Pageant of the Popes, by John Farrow, , at sacred-texts.com
For sixteen years Cardinal Rampolla had shared the confidences and had executed the policies of Leo XIII in his capacity as Secretary of State. "We have worked well together, you and I," Leo had told him before he had died: and indeed it had been a collaboration so marked by success and tranquillity that it was thought, on all sides, that the next pope would surely be Rampolla. The conclave assembled, the doors were locked, and the first three ballots were in his favor but suddenly to prevent his election the
solemn proceedings were dramatically halted by Cardinal Puzyna who rose and, white-faced and tremulous of voice for his was a disagreeable task, informed his startled colleagues that on behalf of the Emperor Franz Josef of Austria he was forced to exercise the right of veto. There was consternation amongst the scarlet clad voters but after a formal protest the candidature of the former Secretary of State was withdrawn with dignity and with manifestations of relief on his part. There were four more ballots and each time more votes were counted for Cardinal Giuseppe Sarto, the Patriarch of Venice. The fourth scrutiny revealed that he had acquired the necessary majority and, accepting his fate, he received the homage of his electors as Pope Pius X.
Unlike the aristocratic Leo and unlike Rampolla whose family were of princely rank the new Pius was peasant-born, the second of a large family that knew well the sting and anxiety of poverty. While he was still a child, an aptitude for scholarship had attracted the attention and favor of the local schoolmaster and the village priest and both had helped with encouragement and tutoring. The vocation had come and at twenty-three the young Sarto was a priest and before him were eighteen years of work as curate, parish priest, and canon. Then had come the great moment when he was made a bishop. With pardonable pride it is related he displayed the episcopal ring to his mother and in answer the old peasant woman held up her left hand and smilingly reminded him that without the simple gold band the miracle would not have been possible. He was given the See of Mantua which because of the resistance of the Italian Government had been without a bishop for ten years and which as a consequence was in wretched circumstance. In the next ten years Bishop Sarto accomplished wonders and gained the praise and attention of the
alert Pope, who rewarded him with the Patriarchate of Venice. This was an ancient and exalted office but it made no difference in the simple and frugal habits of the future Pius whose unmarried sisters continued to attend to his domestic wants. The Red Hat came, his administration was a conspicuous success. Then arrived the fateful day when, grieving for his late patron, he left to join the conclave. A great crowd accompanied him to the railway station where, it was noticed, he bought a return ticket.
On becoming Pope he continued to avoid pomp and ceremony as much as it was possible to do so, and when asked by a court official what distinctions he intended to bestow upon his sisters Pius, who could now scatter titles and rank as lavishly as his inclinations so desired, answered gravely that Sisters of the Pope would suffice for his kin. His earnest humility and sincere simplicity did not prevent him from being firm of will and determined in action when necessity demanded. For his Secretary of State he made a wise choice in the person of Raphael Merry del Val who was of Irish-Spanish ancestry and whose brother, a grandee of Spain, was the Ambassador of that country to the court of St. James. The combination of peasant Pope and nobly born Secretary of State proved to be a happy one and for the entire pontificate of eleven years, it worked with a rare harmony and with fruitful results. Pius remained more aloof in his diplomatic relations with the temporal rulers than had Leo XIII and to make sure there would be no more unseemly intrusions on their part to change the decisions of future conclaves, his Commissum nobis constitutionally abolished the right of veto. Although the policy inaugurated by his predecessors toward the Italian Government was followed he relaxed some of the restrictions of previous reigns, and thus made it possible for Catholics to participate in all the elections and to accept office as deputies
in the national parliament. It was the cautious and friendly commencement of a slow and difficult road to reconciliation.
Fresh troubles came from France for the government of that republic had become even more anti-clerical in its opinions and finally, after a series of discreditable and carefully calculated incidents, the Concordat which had been in existence for a century was declared to be at an end and the Law of Separation between Church and State put into force. This meant confiscation of ecclesiastical properties and revenues and persecution and insult to the clergy. It also meant violence and demonstrations and often the unfortunate officials who were the instruments of the law were forced to call for protection or run from the ire of angry parishioners. The action of the French government was distinctly not popular with the French people and considerable dissatisfaction was voiced, particularly in the provinces, when the protest of the Pope was received with contempt and indifference by the President and the so-called Liberal group which surrounded him. In one respect the new and unjust law was beneficial to the Church for although it brought suffering and sudden poverty to the French clergy it also brought them a greater freedom from secular control and interference. There were now no rich benefices to excite the cupidity and invite the plots of the worldly-ambitious.
