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Home WHO WE ARE Assumptionists Profiles Bishop PIE NEVEU, A.A. (1877-1946)

Bishop PIE NEVEU, A.A. (1877-1946)

Bishop Pie Neveu, A.A. (1877-1946)PROMINENT ASSUMPTIONIST Most Rev. Pie Neveu, A.A., “The Peasant of Makeyevka”  (1877-1946), Bishop and Apostolic Administrator in Moscow

Eugène Joseph Neveu was a French Assumptionist, bishop and apostolic administrator of Moscow, born in Gien on February 24, 1877 and died in Paris on October 17, 1946. His father was a manufacturer of chinaware. Eugene, one of 16 children,  pursued primary and secondary studies in his hometown before entering the minor seminary of Orléans and finally the Assumptionists in 1895 where he adopted the name Pie. In 1897 he made his final profession in Jerusalem and began his studies of philosophy and theology at Notre-Dame de France in the Holy City. He became a professor at the Assumptionist Slavic seminary of Karagrach (Turkey) in 1901 and was ordained on March 18, 1905.

From that time on, he numbered among the small group of religious, who, following the wish of the founder, Fr. d’Alzon, were waiting for the opportune moment to enter Russia and consecrate themselves to the evangelization of the Slavic people.  A teacher at the college in Varna, Bulgaria, he was appointed in 1906 the chaplain of Good Shepherd Church in the Russian capital of St. Petersburg. After the political events of 1905, several Assumptionists had been discretely given special appointments that allowed them to be granted permits in the country and to enjoy relative freedom of movement.

Bishop Michel d'Herbigny, S.J.In 1907, Fr. Pie rapidly became pastor of Makeyevka, a city located in Cossack territory in the Donetz basin of the Don River where a large colony of Western Europeans was working in the mines of the region. In the Russia of the czars of the time, Roman Catholics represented a very small minority, often of foreign extraction, organized into five dioceses under the direction of the archbishop of Mohilev who resided in St. Petersburg. It was in Makeyevka that Fr. Pie witnessed the events and transformations that took place in Russia after that country entered the war in 1914: the first political revolution of 1917 with the fall of the czar and the coming to power of the Mensheviks, then in October the seizure of power by the Bolsheviks. 1918 saw the separation of Church and State in Russia. After stifling all forms of opposition, those in power rapidly and violently went about eradicating all traces of religion through arrests, condemnations, deportations, executions, closures of churches, and the plundering of religious communities.

In 1925, there were no more Catholic bishops in Russia. Disturbed by the situation, Pope Pius XI sought a remedy. Father d’Herbigny, a Jesuit, was the man on whom the Pope relied for matters pertaining to Russia. He was asked to receive episcopal ordination secretly at the nunciature in Berlin from the nuncio, Eugene Pacelli, the future Pius XII. Bishop d’Herbigny then proceeded to enter Russia in order to ordain clandestinely three Apostolic Administrators, one for Moscow, the others for Leningrad and Odessa. Fr. Pie Neveu was known in Rome, for he had written several letters to inform the Pope about the situation of Catholics in the country. For that reason, he was chosen for the post in Moscow.

St. Louis des Français Church, Moscow, administered by the AssumptionistsCalled to the new capital by the French ambassador, he was ordained a bishop on April 21, 1926, behind closed doors, in the church of St. Louis des Français by Bishop d’Herbigny and given the titular see of Citrus. He was the second Assumptionist to be ordained bishop (Archbishop Petit had been the first). On October 3, 1926, Bishop Neveu began to make his episcopal ordination public. The following day he was visited by the police, who, from then on, never ceased to harass him. Fortunately, Bishop Neveu was protected by the French Embassy where he practically lived. He had to exercise his ministry amid many difficulties, including constant surveillance by the police who watched his every move.

In 1934 he was able to go to France to participate in the national pilgrimage in Lourdes and to go to Rome where the Pope received him at length. In 1936 Bishop Neveu’s health obliged him to go to France once again, but he was never able to obtain a return visa to his beloved Russia which always remained uppermost in his mind, heart, and faith.  He died on October 17, 1946.

By Fr. Jean-Paul Périer-Muzet, A.A.
(Translation Fr. Robert Fortin, A.A.)

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