Page 6, 26th November 1954

26th November 1954
Page 6
Page 6, 26th November 1954 — IBENEDICTXV Pope of Peace

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Locations: Madrid, Rome, Sarajevo, Venice


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Author of 'The Vatican and the War in Europe' MORE than 30 years have ' passed since Benedict XV, the "Pope of Peace," died after a brief illness. He was only 60 when he became Pope in September, 1914, and his reign lasted

little more than seven years. Yet those years were almost the pivot of the world-wide Catholic revival which has since followed; and his personal efforts had counted immeasurably.

Last Sunday was the centenary of his birth at Genria..In relation to his English contemporaries he was a few years younger than Lord Balfour, and slightly older than Lord Curzon or Lloyd-George.

'I-he family of his father. Marchese della Chiesa, had for centuries produced soldiers and statesmen and churchmen in Genoa. His mother, Giovanna Miglibratti, could claim a former Pope, Innocent VII, as a member of her family some four centuries earlier.

The second of a family of four children, Giacomo della Chiesa followed the traditional lines of education in Genoa as a boy. But it was a time of momentous upheavals. When he entered the University of Genoa in 1871, the new kingdom of United Italy had just been established under Victor Emmanuel. The Papal States, and Rome itself, had been seized; and the aged Pope Pius IX had shut himself in the -Vatican Palace as a prisoner, in protest.

Priest diplomat

THE future Pope Benedict began as a law student. He announced his religious vocation in 1875; and he was not ordained until Decent

bee, 1878. Earlier in that year, Pio Within a few months after his Nono's long reign had ended and the admission to the Sacred College, new Pope Leo XIII had been elected. Cardinal della Chiesa was elected as Young della Chiesa pursued the trathe new Pope, after a series of inditional course through the Academy effective ballots. In stature, he was of Noble Ecclesiastics, where Papal almost a dwarf; and his long training diplomats are trained. That great in diplomacy seemed to increase the diplomat Rampolla appointed him as unlikelihood that he would make any his personal secretary in 1883, when impact on his age.

to Madrid. Appeal for peace With his academic gifts and family honours and distinction, he combined the earnest industry of an extremely spiritual young priest. Spain was an excellent training ground under Rampolla, when relations were being renewed after an era of tense conflict. He learned to speak Spanish fluently, gained an insight into the proud independence and anti-clericalism of a deeply Catholic country; and made his mark by devoted service in the hospitals during a cholera epidemic in Madrid and other Spanish cities. It was a foretaste of future catastrophes in Europe which then were incredibly remote.

Rampolla returned -to Rome after his successful mission to Spain, bringing his young secretary with him. Very soon afterwards he was made a Cardinal. and then Secretary of State. He appointed young Mgr. della Chiesa as his Under-Secretary; and they continued in that intimate partnership for over 10 years.

In April, 1401. when Leo XIII had grown too old to exercise constant active control. Rampolla's authority had grown greatly. He appointed his young assistant as Deputy of State.


WHEN Pope Leo died in July, 1903, after a protracted decline, it was generally assumed that Rampolla would be elected Pope. But the Austrian Emperor intervened unexpectedly, and for the last time, to veto Rampolla. Confusion ensued. with many ballots; and at last the peasant Patriarch of Venice, Cardinal Saito, was elected Pope. as Pius X.

His election brought a sudden reversion from the political to the pastoral tradition. Rampolla had been the chief Minister of Leo's pontificate, with his encouragement of Christ and democracy. His influence died at once. when young Mgr. Merry del Val. with his strongly conservative tradition. but unflinching integrity. became Secretary of State. As Rampolla's chief assistant, Mgr. della Chiesa seemed likely to he superseded at once. But his devotion to the Holy See was unaffected by personal loyalties, and he continued as Deputy Secretary under Merry del Val for four years.

When a new Nuncio was needed for Madrid, it was even announced that he had been appointed; but the Pope pressed him to remain where he was, until the archsee of Bologna fell vacant in 1907. At the Pope's personal request he undertook this large and onerous diocese, with pastoral duties which contrasted strongly with his years of exalted office in Rome.

From al a.ui.

TT was a surprise both to his people and his clergy to find that, in all seasons, his day started at 5 a.m. each day and continued till late at night. He took no holidays, and his only considerable absence from the province was when he led the Italian national pilgrimage to Lourdes in 1913.

He was accessible to all corners, and he gave strict orders that any of his parish clergy could see him at any time.

. He had re-organised and renovated the whole see when he was made a Cardinal in May, 1914.