The same brand of Liberalism which held sway in France was also gaining ground in Spain and Portugal and in both countries there were anti-clerical outbreaks. A king and his son had been murdered in Portugal, the next king had abdicated, a Republic was proclaimed, and in the separation of Church and State which followed, numerous outrages in the name of Liberalism were perpetrated against the clergy. The doctrine of the mistitled and inflammatory
creed was aptly described by Leo XIII as being "every man a law unto himself," and as a political force in practice its aims and methods, violent, revolutionary, subversive, and often atheistic, were antipathetic to Christian principles and vastly different to the tolerance and generosity that its benign label implied. Like Freemasonry the continental species of Liberalism held nothing in common with the movement of the same name which exists among the English speaking peoples and this is a fact which is often not understood in Great Britain and North America and which too often has caused bewilderment and anxiety in those countries as well as a misdirection of sympathies. Another movement to incur the alarm of the pontiff was that which went by the name of Modernism, an attempt by some misguided clerics and others to adjust religion to the prevailing fads of science and the current fancies of pseudo-historians. Pius saw the danger to orthodoxy, the threat to dogma, and by decree and encyclical the insidious propaganda was condemned. To leave no doubts as to the subject of his prohibition a syllabus, listing sixty-five errors from the writings of the modernists, was issued from the Vatican. A storm of indignant and verbose protest greeted the papal action and, as he expected, the Pope was accused of being reactionary and narrow minded, but the heat of the crisis passed quickly and the cult of Modernism dissolved quietly into oblivion.
Pius X was the author of several reforms and innovations within the ecclesiastical structure and as the fiftieth anniversary of his ordination approached he declared: "Reform of the priesthood is the most beautiful gift that the clergy can offer us." Thorough examination and constructive criticism was given to the training of priests and to the operation of seminaries. A decree banished non-liturgical music from the churches and an Academy of Music was
founded to encourage the study of the Gregorian chant. Church music, it was his firm opinion, should be marked by three qualities. "It should be holy; it should be a work of art; and it should have a universal appeal." The stupendous task of arranging and cataloguing the formless mass of Canon Law, the complicated accumulation of many centuries of continuous law-making, was a duty that appealed as a necessity to his orderly mind and a Commission of Cardinals, headed by Cardinal Gasparri and armed with powers to mobilize a corps of theologians, historians, and lawyers, was formed to vanquish the problem. Pius did not live to see the completion of this project but it was finished after fourteen arduous years and his successor paid him well deserved tribute for having commenced and made possible the success of the colossal undertaking. It was the wish of Pius that the people should partake of the Sacrament more often and because of his pleas there was a Eucharistic revival and Catholics everywhere, young and old, pressed forward in greater numbers and with increasing frequency to receive Holy Communion.
The fateful year of 1914 was the last year of Pius X. He was acutely conscious of the gathering clouds of war. The weight of his grief was perceptible to all and by every means within his power he attempted to avert the crisis; but his advice and pleas fell on empty ears. Many a responsible statesman belonging to the nations which were to be involved in the approaching disaster refused to believe up to the last minute that there would be war: but three months before the terrible hostilities began, the Pope quietly told a citizen of a South American republic: "How fortunate you are that you will not be here when war breaks out." When the fatal shots were fired at Sarajevo Pius was nor surprised but, realizing the awful consequences, cried out in anguish, "Willingly would I sacrifice
my life to ward off the terrible scourge!" Twice the Austrian Ambassador, in answer to a request that the papal blessing should be given to the armies of his country, was bluntly told: "I bless peace." But peace was not to be. Austria declared war on Serbia, Russia moved her great armies, and Germany, France and England joined the fray. Weakened by the strain of his anxiety the Pope sickened and was ordered to bed by his doctors. It was not a serious illness, they said, and there was nothing to fear for the Pope had inherited the sturdy physique of his peasant forebears. But in a few days, on the 20th of August, he was dead and although the attending physicians wrote bronchitis on their last bulletin his friends knew it was heart-break.
