it says “God save the Republic, God save the Consuls”] for the present state of affairs it will be changed as following:

Domine salvum fac Regem nostrum Guilielmum.
(God save our King William)

The bishops will freely appoint and choose their vicar-general.

The special care of the archbishop and of each bishop will extend to the seminaries; because the young men, who are destined to consecrate themselves to the Lord, in due time are to be dedicated to devotion, purity of manners to the complete clerical discipline, to be educated as new plants from their tender youth onwards, because good and vigilant workers in the vineyard of the Lord are not born but are made to do that and to become that and therefore all the zeal and care of the bishops is needed.

To therefore ensure the execution of the 2nd article of the new Accord, undertaken by us with His Majesty, King William, each seminary of each bishopric will be established, regulated and directed as follows:

First of all, a certain number of pupils will be fed, taught and educated according to the needs of each diocese and with the convenience of the inhabitants, the appropriate number will be appointed by the bishop.

Further it is of the highest importance that those who consecrate themselves to the spiritual office, not only will be educated in the spiritual subjects, but also properly in philosophical and other subjects that are related to clerical affairs, so that they will be the example for the herd and are always ready to render an account to those who inquire.

Therefore  the bishops in the seminaries shall establish all the academic chairs which they think are necessary to educate the clerics. Accordingly education in doctrine and discipline, in addition to education and the management of the seminaries is under the authority of the relevant bishops according to Canon Law; subordinated to the bishops is the employment of clerics in the seminaries and their exclusion, the choice of the regents and the rector, and their dismissal remains free [to be exercised] as often as they think is needful or necessary.

Whatever is needed to establish or maintain their seminaries will be favourably granted by His Majesty the King, who, as he declared by his Ambassador Extraordinary at our Court, as a generous King, wants to provide in a decent manner  everything that is required for the spiritual education, and to do that in such a manner as will please us.

When finally the bishoprics, as has been explained above, are installed, which will be specified in further apostolic letters, the bishops will, according to the regulations of Art. 9 and 10 of the Accord of 1801, proceed to a new description of vicarages where this is required, and in these they will place competent priests while His Majesty the King, as stated in the regulations of the 14th article of the stipulated accord by Royal generosity, will also provide for the maintenance of all priests who will have to be appointed with each new description of the vicarages, and this will be done in accordance with the dignity of their state and with the maintenance, in a similar way to that enjoyed by the priests in the bishoprics of the Southern Provinces.

We flatter ourselves that among the Roman Catholics of the Kingdom, persons will be found who will make generous use of the freedom, that is left by the 15th Article of the abovementioned Accord, to benefit the Churches, while the good persuasion of the King, His Majesty, will, we do not doubt, grant the bequest of foundations or gifts that might be done in favour of those churches as well as the acquisition of goods for these churches.

It remains to us and the Lord our God, to express our greatest thanks for all that has been achieved, to date, in the arrangement of clerical matters in the Kingdom of the Netherlands and to beseech Him with fervent prayers, that He will consolidate and preserve this, because all the best that is granted, and each perfect gift, comes from above, whilst neither he that plants, nor he that waters, is anything, [but ] only God who grants growth.

We forbid that these present letters should ever be violated, be obtained by fraud or be seen as invalid in conveying our meaning or [be regarded as having] any other defect, however long one considers; but we  wish, on the contrary, that they (the letters) will remain in force for all future times; that they will be executed in full and will be observed without being violated, without prejudice to the apostolic prescriptions and the general regulations which are established by synodal, provincial and general councils or by separate rules and regulations, or by statutes of any church or charitable institution, or by any conflicting privileges.

However much any separate announcement [by others] or special form of the one or the other may be considered as necessitating the withdrawal of those (concordat) regulations, insofar as they may conflict with the above-mentioned or in any other way, we withdraw however those (other) prescriptions and declare all that is done because of this withdrawal by any authority to be invalid and without force.

It is our desire that the printed copy of this, signed by the hand of a public notary and provided by the seal of an authorized cleric, will be invested with the same authority and that it will be considered as the expression of our will in the same way as if this present original were to be shown.

In conclusion, it is not allowed to anyone at all, to fault documents of our will or to obstruct them with conceited wantonness.

If however someone might infringe them, then he should know that he draws upon himself the wrath of the Almighty God and of His Holy Apostles Peter and Paul. 

Concluded at Rome at St. Peter’s in the year of Our Lord 1827, the 16th of September in the 4th year of our Pontificate.

Was signed
B.card.PACCA, pronatarius
Pro domino cardinali ALBANO
F. CAPACCINI, substitutes.
Visa de curia D. TESTA

Place (+) of the Lood

For translation
The Secretary of the Permanent Commission from the Council of State for the affairs of the R.C. faith.


Het Concordaat van 1827

Albers sj, P., Geschiedenis van het Herstel der Hierarchie in de Nederlanden, tweede deel, Nijmegen, Malmberg, 1904, 534-545

 Translated by Ilonka Nagy


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