Saturday, February 6, 2010

Papal Profile: Pope Benedict XV

Giacomo della Chiesa was a small, frail man, known as "Tiny" while in the seminary, but as Pope Benedict XV he had the very big job of guiding the Church, fortified in doctrinal truth by Saint Pius X, through the horrific years of World War I. He had been a cardinal for only three months before his election as "Supreme Pontiff" but had considerable experience as a papal diplomat during the reign of Leo XIII.

The election of such a newly created cardinal was a clear indication, that particularly in the Europe of 1914, that the Church needed someone with the ability to negotiate with surrounding countries and deal with the problems facing the world in a very practical way. Benedict himself, being the little, compassionate man that he was, stood in total horror of the effects of modern, industrialized warfare.

Throughout the conflict, his entire energies were spent in the pursuit of an arranged, negotiated peace. To accomplish this, he adopted a strict policy of impartial neutrality. He refused to comment on any nation-specific charges of atrocities but spoke out at length on the cruelty and inhumanity of the war as a whole, urging all nations to cease and come together in reconciliation. He proposed that all conquered lands be returned to their former owners and that each nation pay for its own reconstruction. Neither side was pleased with his impartiality, calling him, alternately, the 'Boche Pope' and 'der Franzoesische Papst'. His calls for peace were ignored by all the major powers save Emperor Charles I of Austria and King Albert I of the Belgians (both devout Catholics) and their efforts were thwarted by their more powerful allies.

However, it must be remembered that, at this time, the Pope was still treated as a prisoner of the Vatican, and still claimed temporal authority over Rome and the Patrimony of St. Peter. This was significant in that, hoping to gain papal favor, Germany offered to restore Rome to the Pope after the eventual defeat of Italy. It also meant that his fellow Italians were anxious to prevent the Pope from having any voice in international politics.

Italy, rightly so, was afraid that if the Pope became the arbiter of European peace, he might seek redress for the illegal seizure of his own country in the preceeding century. Due to this, in one of the secret, under-handed agreements all too common at the time, Italy forced the other allied powers to agree, in 1915, that they would not deal or negotiate with the Pope at all. Thus, the war went on until 1918, and afterwards Benedict was even denied representation at the peace conference in Versailles.

Although greatly relieved that the war had ended, Benedict XV showed considerable foresight in his great displeasure with the peace terms. He viewed the Treaty of Versailles as an un-Christian act of vengance against Germany and could hardly have been pleased with the replacement of so many Catholic monarchs with anti-clerical, nationalistic, socialistic regimes.
Yet, the Pope was determined still to come to the aid of his beleagured flock. In fact, he all but emptied the Vatican treasury, giving some 82 million lire to aid the wounded, impoverished and homeless people left in the wake of the war. He also began trying to project a more open and friendly face of the Church and sent envoys across the continent to arrange concordats with the new governments to secure the future of the Church in Europe. In 1920 he even went so far as to officially allow other Catholic rulers to visit the King of Italy at the Quirinal (the former papal residence). He also allowed Catholics to participate in Italian politics once again, blessed the somewhat radical Catholic 'Partito Poplare', reconciled with France, which included the great canonization of St Joan of Arc in 1920 and encouraged the growth of trade unions to fight for workers. Sadly, not long after peace was finally secured in Europe, Pope Benedict XV died in 1922.


  1. We live, alas, in a time in which we have Seperated Religion from everythign else, a if soemhow Relgiion shoudl play no role in Politics, society, or even Private Moraliy. The result is that we have embraced a NEw Religion, that of the Enlughtenment, and of Hmanism. We just don't recognise them as Religion and assume their Values are the Values of the Neutral State of man, self evident and base don Reason, for we never examine the origins of these beleifs and realise they came to us form History and Presumptions of Philosopy, not natural observation made daily.