Before he died a personal letter went from him to the Emperor Franz Josef of Austria. "Not through the medium of Chancelleries," he wrote, "not with the studied pomp of Embassies have I desired to speak to you; my heart goes direct to your heart, and your father, he who represents Christ on earth, prostrates himself before you. I kiss your feet and implore you to abandon this impious war, this fearful iniquity, this scandal of the Gospel, this horrible stain on the breast of our mother, your mother and mine, Holy Mother Church. I kiss your feet, and will not leave you till you give the order for peace as you gave the order for war. You gave the order for little Serbia to be destroyed; you have now reduced Belgium to ashes. Am I not the shepherd of these lambs? . . . The thunderbolts of the Church are terrible. You know it. . . I will not strike you down, because I have given my life for you. . . But if 1 do not excommunicate, it will be the malediction of Heaven that will fall upon your head. My dearest son, I bless you today, because I am still your father. Tomorrow will be too late; you will be accursed."
Franz Josef did not answer the appeal for it was never
received by him. It was intercepted by one of his officialswhich official is not certain, but it never reached the aged Emperor and the catastrophic course of events remained unchanged and unstemmed. The letter was dated August 13 and in the Vatican a week later the Camerlengo was performing his grisly ceremony over the cold body of Pius. The will that he left was typical of his humility. He asked that his funeral should have the minimum of ceremony and he humbly requested that a monthly allowance, "not to exceed 300 lire" should be given to his two sisters. For he had no money to leave, this Pope who had once said: "I was born poor; I have lived poor; and I wish to die poor."
The difficulty of travelling in wartime did not prevent the next conclave from functioning two weeks after the death of Pius. Cardinals from the warring nations arrived and faced each other in an atmosphere of tension as the ballots were given. The proceedings lasted three days and then the world was told that again there was a Pope, the Cardinal Jacopo della Chiesa, Archbishop of Bologna, who became Benedict XV. The education and training of the new pontiff differed greatly from the pastoral career of his predecessor for he was the son of a marquis and his studies at the Academy of Noble Ecclesiastics had been followed by long service in the Curia both as a diplomatist and economist. He had lived abroad as the secretary to a Nuncio and his abilities had won the confidence and esteem of the great Cardinal Rampolla. He had been an able Under-Secretary of State and, as Archbishop of Bologna, a successful administrative prelate; and it was believed by the Sacred College that he, more than anyone else, was fitted to deal with the involved diplomacy of a chaotic era. He was sixty years old and a man of diminutive stature; and when, in adherence to traditional procedure, he was taken after the decisive scrutiny of the conclave to be garbed in the
garment of his new rank it was found there was none to fit him. There were white cassocks of various sizes and to fit most men but all were too large for the new pope. "Caro," he remarked with a smile to the attending tailor, "you had quite forgotten me!"
Benedict donned the white cassock with a smile but from that moment there were few opportunities for him to indulge in pleasantries, for sorrow and disappointment and frustration were to be the dark mood of his reign. Before he became Pope he had told the priests of his archdiocese that "I should regret it if any of my clergy should take sides in this conflict. It is desirable that we pray for the cessation of the war without dictating to Almighty God in what way it should end." His opinions did not change when he was given the tiara. Throughout the long war he successfully pursued the difficult course of true neutrality and very soon after his election he announced he would "leave nothing undone to hasten the end of this calamity." Untiringly and heedless of rebuff and insult he worked to bring back peace to the world; but with sad and disheartening repetition his efforts were rejected or ignored and often received with misunderstanding and suspicion. In ancient times warring armies had sometimes suspended hostilities on Christmas day in observance of a charitable custom which was called the Truce of God. Benedict tried to revive this truce on the first Christmas of the war but although Great Britain, Germany and Belgium were not unsympathetic to the idea the rulers of France and Russia strongly opposed it, so there was no interruption to the thunder of the guns or to the flow of blood. The strict neutrality of the Vatican was questioned and criticized by zealous nationalists everywhere. The fiery patriot, inflamed by prejudice and passion and sincerely convinced of the justice of his country's cause, could not understand the impartiality
of the Pope. In every nation voices were raised, the same voices that would be so quick to resent "papal interference" in normal secular affairs, the same voices that would angrily reject a decision adverse to their interest, now in critical and continual chorus demanding of Catholics why Benedict did not pronounce against the crimes of the enemy and uphold the true champions of righteousness. To such questions the Pope had given an answer early in 1915. "The Roman Pontiff," he declared, "must embrace all the combatants in one sentiment of charity; and as the Father of all Catholics he has among the belligerents large numbers of children for whose salvation he must be equally and without distinction solicitous. It is necessary, therefore, that in them he must consider not the special interests that divide them, but the common bond of faith which makes them brothers."
