Cloisters of Saint John Lateran, Rome. Source:

Monday, 21 July 2014

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

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)

Many factors of Pope Benedict XV's life made him characteristically unique. In physical appearance, he was a slight man (the smallest of three Cassocks that were prepared for the Election of a new Pope in 1914). As a result, he became known as "Il Piccolito", or "The Little Man." Pope Benedict XV was dignified in bearing and courtly in terms of matters, but his appearance was not that of a Pope. He was undersized, with a sallow complexion, a mat of black hair, and prominent teeth. Yet, despite this, everything about him seemed crooked from his nose to his eyes and shoulders.

He was renowned for his generosity, answering all pleas for help from poor Roman families with large cash gifts from his private revenues. When he was short on money, those who would be admitted to an audience would often be instructed by Prelates not to mention their financial woes, as Pope Benedict would inevitably feel guilty that he could not help the needy at the time. He also depleted the Vatican's official revenues with large-scale charitable expenditure during World War I. Upon his death, the Vatican Treasury had been depleted to the equivalent in Italian lire of $19,000.

English: Adolf Bertram (1859–1945), made a Cardinal,
by Pope Benedict XV, on 4 December 1916.
Deutsch: de:Adolf Bertram: Kardinal,
Erzbischof von Breslau, Deutschland.
Date: 1916.
Photographer: Götz, H.
Attribution: Bundesarchiv, Bild 146-2005-0065 /
Götz, H. / CC-BY-SA.
(Wikimedia Commons)

His relationship to secular Italian powers was reserved, yet positive, avoiding conflict and tacitly supporting the Royal Family of Italy. Yet, like Pope Pius IX and Pope Leo XIII, he also protested against interventions of State authorities in internal Church affairs. Pope Benedict XV was not considered a Man of Letters. He did not publish educational or devotional books. His Encyclicals are pragmatic and Down-to-Earth, intelligent, yet, at times, far-sighted. He remained neutral during the battles of the "Great War," when almost everybody else was claiming "sides." Like that of Pope Pius XII, during World War II, his neutrality was questioned by all sides then, and even to this day.

Pope Benedict XV had a strong devotion to The Blessed Virgin Mary. He added the Title "Queen of Peace" to her Litany (Litany of Loreto) and gave his support to an understanding of Mary as "Mediatrix of All Graces" by approving a Mass and Office, under this Title, for the Dioceses of Belgium. Pope Benedict XV affirmed that "together with Christ, she redeemed the human race" by her immolation of Christ as His Sorrowful Mother, as described in his Apostolic Letter Inter Sodalicia.

Pope Benedict XV celebrated Mass with the Nuns at the Domus Sanctae Marthae, next door to Saint Peter's, and, while he waited for his driver out in the rain, he fell ill with 'flu, which turned into pneumonia. After a month of pain, he succumbed to that illness on 22 January 1922, at the age of sixty-seven, his nephews alongside him. After his death, flags were flown at half-mast. His body then Lay-in-State, before being moved for burial.

Giovanni Cagliero (1838–1926), made a Cardinal,
by Pope Benedict XV, on 6 December 1915.
Date: Edición de 1976.
Source: Foto extraída del libro
"Historia de la Iglesia en la Argentina".
Editorial: Don Bosco. Buenos Aires. Argentina.
Autor: Cayetano Bruno. S.D.B.
Author: Unknown.
(Wikimedia Commons)

Possibly the least remembered Pope of the 20th-Century, Pope Benedict XV is nevertheless an unsung hero for his valiant efforts to end World War I. In 2005, Pope Benedict XVI recognised the significance of his long-ago predecessor's commitment to Peace, by taking the same name, upon his own rise to the Pontificate. 

Pope Benedict XV was unique in his humane approach to the world in 1914–1918, which starkly contrasted with that of the other great Monarchs and Leaders of the time. His worth is reflected in the tribute engraved at the foot of the statue that the Turks, a non-Catholic, non-Christian people, erected of him in Istanbul: "The great Pope of the world tragedy . . . the benefactor of all people, irrespective of nationality or religion." This monument stands in the Courtyard of Saint Esprit Cathedral.

Pope Pius XII showed high regard for Pope Benedict XV, who had Consecrated him a Bishop on 13 May 1917, the very day of the reported Apparitions of Our Lady of Fatima. While Pope Pius XII considered another Benedict, Pope Benedict XIV, in terms of his Sanctity and scholarly contributions, to be worthy as Doctor of the Church, he thought that Pope Benedict XV, during his short Pontificate, was truly a Man of God, who worked for Peace. He helped Prisoners of War and many others who needed help in dire times and was extremely generous to Russia.

Giacomo Paolo Giovanni Battista della Chiesa
(later Pope Benedict XV)
as Cardinal.
Source: Commons, from
Author: Frédéric.
(Wikimedia Commons)

He praised Pope Benedict XV as a Marian Pope who promoted the Devotion to Our Lady of Lourdes, for his Encyclicals Ad Beatissimi Apostolorum, Humani Generis Redemptionem, Quod Iam Diu, and Spiritus Paraclitus, and, for the Codification of Canon Law, which, under della Chiesa and Pietro Gasparri, he (Pope Pius XII), as Eugenio Pacelli, had the opportunity to participate in.

Pope Benedict XVI showed his own admiration for Pope Benedict XV, following his Election to the Papacy on 19 April 2005. The Election of a new Pope is often accompanied by conjecture over his choice of Papal Name; it is widely believed that a Pope chooses the name of a predecessor, whose teachings and legacy he wishes to continue. Cardinal Ratzinger's choice of "Benedict" was seen as a signal that Pope Benedict XV's views on Humanitarian Diplomacy, and his stance against Relativism and Modernism, would be emulated during the reign of the new Pope.

During his first General Audience in Saint Peter's Square, on 27 April 2005, Pope Benedict XVI paid tribute to Pope Benedict XV, when explaining his choice: "Filled with sentiments of awe and thanksgiving, I wish to speak of why I chose the name "Benedict". Firstly, I remember Pope Benedict XV, that courageous Prophet of Peace, who guided the Church through turbulent times of war. In his footsteps, I place my Ministry in the service of reconciliation and harmony between peoples."


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