Cloisters of Saint John Lateran, Rome. Source:

Thursday, 3 July 2014

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

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)

Pope Benedict XV (LatinBenedictus XV), 21 November 1854 – 22 January 1922), born Giacomo Paolo Giovanni Battista della Chiesa, was Pope from 3 September 1914 to his death in 1922. His Pontificate was largely overshadowed by World War I and its political, social and humanitarian consequences in Europe.

Between 1846 and 1903, the Catholic Church had experienced its two longest Pontificates in history up to that point. Together, Pope Pius IX and Pope Leo XIII ruled for a total of fifty-seven years. In 1914, the College of Cardinals chose della Chiesa at the young age of fifty-nine, indicating their desire for another long-lasting Pontificate at the outbreak of World War I, which he labelled “the suicide of civilised Europe.”

The war, and its consequences, were the main focus of Benedict XV. He immediately declared the neutrality of the Holy See and attempted, from that perspective, to mediate peace, in 1916 and 1917. Both sides rejected his initiatives. German Protestants rejected any “Papal Peace” as insulting. The French politician, Georges Clemenceau, regarded the Vatican initiative as being anti-French.

The Election of Pope Benedict XV, 1914.
Available on YouTube at

Having failed with diplomatic initiatives, Benedict XV focused on humanitarian efforts to lessen the impacts of the war, such as attending Prisoners of War, the exchange of wounded soldiers and food deliveries to needy populations in Europe. After the war, he repaired the difficult relations with France, which re-established relations with the Vatican in 1921. During his Pontificate, relations with Italy improved, as well, as Benedict XV now permitted Catholic Politicians, led by Don Luigi Sturzo, to participate in national Italian politics.

In 1917, Benedict XV promulgated the Code of Canon Law, which was released on 27 May 1917, the creation of which he had prepared, with Pietro Gasparri and Eugenio Pacelli, during the Pontificate of Pope Saint Pius X. The new Code of Canon Law is considered to have stimulated Religious Life and activities throughout the Church.

He named Pietro Gasparri to be his Cardinal Secretary of State and personally Consecrated Nuncio Eugenio Pacelli (the future Pope Pius XII), on 13 May 1917, as Archbishop, on the very day of the first Marian Apparition in Fatima, Portugal. World War I caused great damage to Catholic Missions throughout the world. Benedict XV revitalised these activities, asking, in Maximum Illud, for Catholics throughout the world to participate. For that, he has been referred to as the "Pope of Missions".

Copyright-expired photo of
Giacomo Della Chiesa,
aged 12, in 1866.
Source: Anton de Waal.
Author: A. Della Chiesa.
Original uploader was Ambrosius007 at en.wikipedia
(Wikimedia Commons)

His last concern was the emerging persecution of the Catholic Church in Soviet Russia and the famine there after the Revolution. Pope Benedict XV was an ardent Mariologist, devoted to Marian Veneration, and he was open to new perspectives of Roman Catholic Mariology. He supported the Mediatrix Theology and authorised the Feast of Mary, Mediator of all Graces.

After seven years in Office, Pope Benedict XV died on 22 January 1922 after battling pneumonia since the start of that month. He was buried in the grottos of Saint Peter's Basilica. With his diplomatic skills and his openness towards modern society, "he gained respect for himself and the Papacy." To this day, he is possibly the least remembered Pontiff of the 20th-Century, overshadowed by the likes of successors, such as Pope Pius XII and Pope Saint John Paul II.

English: President of the United States, Thomas Woodrow Wilson.
DeutschWoodrow Wilson (1856–1924), Präsident der Vereinigten Staaten von 1913 bis 1921, Friedensnobelpreisträger des Jahres 1919, aufgenommen am 2. Dezember 1912.
Photo: 2 December 1912.
Source: United States Library of Congress's Prints and Photographs division.
Author: Pach Brothers, New York.
(Wikimedia Commons)

The first Meeting of a reigning Pope and the President of the United States of America took place in the Vatican, on 4 January 1919, between Pope Benedict XV and President Woodrow Wilson.

Giacomo della Chiesa was born at Pegli, a suburb of Genoa, Italy, third son of Marchese Giuseppe della Chiesa and his wife, Marchesa Giovanna Migliorati. Genealogy findings report that his father's side produced Pope Callixtus II, and also claimed descent from Berengar II of Italy, and that his maternal family produced Pope Innocent VII.

His wish to become a Priest was rejected early on by his father, who insisted on a legal career for his son. At age twenty-one, he acquired a Doctorate in Law, on 2 August 1875. He had attended the University of Genoa, which, after the unification of Italy, was largely dominated by anti-Catholic and anti-Clerical politics. With his Doctorate in Law, and at legal age, he again asked his father for permission to study for the Priesthood, which was now reluctantly granted. He insisted, however, that his son conduct his Theological Studies in Rome, not in Genoa, so that he would not end up as a village Priest or provincial Monsignore.

Della Chiesa entered the Collegio Capranica and was there in Rome when, in 1878, Pope Pius IX died and was followed by Pope Leo XIII. The new Pope received the students of the Capranica in private audience, only a few days after his Coronation. Shortly thereafter, della Chiesa was ordained a Priest by Cardinal Raffaele Monaco La Valletta, on 21 December 1878.

The Death of Pope Benedict XV in 1922.
Available on YouTube at

From 1878 until 1883, he studied at the Pontificia Accademia dei Nobili Ecclesiastici, in Rome. It was there, on every Thursday, that students were required to defend a Research Paper, to which Cardinals and High Members of the Roman Curia were invited. Cardinal Mariano Rampolla took note of him and furthered his entry in the Diplomatic Service of the Vatican in 1882, where he was employed by Rampolla as a Secretary and soon to be posted to Madrid. When Rampolla subsequently was appointed Cardinal Secretary of State, della Chiesa followed him. During these years, della Chiesa helped negotiate the resolution of a dispute between Germany and Spain over the Caroline Islands, as well as organising relief during a cholera epidemic.


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