Rigidly observing the rules of neutrality himself, the Pope was courageously outspoken when those rules were broken by others. Even the German Chancellor had publicly admitted, in an address to his Parliament, that the bloody crossing of the Belgian frontiers by the German army was contrary to international law and justified only by the demands of military strategy, yet the only protest to come from a neutral source came from the Vatican. "The invasion of Belgium," wrote the Papal Secretary of State, Cardinal Gasparri, in a letter to the Belgian Minister to the Holy See, "is directly included in the words used by the Holy Father when he condemned openly every injustice by whatever side and for whatever motive committed."
The first year of the war passed and there were no signs of peace. Great armies were interlocked in gigantic battles over vast areas, the fight was carried to the seas with equal bitterness, and for the first time men fought in the
skies. The terrible weapon of blockade had been invoked and while the British fleet severed the commerce of Germany, the latter's submarines were sinking allied merchant ships at sight and in mounting numbers. Never before had there been destruction on such an appalling scale but unheeded was the agonized plea from the Vatican. "May this cry be heard above the terrible tumult of arms by the stricken people and their leaders and dispose them to make peace with one another . . . Let all participants quench their lust for destruction . . . Why not even now examine the rights and wishes of the people with conscientious impartiality? Why not inaugurate, directly or indirectly, an exchange of views in order to end the terrible conflict?"
By this time Italy had been drawn into the struggle, in partnership with the Allies, and a shameful condition was secretly included in the new pact. Fearful that a restoration of the Papal States might be included in post war settlements the Italian Ministers had demanded and had received assurance that the Pope would be excluded from peace negotiations. Solemnly the pledge was given that the advice of the Vatican, a sure influence for impartiality and unprejudiced decision, would be banned from the councils which were to shape the destiny of Europe. The second year of the conflict came and went, the slaughter went on with increasing fury, more nations became involved, and an end of the conflagration, either by negotiation or force of arms, seemed more remote than ever. But although his efforts to achieve peace remained fruitless, one organization erected by the Pope met with a singular success and was given cooperation by the governments. Through agencies in Switzerland, and because of the labour of neutral priests and bureaus established within the belligerent nations, vast numbers of prisoners of war were exchanged, the wounded
given succour and better hospitalization, and tens of thousands of families who were grieving for missing sons and husbands were informed of the safety and whereabouts of their kin.
As the third sad year approached Benedict informed his Vicar-General that "We must again raise our voice against this war, which appears to us as the suicide of civilized Europe." Carefully he prepared a plan, a workable basis for negotiation, a practical scheme which could be received by all the warring powers without affront, which could still the gunfire without loss of prestige or national honour to either side. On August 1st of 1917 a peace note was despatched from Rome. Once again the evils of the war and the dangers of the future were emphasized and then the carefully pondered words went on to state that "We desire now to put forward some more concrete and practical propositions and invite the Governments of the belligerents to come to some agreement on the following points, which seem to offer the basis of a just and lasting peace, though leaving to them the duty of adjusting and completing them . . . First of all, the fundamental point must be that the moral force of right shall be substituted for the material force of arms; thence must follow a just agreement of all for the simultaneous and reciprocal diminution of armaments, in accordance with rules, and guarantees to be established hereafter, in a measure sufficient and necessary for the maintenance of public order in each State; next, as a substitute for arms, the institution of arbitration with its exalted peacemaking function, subject to regulations to be agreed upon, and sanctions to be determined against the State which should refuse either to submit international questions to arbitration or to accept its decision. Once the supremacy of right is thus establishedlet all obstacles to the free intercourse of peoples be
swept aside, in assuring by means of rules to be fixed in the same way, the true liberty of and common rights over the sea . . . As to the damage to be made good, and the cost of the war, we see no other way of solving the question but to lay down, as a general principle an entire and reciprocal condonation . . ." But, insisted the Pope there should be a return of the conquered areas by both sides, "restitution of Belgium by Germany, with guarantees; similar restitution of French territory; restitution of the German colonies by the Allies." And territorial disputes and minority problems should be solved with due respect to the aspirations of the populations.
