Passionists, an order of regular clerks in the Roman Catholic church, founded in 1720 by Paolo Francesco Danei, known as St. Paul of the Cross. He was born Jan. 3, 1694, at Ovada, near Genoa, and died Oct. 18, 1775. Having conceived the idea of a body of missionaries uniting all the austerities of a cloistered life with the active duties of the pastoral ministry, he retired in 1720 to a hermitage with a few companions. Their saintly life, the good effected by them among the neighboring population, and the recommendation of the bishops, induced Benedict XIII. to ordain them priests in 1727. The order, now consisting of 11 priests, was approved by Benedict XIV. in 1741; and in 1746, under the name of "the Discalceated Clerks of the Cross and Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ," Danei established his first convent and novitiate on the Celian hill in Rome; and this establishment continued to be the mother house of the order till its suppression in 1873. Twelve convents were also founded by him in various cities of Italy, which became centres of home missionary labor, and a Passionist sisterhood was established at Corneto. The order and its constitutions were solemnly confirmed by Pius VI., Sept. 15, 1775. The Passionists, though much esteemed in Italy, did not extend beyond it till the present century.
In 1841 the first house of the order was founded at Highgate, near London, by Father Ignatius (George Spencer); and they multiplied rapidly, extending to Ireland and Australia. The first Passionist convents in the United States were established at Birmingham, Pa., in 1852, and at West Hoboken, N. J. They also own establishments in Pennsylvania and Maryland. The habit of the Passionists is a cassock of coarse black cloth, a large crucifix borne in the girdle, and an emblem of the passion wrought in red on the left breast. They go barefooted, rise during the night to sing the canonical hours, and devote themselves especially to giving " missions " or spiritual retreats. Their founder, Paul of the Cross, was beatified in 1853 and canonized in 1868.