Cloisters of Saint John Lateran, Rome. Source:

Sunday, 6 July 2014

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

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)

His ambitious mother, Marchesa della Chiesa, is said to have been discontented with the career of her son, cornering Rampolla with the words that, in her opinion, Giacomo was not properly recognised in the Vatican. Rampolla allegedly replied, Signora, your son will take only a few steps, but they will be gigantic ones.

Just after Leo XIII's death in 1903, Rampolla tried to make della Chiesa the Secretary of the Conclave, but the Holy College elected Rafael Merry del Val, a conservative young Prelate, the first sign that Rampolla would not be the next Pope. When Cardinal Rampolla had to leave his post, with the Election of his opponent, Pope Saint Pius X, and was succeeded by Cardinal Rafael Merry del Val, della Chiesa was retained in his post.

Copyright-expired-photo of Pope Saint Pius X (standing on the left),
on 18 December 1907, Consecrating Giacomo della Chiesa
(sitting in front of the Altar with Mitre and Crosier),
later Pope Benedict XV, in the Vatican.
Source: Vat Photo.
Author: "G. Felici, fotografo papale";
Original uploader was Ambrosius007 at en.wikipedia.
(Wikimedia Commons)

However, della Chiesa's association with Rampolla, the architect of Pope Leo XIII's (1878–1903) foreign policy, made his position in the Secretariat of State, under the new Pontificate, somewhat uncomfortable. Italian papers announced that on 15 April 1907, the Papal Nuncio, Aristide Rinaldini, in Madrid, would be replaced by della Chiesa, who had worked there before. Pope Saint Pius X, chuckling over the journalist’s knowledge, commented:  "Unfortunately, the paper forgot to mention whom I nominated as the next Archbishop of Bologna."

On 18 December 1907, in the presence of his family, the Diplomatic Corps, numerous Bishops and Cardinals, and his friend, Rampolla, he received the Episcopal Consecration from Pope Saint Pius X. The Pope donated his own Episcopal Ring and Crosier to the new Bishop and spent much time with the della Chiesa family on the following day.

On 23 February 1908, della Chiesa took possession of his new Dioceses, which included 700,000 persons, 750 Priests, as well as nineteen male and seventy-eight female Religious Institutes. In the Episcopal Seminary, some twenty-five teachers educated 120 students preparing for the Priesthood.

English: Piazza della Madonna with façade of the Basilica at Loreto, Italy.
[Editor: As Archbishop, Giacomo Paolo Giovanni Battista della Chiesa
organised Pilgrimages to Loreto.]
Italiano: Basilica del Santuario di Loreto.
Photo: 25 July 2006.
Author: Massimo Roselli.
(Wikimedia Commons)

As Bishop, he visited all Parishes, making a special effort to see the smaller ones in the mountains, which could only be accessed by horse. Della Chiesa always saw Preaching as the main obligation of a Bishop. He usually gave two or more Sermons a day during his visitations. His emphasis was on cleanliness, inside all Churches and Chapels, and on saving money wherever possible, for he said: "Let us save to give to the poor."

A meeting of all Priests in a Synod had to be postponed at the wish of the Vatican considering ongoing changes in Canon Law. Numerous Churches were built or restored. Della Chiesa personally originated a major reform of the educational orientation of the Seminary, adding more science courses and classic education to the curriculum. He organised Pilgrimages to Marian Shrines in Loreto and Lourdes at the 50th anniversary of the apparition in 1908. The unexpected death of his friend, supporter and mentor, Rampolla, on 16 December 1913, was a major blow to Giacomo della Chiesa, who was one of the beneficiaries of his Will.

It was custom that the Archbishop of Bologna would be created Cardinal in one of the coming Consistories. In Bologna, this was surely expected of della Chiesa, as well, since, in previous years, either Cardinals were named as Archbishops, or Archbishops as Cardinals, soon thereafter.