The Note was given serious attention by the governments but although in the beginning there was a faint gleam of hope in some quarters, notably in Germany where the efforts of the Papal Nuncio, Monsignor Pacelli, were given a certain amount of encouragement, the final answers or, as in the case of England, no answer at all, amounted to the same inexorable result. The war went on and it was not to cease until the Armistice of 1918. Even then the thunder of cannon was not quieted nor violence ended, for in the next few years there was continued the terrible ravages of the Russian civil war, in which the losing side was half heartedly supported by the Allies who, in such a spirit, aided with contingents instead of armies. There was the brave struggle of Poland against the newly established Bolshevists, and there was the equally bitter conflict between the Greeks and the Turks. There was bloody strife in Ireland; and in Lithuania, Syria, Morocco, and Hungary, men killed and maimed each other with a similar and unrelenting hatred. Nor was it men alone who were dying. The grim companions of war, pestilence and famine, had appeared and were reaping a terrible harvest. Millions had been killed. Whole populations were starving. Cities
and countryside alike were exhausted and ravaged, for the new methods and great machineries of modern warfare had obliterated the sharp difference which formerly had separated the lot of civilian and combatant. The commerce of the world was disrupted and impoverished.
Benedict had foreseen and had warned and had tried to avert the catastrophe with practical advice. He had been ignored and he was still to be ignored. Peace, as he had proved by his unremitting toil, was the great aim of the Papacy and it is remarkable that in the postwar mood of bitterness and cynicism not one voice was raised to accuse him of partisanship. The intricate and far flung organization of the Church, the international and catholic nature of the Church, brought to the Vatican a wide knowledge and understanding of the problems, national, economic, and racial, which confronted the world. The spiritual subjects of the Pope dwelt within all the frontiers and there was nothing to be gained by him in favouring either the victor or the vanquished. Yet the secret promise made by the Allies to the Italian Government was given strict adherence, and when the representatives of the nations gathered at Versailles elaborate precautions were taken that no emissary from the Vatican should be there, either for counsel or for participation. The glittering Hall of Mirrors echoed with lofty phrases and idealistic speeches as penalties were imposed and frontiers were changed and measures adopted which, however nobly put, resulted in peoples being ordered to change their native languages, to forget and discard the traditions of their fathers, and to swear allegiance to new masters and new flags. Idealism and sincerity were undoubtedly the property of some of the assembled statesmen but it was greed and revenge and stupidity too that dominated the terms of the doomed Treaty. "Remember," cried the unhappy and unheeded Pontiff, "nations do not
die; in humiliation and revenge, they pass from generation to generation the sorrowful heritage of hatred and retaliation."
One country at least appreciated the labours of Benedict and while he still lived a statue to honour his name was erected by the Mohammedans of Turkey; and though the rulers of the Christian nations had chosen to spurn his peace plans the high standard of papal statesmanship and the conduct and ability of the papal nuncios and delegates had commanded admiration and had earned an increased respect in the Chancellories and Foreign Offices. New Embassies and Legations became accredited to the Holy See and even the government of France, so recently anti-clerical, saw fit, when the canonization of Joan of Arc was proclaimed, to adopt a more amicable attitude and to send an envoy to the papal court.
