Cloisters of Saint John Lateran, Rome. Source:

Saturday, 12 July 2014

Pope Benedict XV (Giacomo Paolo Giovanni Battista Della Chiesa). Papacy From 1914-1922. (Part Four.)

Text and Illustrations from Wikipedia - the free encyclopaedia,
unless otherwise stated.

English: Pope Benedict XV, circa 1915.
Français: Photo de Benoît XV prise vers 1915.
Photo: Circa 1915.
Source: Library of Congress.
Author: Unknown.
(Wikimedia Commons)

The Vatican also rejected the dissolution of Austria–Hungary, seeing in this step an inevitable and eventual strengthening of Germany. The Vatican also had great reservations about the creation of small successor States, which, in the view of Gasparri, were not viable economically and, therefore, condemned to economic misery.

Pope Benedict XV rejected the League of Nations as a secular organisation that was not built on Christian values. On the other hand, he also condemned European nationalism that was rampant in the 1920s and asked for "European Unification" in his 1920 Encyclical Pacem Dei Munus.

English: Arms of pope Benedict XV (Giacomo della Chiesa). Party per bend azure and or,
a Church, the Tower at Sinister, argent, essorée gules, the Tower-Cross of the second,
in Chief or, a demi-eagle displayed issuant sable, langued gules. This blazoning, given in 1915,
differs from the image shown here: (a) the eagle's tongue should be red, (b) the Church Tower
should have a gold Cross, instead of a black flag.
Français: Armoiries du pape Benoît XV : Tranché d'azur et d'or à l'église d'argent couverte de gueules brochant sur le tout, au chef d'or à l'aigle issant de sable.
Source du blasonnement :
Date: 11 August 2008.
Source: Own work.
Author: Odejea.
(Wikimedia Commons)

The Pope was also disturbed by the Communist Revolution in Russia. The Pope reacted with horror to the strongly-anti-religious policies adopted by Vladimir Lenin's government, along with the bloodshed and widespread famine which occurred during the subsequent Russian Civil War. He undertook the greatest efforts trying to help the victims of the Russian famine. Following the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire, concerns were raised in the Vatican about the safety and future of Catholics in the Holy Land.

In the Post-War period, Pope Benedict XV was involved in developing the Church administration to deal with the new international system that had emerged. The Papacy was faced with the emergence of numerous new States, such as Poland, Lithuania, Estonia, Yugoslavia, Czechoslovakia, Finland, and others.

Germany, France, Italy and Austria were impoverished from the war. In addition, the traditional social and cultural European Order was threatened by Right-Wing Nationalism and Fascism, as well as Left-Wing Socialism and Communism, all of which potentially threatened the existence and freedom of the Church. To deal with these and related issues, Benedict engaged in what he knew best, a large-scale Diplomatic Offensive to secure the Rights of the Faithful in all countries.

English: Pope Benedict XV,
as Cardinal Della Chiesa.
Deutsch: Papst Benedikt XV. als Kardinal.
Date: 1914.
Source: Benedikt XV.
Author: Anton de Waal, 1915.
(Wikimedia Commons)

Pope Leo XIII had already agreed to the participation of Catholics in Local, but not National, Politics. Relations with Italy improved under Pope Benedict XV, who, de facto, reversed the stiff anti-Italian policy of his predecessors by allowing Catholics to participate in national elections. This led to growth of the Partito Popolare Italiano, under Luigi Sturzo.

Anti-Catholic politicians were gradually replaced by persons who were neutral, or even sympathetic, to the Catholic Church. The King of Italy gave signals of his desire for better relations, when, for example, he sent personal condolences to the Pontiff on the death of his brother. The working conditions for Vatican Staff greatly improved and feelers were extended on both sides to solve the Roman Question. Pope Benedict XV strongly supported a solution and seemed to have had a fairly pragmatic view of the political and social situation in Italy at this time. Thus, while numerous traditional Catholics opposed voting rights for women, the Pope was in favour, arguing that, unlike the feminist protagonists, most women would vote conservative and thus support traditional Catholic positions.

English: Joan of Arc enters Orléans (painting by J.J. Sherer, 1887).
Joan was Canonised by Pope Benedict XV in 1920.
Français: Entree de Jeanne d'Arc à Orléans,
1887, Orléans, Musée des Beaux-Arts.
Author: Jean-Jacques Scherrer.
(Wikimedia Commons)

Pope Benedict XV attempted to improve relations with the anti-clerical Republican government of France. He Canonised the French national heroine, Saint Joan of Arc. In the mission territories of the Third World, he emphasised the necessity of training native Priests to quickly replace the European missionaries, and founded the Pontifical Oriental Institute and the Coptic College in the Vatican. France re-established diplomatic relations with the Vatican in 1921.

The end of the war caused the revolutionary development, which Benedict XV had foreseen in his first Encyclical. With the Russian Revolution, the Vatican was faced with a new, so far unknown, situation.

Relations with Russia changed drastically for a second reason. The Baltic States and Poland gained their independence from Russia after World War I, thus enabling a relatively free Church life in those former Russian countries. Estonia was the first country to look for Vatican ties. On 11 April 1919, Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Gasparri informed the Estonian authorities that the Vatican would agree to have diplomatic relations. A Concordat was agreed upon in principle a year later in June 1920. It was signed on 30 May 1922. It guaranteed freedom for the Catholic Church, established Archdioceses, liberated Clergy from military service, allowed the creation of Seminaries and Catholic schools and enshrined Church property rights and immunity.

Copyright-expired-photo of Nuncio Eugenio Pacelli (later Pope Pius XII),
in 1917, delivering Papal gifts, from Pope Benedict XV, to Italian Prisoners-of-War.
Source: Pascalina Lehnert.
Author: Feuerreiter.

Relations with Catholic Lithuania were slightly more complicated because of the Polish occupation of Vilnius, a City and Arch-Episcopal Seat, which Lithuania claimed as its own. Polish forces had occupied Vilnius and committed acts of brutality in its Catholic Seminary. This generated several protests by Lithuania to the Holy See. Relations with the Holy See were defined during the Pontificate of Pope Pius XI (1922–1939).

Before all other Heads of State, Pope Benedict XV, in October 1918, congratulated the Polish people on their independence. In a Public Letter to Archbishop Kakowski of Warsaw, he remembered their loyalty and the many efforts of the Holy See to assist them. He expressed his hopes that Poland would again take its place in the Family of Nations and continue its history as an educated Christian nation.

In March 1919, he nominated ten new Bishops and, soon after, Achille Ratti as Papal Nuncio, who was already in Warsaw as his representative. He repeatedly cautioned Polish authorities against persecuting Lithuanian and Ruthenian Clergy.

who helped Pope Benedict XV with creating the
new Code of Canon Law in 1917.
Summary: Foto mdel Cardinal Gasparri da
(Wikimedia Commons)

During the Bolshevik advance against Warsaw, he asked for world-wide public Prayers for Poland. Nuncio Ratti was the only foreign diplomat to stay in the Polish Capital. On 11 June 1921, Pope Pius XV wrote to the Polish Episcopate, warning against political mis-uses of spiritual power, urging them again for peaceful co-existence with neighbouring peoples, stating that “love of Country has its limits in justice and obligations.” He sent Nuncio Ratti to Silesia, to act against potential political agitations of the Catholic Clergy.


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