Even then, there was no sign of war clouds, but by July the old Pope was working desperately to avert an outburst of war, after the Austrian Archduke had been murdered at Sarajevo. By mid-August, when the Germans had already conquered Belgium and were advancing upon Pans, and the Russian armies seemed likely to overrun Austria, the old Pope's strength gave way. On August 20 he was dead. Cardinals hurried to Rome from many countries which were already at war.

OPES usually delay fot months

before issuing their first encyclical. But the new Pope, as Benedict XV, was scarcely crowned before he issued the first of those passionate appeals for peace which were to fill his days, He asked openly for immediate peace negotiations. He announced that he would "leave nothing undone" to promote peace.

Before December he was actively negotiating for an armistice on Christmas Day; and he had won support in unlikely quarters, though the opposition of anti-clerical France prevented it.

He was tireless, as the months passed, in activities which compelled all Governments to take note of his appeals; for better treatment of prisoners; for the exchange of disabled men or helpless victims, for more army chaplains and for spiritual facilities.

These problems could not he settled without help from the Vatican, and the peoples everywhere desired what the Pope urged.

But there had been a tragic estrangement in diplomatic relations between the Vatican and the world outside, Both France and Portugal had cut adrift; and in practice the diplomats remaining at the Vatican were either Germans or Austrians or Spaniards and other neutrals, and some of the South American States.

But Benedict's activities compelled even the British Government to appoint a resident Minister at the Holy See before the first Christmas of the war. Other States soon found a similar necessity for establishing relations with the Holy See. ietheir intentions were to be effective.

Supreme appeal

TN his vehement appeals for peace inegotiations, or for at least a restriction of the war's extension, Benedict incurred resentment from

both sides. He was accused. especially in Italy and m France, of undermining the morale of the armies. His earlier hopes of enlisting President Wilson as the chief peacemaker were frustrated when the U.S.A. entered the war. But by 1917 the urgency of peace had become terribly evident; when social and economic life in central Europe were nearing collapse. and the Russian revolution had de posed the Tsar and produced chaos.

In his supreme appeal to the belligerents in August, 1917, Benedict expressed his increasing conviction that Europe was heading fast into suicide. His appeal was once more refused; and within little more than a year the social systems and Empires of Austria and Turkey and Germany had been overthrown. Russia was already entering upon the Red Terror, and the years of savage religious suppression.

The Peace Conference still offered a chance to restore unity in Christian Europe by reconciliation. but the Papacy had been expressly excluded from the Peace Conference. Yet its influence had been vastly increased by the Pope's ceaseless activities for peace during the war years. Before his death the number of States who had formal diplomatic relations with the Vatican had increased from 14 to 25.

New appeal

WHILE Europe was struggling back to peace and reconstruction, Benedict had become deeply aware of the menace from Communist Russia and of the growing importance of other continents. Catholic population and resources in America, North and South, had become vastly more important than before; while Europe was threatened with a real lapse into barbarism. Asia and Africa, no less than the new continents, had become bases for a future expansion, which offered boundless hope instead of ruin and decay.

To provide at once against the dangers of a collapse of Christian civilisation in Europe and for a rapid development of the Church in the other continents. Benedict promoted boldly a new policy which was to be carried much further by his successor.

In his first encyclical after the war ended he concentrated wholly upon he problems of the foreign missions. They had been denuded of priests because so many missionaries had inched hack to their own countries when war came, as volunteers or as army chaplains. l'he Pope appealed now urgently for their return; and for many. more missionary vocations. Most important was his decision that in future. a native clergy must he trained everywhere, with all speed, to assume full pastoral duties on terms level with the white missionaries or the earlier pioneers from outside. lie denounced all attempts to exploite the foreign missions, or the Church in any country, either for political or commercial ends.


To all appearances, it seemed in those days, Europe was itself in dire need of vocations to replace the frightful casualties among the clergy; it could spare no missionaries for elsewhere. But Benedict's bold programme for the future laid the foundations on which his successor worked ceaselessly after him. The Church was to be extended and consolidated, with native seminaries and native Hierarchies, in every continent, and in each country. Its future must no longer be dependent upon the precarious survival of sanity in Europe. The frail figure of Benedict XV had contained an amazing energy and force of faith and charity, which infused a new vitality into the Holy See during those years of chaos. He had begun that re-organisation of the Church in every continent which today offers a comparatively secure prospect, under God's guidance, without being involved in the trembling anxieties of Europe or of any one country.

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