Thirty-three new dioceses, twenty-eight vicariates, and nine missionary prefectures were established during Benedict's reign and in a masterful encyclical he charged the missionary priests to encourage and foster vocations in their territories. It was a significant instruction for that policy of the Church which encouraged each race and country to provide its own clergy had been given added emphasis since the time of Leo XIII and it was the intention of Benedict that the wise practice should not suffer because of the prejudices and hatreds which were following in the wake of the Great War. The awareness of these passions, the knowledge of the dark events which they inevitably would breed, were thoughts seldom absent from the mind of the Pope whether he addressed missionary or cardinal, ambassador or simple pilgrim, or meditated alone. He was now sixty-seven years old and the continual strain, the constant anxiety, the spectre of future disasters, the long succession of disappointment and sorrow, did not
fail to exact the usual penalty. Thus, when his exhausted body was attacked by influenza there was little resistance to the sickness. He died on the 22nd of January 1922, and typical were his last words, "We offer our life to God on behalf of the peace of the world."
Four years before his death Benedict summoned the Prefect of the Vatican Library, Monsignor Ratti, from his books and surprised the sixty year old scholar by appointing him Apostolic Visitor to the devastated regions of Poland. Monsignor Ratti was a doctor of both canon law and philosophy and in academic circles he bore a distinguished reputation as a historian and theologian but he had had no experience in the realm of professional diplomacy. For thirty years his life had been the tranquil lot of the librarian and before that, in a brief span that followed his studies, he had served as a professor in a seminary. But long years spent in exploring the secrets and treasures of rare manuscripts had not confined Monsignor Ratti's vision and interest to the villainies and glories of the past. He was a keen observer of the ever changing drama of modern history and during his twenty-two years at the Ambrosian Library in Milan he became noted for his wide knowledge of contemporary events. This reputation followed him when, in 1910, he was summoned to Rome and appointed assistant to the Librarian of the Vatican. Four years later he was promoted to the Librarianship and during the anxious years of the war the Cardinal Secretary of State would often discuss with the alert scholar the problems of Europe. He found the conversations to be useful and instructive and so it was that Cardinal Gasparri recommended to the Pope that the Monsignor should leave the peaceful precincts of the great library and be the papal representative to a nation which had been sorely lashed by war and oppression and which was at this moment confronted with one of the most
critical periods in its long and troubled history. After many years of servitude and division territory had been regained from Russia by the Poles, and although the Germans still occupied important regions, including Warsaw, national independence and unity seemed assured a brave people. Great excitement and confusion attended the birth of the new Republic as treaties were made and plebiscites undertaken and the complicated structure of government erected. There was poverty and disease and hunger too and there was to be the sharp misery of war again when the newly won independence was savagely assailed by the Soviet armies.
It was a stormy environment for the ex-librarian but he greeted it with calmness and initiative and from the moment he arrived at Warsaw and established his headquarters in the modest residence of a parish priest his labours were conspicuously successful. Ecclesiastical affairs were in as sorry a tangle as the prevailing political conditions. Important sees were vacant and without administration, others were under the control of German or Austrian prelates, and often even parish priests were of a different nationality than their parishioners. There were numerous scandals and much violence, and grave and bitter were the quarrels between Catholics of the Eastern and Latin rites. Revenues had ceased and hospitals and schools were in a critical state. All these troubles and the multitudinous problems they caused received the careful attention of the papal envoy and gradually, because of his work, order and organization grew out of the chaos. His jurisdiction was extended to the new countries of Finland, Esthonia, and Lithuania, and again and again it was his difficult duty to settle complicated disputes which were infected by the dangerous and obstinate fevers of national rivalries. In Russia the campaign to eradicate religion had commenced and to
[paragraph continues] Rome Monsignor Ratti reported that "in order to accomplish the salvation of this country sacrifice as well as prayer will be necessary. The shedding of Catholic blood, the shedding of the blood of priests." He asked permission to cross the frontier and persistently he applied for a Soviet visa but he was never allowed his wish and such a possibility ended with the outbreak of the Russian Polish war. Before the Bolshevists commenced their onslaught the Pope increased the diplomatic rank of his representative to that of Nuncio and the mitre soon followed. The Nuncio was made titular Archbishop of Lepanto and the ceremony of his consecration was held in the Cathedral of Warsaw.