    The Pope, His most Blessed Benedict 15, was quiet right in his denunciations of Modernism, for the furthr we have traveled this road of embracing the Philosophers of umanist Tendancies, thmore our society has become British and uncivilised. We look to our natiosn and see them as Corporate entities, not as Organic Families of peoples. We look to Pliticians, and elect them base don selfish desires and short sighted goals, always askign whats n it for us and never askign what s for the greater good, and we give in to all Base lusts and passions which now are elevated to the Status of our fundamental rights and to the position of somehtign to be flaunted.

    The result is that as a people we ar eindolent, selfish, and corruot. Naitosnm eek to undermine the Political proccesse sof other Naitosn so they can take advantage ofthem, wealth is sxeized bu the State form individuals to enriush its own mechinary and further it spower, and people grow only in hatred and isolaiton.

    The Suoreme Irony is that, the philsophy of the ENlightenment which began all of this promised us a Unified Society, in which we all live as Brothers, united forever. IT woudl eb a Stornge and greater Uniy, base don truth and Reaosn, as opposed tot he servitudital life base don the false claimas and false promises of CHristianity.

    Yet, Empries have divided and peopel seek only independance form eahc other. We grow more and more enophobic as we seek to aasociate only wth peopel whoa re exalcyt iek us. This is what, for example, undergirds the Scottish and Welsh Independance mvoements, and if they win it others woudl want furthe rindependance form them. Unity, Brotherhood?

    Germany was punished with Cruel Vengence and what we reap we sow, and the world pwors at Versailes created Hitler and his Nazi Regmee more assureldy than Hitler himself did, for they produiced the Hatred and Hatred was retune din Kind.

    But still the Pope went unbidden, as his Successor does today.

    We seem blidned by ur alligeanc to the presumptiosn we have been taught, no matter how devistating they are.

  2. "We live, alas, in a time in which we have Seperated Religion from everythign else, a if soemhow Relgiion shoudl play no role in Politics, society, or even Private Moraliy"

    -This reminds me of something His Highness the Aga Khan said in an interview, how this way of thinking was anethma to Muslims for whom religion is the defining aspect of their whole life. I thought at the time, the Aga Khan was right, but Christianity is not *supposed* to be that way, it should be lived the same way and not just be a label or some sort of hobby you do once a week.

  3. Indeed you're absloutely right MM - Christianity is about living the Gospels, not going to Church.

    It is certainly a pity that His Holiness was so ignored by all save junior partners in their various alliances. Then again, considering many of the Allied leaders were of a socialist/communist persuasion, can you really be surprised at their distaste for that most despised of religious institutions, the Catholic Church, and by extension, its head in the Pope?

  4. To be fair, Woodrow Wilson was himself a Christian, and while he certainly adhered to a Liberal, Modernist vision of te future based on the idea that the future belonfged ot Progress and Progress was found in the newer, more enlightened ideology of the Socialists, he was not Anti-Christian, and I don't thinkl he had a direct Animosity toward the Pope. Of course he was also a Presbyterian, and that may counter what I've just said as Anti-Catholic Sentiment still existed in American especially in Protestant Churches with direct ties tot he Reformation who hadn't undergone the realignment towards reconciliationism. Then again, I think Wilson simply understood the whole of Human History as a series of Revolutions and periods of Enlightement followed by Progresive chnages that make the world better by showing a continued Evolution of man towarss a higher, more Enlightened state, and would hav viewed in that Era the Catholic Church less as a great Evil, as much as he'd see it as a regressive, old order remnant that had been dsisplaced by the Protestant Reformation which had brought progress and a new level of Enlightenment tot he Church, supplanting hte Authority of the older system wby Intordicing a newer and better framework. Also, the Presbyterian Church is far mroe Denocratic than the Catholic Church, and htis was far more true Prior to Vatican 2 in the 1960's, so Wilson couldeaisly fit the idea I just described above into his own Worldivew, and see both the Presbyterian Church he belonged to and America, the Nation he was a Citesen of and which he became President of as a new, higher order than the previous orde.

    Still, I don't think he hated the Pope or the Catholic Church as much as he thought it less advanced and Enlighened than he was.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...