Passionists are a Roman Catholic religious order that was founded by St Paul of the Cross (Paul Francis Danei). Its expanded name is The Congregation of Discalced Clerks of the Most Holy Cross and Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ.
St. Paul of the Cross wrote the rules of the Congregation in December 1720, and in 1725, Pope Benedict XIII granted Paul the permission to form his congregation. Paul and his brother, John Baptist, were ordained by the pope on the same occasion.
Clement XIV then granted full rights to the Passionists, as enjoyed by the other religious orders, in 1769 except that he did not make them a full order but a congregation. The congregation historically has had two primary goals: part missionary work and part contemplative life, with an attempt to blend the two. Its founder had attempted to marry the reflective orders such as the Trappist monks, together with the dynamic orders like the Jesuits.
There are now 2,179 Passionists in 59 nations on the five continents, led by a superior general who is elected every six years. He is currently assisted in the government of the congregation by 4 consultors. The present superior general is Father Ottaviano D'Egidio. The congregation is divided into provinces, vice-provinces and vicariates. The Congregation is also divided into groups of provinces, called conferences. There are currently six conferences in the world: CIPI - the Inter-provincial Conference of Italian Passionists; CII - The Conference of the Iberian Peninsula; NECP - Northern European Conference of Passionists; PASPAC - Passionist Asia Pacific Conference; CPA - Conference of the Passionists of Africa; FORPAL - Conference of the Passionists of Latin America; and finally the meeting of the Provincial Councils of North America.
The official name of the institute is "The Congregation of the Passion of Jesus Christ." The superior general resides in Rome (Piazza Ss. Giovanni e Paolo, 13 - 00184 Roma - tel. 06 772711). This is also the international house of studies and where the Congregation's founder is buried.
The members of the congregation are not allowed to possess land, and the congregation collectively can only own the community house and a bit of land attached to it. They rely completely on their own labor and on contributions from the faithful in order to maintain themselves financially. The habit worn by members is a rough wool tunic bearing the words "Jesu XPI Passio," meaning "Passion of Jesus Christ" and the congregation is discalced.
A number of Passionists have been canonised, including:
Other Passionists have been beatified, including:
Passionist martyrs of modern times have also been beatified such as the Bulgarian bishop Blessed Eugene Bossilkov and the 26 Martyrs of Daimiel. The cause for the canonisation of Father Ignatius Spencer, Father Theodore Foley and Elizabeth Prout has also been opened.
Unlike the La Sallians or the Gabrielites, Passionists do not usually open schools and universities, except seminaries for their own students wishing to become brothers and priests. There are some schools sponsored and run by the Passionists, like the St. Gemma Galgani School (which includes primary, junior high and high school-level education) in Santiago (Chile), but these are more the exception than the rule.
Traditionally, their main apostolate has been preaching missions and retreats. According to Saint Paul of the Cross, they were founded in order to "teach people how to pray", which they do through activities such as retreats and missions, spiritual direction, and prayer groups. Today they often also assist local priests in pastoral works, including saying masses, hearing confessions, and visiting the sick. Due to the continuing lack of priests in the United States, the monks today are sometimes designated as pastors and assistant pastors of various parishes.
Though Passionists are not required to work in non-Christian areas as missionaries, their Rule allows its members to be posted to missionary work, such as mainland China (before the Communists took over in 1949), India, and Japan, as dictated by the Pope.
Due to their separate raisings guided by members of the Order, Saint Maria Goretti and Saint Gemma Galgani are traditionally counted into the ranks of the Passionists Sisters, even though they died before they could formally enter the order (Maria was killed, Gemma died of tuberculosis).