Most of the foreign diplomats who were accredited to the newly formed State left Warsaw when the Russian army approached the capital. Once indeed, the Bolshevists fought their way to within six miles of the city and the plight of the Poles was desperate. The fighting was singularly bitter and little quarter was given or asked by either side. The inhabitants of Warsaw knew well that if the Russians were victorious their city would be sacked without mercy or restraint. Archbishop Ratti could hear the sounds of the great battle, the thunder of the guns shook the walls of his residence, but he remained at his post, doing works of charity with his accustomed calmness and helping with counsel and example. The Poles never forgot his courage and from then on greeted him as a hero and a true friend of their country. But plaudits did not alter his nature and on one occasion, after a particularly enthusiastic crowd had saluted him with cheers then knelt for his blessing, he told his secretary: "Now I realize better what the Pope is. Although only a poor librarian, I see crowds bend the knee before me solely because the shadow of the Pope follows me."
Early in 1921 he was created a cardinal and made Archbishop
of Milan but before assuming his new duties he went to Rome where he received the Red Hat from the hands of the Pope, then there was a pilgrimage to Lourdes, and a month of meditation and prayer at the Monastery of Montecassino. When he entered Milan he received a tumultuous welcome. An aeroplane showered flowers from the air, bands played, soldiers paraded, and thirty thousand cheering citizens crowded before the Cathedral to greet him. Even the so called radical elements and anti-clericals joined their voices to the general acclamation for during his long residence in their city he had won the respect of all classes. "Long live the Cardinal of Youth!" cried a group of young men as his carriage passed. "Long live the Cardinal's young friends!" was his quick reply. He had been accessible to everybody when he was librarian and his occupancy of the archiepiscopal palace was to bring no change. "The house of your Father will be always open," he declared in a public address. "However young, however poor, however humble you may be, do not imagine that the steps of my house are too high or that you cannot easily climb them. If you are young, humble, poor, weighted down by the burden of life, then my invitation is but the echo of that of our Redeemer: "Come to me all you who labor and who are in suffering. You have an especial right to demand that your Father should open his arms to welcome you."
Five months passed and Cardinal Ratti left his diocese to participate in the conclave which followed the death of Pope Benedict. His person attracted considerable interest on the journey for in the fever of speculation and rumor which always precedes a papal election his name had received conspicuous mention in the press. He joined fifty-two other members of the Sacred College in the Sistine Chapel and after solemn preliminaries had been enacted
the voting began. There was no long deadlock or procrastination of any kind and a majority was quickly achieved although it was not the name of the Archbishop of Milan which was read to their eminences. Cardinal Laurenti, head of the Propagation of the Faith, had received the necessary votes but the decision appalled him and firmly he refused to accept it, declaring it was his wish "that this exalted office be given to another who is stronger and better able to carry the heavy burden." The balloting commenced again and the fourteenth scrutiny revealed forty-two votes in favour of Achilles Ambrogio Damiano Ratti. He accepted the honour and when he was asked what name he wished to adopt he answered "In the pontificate of Pius IX I was initiated into the body of the Church, and made my early studies for the ecclesiastical state. Pius X called me to Rome. Pius is a name of peace. Desirous of devoting my efforts to attainment of that world peace which was the aim too, of my predecessor, Benedict XV, I choose to be called Pius XI. I wish to add, and I proclaim the fact before all the members of the Sacred College, that I have at heart the preservation and defence of all the rights of the Church and of all the prerogatives of the Holy See, but I desire that my first blessing, as an earnest of that peace for which humanity longs, should go forth not only to Rome and to Italy, but to the furthest limits of the earth. I shall impart my blessing from the exterior of St. Peter's."
With great interest the newspapers of the world emblazoned the message on their front pages and with emphasis also readers of every race and nationality were informed that the academic triumphs and diplomatic achievements of the ex-librarian were not due to any accident or favour of high birth. Indeed the new pope was the fourth son of a silk weaver and the story of a rise from such circumstances made for dramatic reading. Adding further color to the romantic
tale was the fact he had also gained some renown as an athlete for he was a skilled and courageous Alpinist. "There are few recreations," he had written, "which are more wholesome for body and mind and more to be recommended than a little mountain climbing." The lover of the tall peaks and great spaces had become the "prisoner" in the Vatican but was the imprisonment to endure? That he chose to give his blessing from the external balcony of St. Peter's provided instant fuel for speculation and an immense crowd swirled into being on that historic day. Rumor said at last peace would be made between the Vatican and the Government of Italy.