Copyright-expired-photo of Pope Benedict XV in 1914 at his Coronation.
Date: 1914 (7 September 2008 (original upload date)).
Source: Transferred from en.wikipedia. (Original text : Vatican Cavaliere during coronation).
Author: Cavaliere G. (Original uploader was Ambrosius007 at en.wikipedia).
(Wikimedia Commons)

Pope Saint Pius X did not follow this tradition and left della Chiesa waiting for almost seven years. When a delegation from Bologna visited him, to ask for della Chiesa's promotion to the College of Cardinals, he jokingly replied by making fun of his own family name, Sarto (meaning "tailor"), for he said: "Sorry, but a Sarto has not been found yet to make the Cardinal's Robe." Some suspected that Pope Saint Pius X, or persons close to him, did not want to have two Rampollas in the College of Cardinals. As aforementioned, his friend, Cardinal Rampolla, died 16 December 1913.

On 25 May 1914, della Chiesa was created a Cardinal, becoming Cardinal-Priest of the Titulus Santi Quattro Coronati, which before him was occupied by Pietro Respighi. When the new Cardinal tried to return to Bologna, after the Consistory in Rome, an unrelated Socialist, anti-Monarchic and anti-Catholic uprising began to take place in Central Italy; this was accompanied by a General Strike, the looting and destruction of Churches, telephone connections and railway buildings, and a proclamation of a Secular Republic. In Bologna, itself, citizens and the Catholic Church opposed such developments successfully. The Socialists overwhelmingly won the following Regional Elections with great majorities.

Copyright-expired-photo of Eugenio Pacelli (later Pope Pius XII),
in 1917, in front of the Imperial German Headquarters
after an audience with Emperor William II.
Source: Pascalina Lehnert.
Author: Feuerreiter.
(Wikimedia Commons)

As World War I approached, the question was hotly discussed in Italy as to which side to be on. Officially, Italy was still in an alliance with Germany and Austria–Hungary. However, in the Tyrol, an integral part of Austria, which was mostly German-speaking, the Southern part, the Province of Trento, was exclusively Italian-speaking. The Clergy of Bologna was not totally free from nationalistic fervour, either. Therefore, in his capacity as Archbishop, on the outbreak of World War I, della Chiesa made a speech on the Church's position and duties, emphasising the need for neutrality, promoting peace and the easing of suffering.

Following the death of Pope Saint Pius X, the resulting Conclave opened at the end of August 1914. The war would clearly be the dominant issue of the new Pontificate, so the Cardinals' priority was to choose a man with great diplomatic experience. Thus, on 3 September 1914, della Chiesa, despite having been a Cardinal only three months, was elected Pope, taking the name of Benedict XV.

He chose the name in honour of Pope Benedict XIV (Papacy 1740-1758), who was from Bologna and was also its Archbishop. Upon being elected Pope, he was also formally the Grand Master of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of JerusalemPrefect of the Supreme Sacred Congregation of the Holy Office and Prefect of the Sacred Consistorial Congregation. There was, however, a Cardinal-Secretary to run these Bodies on a day-to-day basis.

This is a rare photo of the "Salus Populi Romani", Crowned by Pope Pius XII in 1953.
After the renovation, the Crown was deleted and is now in the Museum of the Sacristy of Saint Peter. The picture, today, in Rome, exists therefore only without the Crown.
[Pope Benedict XV supported the Theology of Co-Redemptrix of the Virgin Mary.]
Date: 1960.
Source: Own work.
Author: Ambrosius007.

Due to the enduring Roman Question, after the announcement of his Election to the Papacy by the Cardinal Proto-Deacon, Benedict XV, following in the footsteps of his two most recent predecessors, did not appear at the balcony of Saint Peter's Basilica to grant the urbi et orbi Blessing. Pope Benedict XV was Crowned at the Sistine Chapel on 6 September 1914, and, also as a form of protest due to the Roman Question, there was no Ceremony for the formal possession of the Cathedral of Saint John Lateran.


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