The 1850s were ’the last years of Catholic power in Europe’. In France the regime of Napoleon III was friendly and presided over a Catholic revival, but this sharpened divisions between Catholics and anti‐clericals. A new Concordat with Austria strengthened the identification of the Habsburg monarchy and the Church and papal influence in the Austrian Church, but this in turn encouraged anti‐papal feeling in the regions of Italy under Austrian rule. Similarly, the position of Catholicism was enhanced in the United States and Britain by Irish immigration and also reinforced in Canada among the francophone population. Pius IX used his power to impose new Church hierarchies in Britain and the Netherlands, to impose the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin, and generally to disregard international opinion. The weakness of Catholic power lay in the papal states, where, although government improved, the pope's regime was increasingly seen as an anomaly, out of step with the rest of Europe.
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