Diplomats and priests, soldiers and tradesmen, peasants and citizens, joined close together in an enormous assemblage to receive his first benediction. No pope had thus appeared on the balcony for fifty-two years and there was great enthusiasm and much cheering. But one man who had speeded across the Atlantic to participate in the conclave arrived too late either for the election or the happy first blessing. At the moment that Pius XI was appearing on the high loggia of St. Peter's the Archbishop of Boston, John Cardinal O'Connell, still confident that his vote would help elect a new pope, was on a train that was bearing him from Naples to Rome. A Vatican official met him at the station and told him the election was concluded. Frankly disappointed that his four-thousand mile journey should thus end the American prelate recalled that at the previous conclave Cardinal Gibbons and he had suffered a similar experience. When he was received in audience by the new pontiff he courageously gave voice to his chagrin. "We feel so sorry for you," replied Pius, "that after making the long journey you could not be here in time for the election. We wished at least one representative of the American hierarchy. And, sorry as We are, We will so arrange things from now on that this
through which you have passed shall not happen again. It shall not happen again. We will change the Apostolic Constitution." In a few days time it was announced that fifteen days, instead of the customary ten, should elapse before the inauguration of a conclave. And if, even then, further time be needed to permit the attendance of American Cardinals this period could be extended another three days.
Although thirty-five states now deemed it necessary to maintain diplomatic representation at the Vatican the policy of the Italian Government was apparently to remain unchanged. By now such an attitude found scant sympathy with many of the Italian people. Before Benedict had died there had been spirited argument in the Italian Parliament and one deputy was heard to cry: "I say that the Latin and Imperial tradition of Rome is today represented by Catholicism . . . The development of Catholicism throughout the world, the fact that four hundred million men, from every country under the sun, have their eyes fixed on Rome, there is a thing that must interest us who are Italians and should fill us with pride." The speaker of these words was Benito Mussolini, the ex-socialist and anti-clerical, who soon was to grasp power and to forge, with the nationalistic doctrine of Fascism, the unity of a despondent and disrupted Italy. There can be no denial that Fascism brought order to a nation which had been terribly torn by the tragedy and injustice of the First World War. Confusion and inability characterized the futile efforts of a weak government and anarchy was erupting with startling and bloody rapidity. Mussolini and his Blackshirts brought some degree of stability and hope but it was at the cost of violence and intolerance and the employment of such measures meant an inevitable incompatibility with the teachings of the Church.
From the beginning there was conflict between the Church and Fascism but there were attempts at peace too.
[paragraph continues] Priests might be assaulted and Catholic institutions attacked, but the Crucifix was restored to Government buildings and religious instruction was proclaimed necessary in the schools: for Mussolini, like Napoleon and unlike the rulers of Bolshevist Russia, held the opinion that religion is necessary for the well being of the State. And on one subject the Vatican and Fascism were in complete agreement. Both opposed Communism. Pius XI had given deep attention to the tragic events of Russia and both his scholarship and his close experience with the practitioners and propagandists of Communism in Poland had brought him a keen realization of a danger which was rising to menace Christian civilization. A government which proposed to obliterate God from the structure of human society necessarily must find itself in opposition to the Catholic Church. But the fact that Communism was also the target for Nazi and Fascist antipathy created much misunderstanding amongst opponents of the latter philosophies. The fervor of his enthusiasm and hope has caused many a "liberal" to hold the opinion that political belief must arbitrarily take direction either to Right or Left. Disciples of this school of thought have at certain times accused the Church of pro-Fascist leanings because of anti-Communist policy. With an equally dark suspicion the ardent Fascist has affirmed that the Vatican looks too favorably upon the Communist. But the inheritor of St. Peter's mantle has no need for new political ideologies and Pope Pius XI lost no time in informing the world that he regarded the greed of the capitalist and the obsessions of the communist with an equal dislike. Adherents of the latter persuasion would deny a free man the right to own private property. The capitalistic system permits an unjust man or group of men to divert and distort that right with the wiles and resources of avarice and selfishness. Elaborating on the splendid Rerum Novarum of Leo XIII Pope Pius issued a comprehensive
and constructive encyclical Quadragesimo Anno which stressed the evils of modern economic and sociological trends. After a clear analysis of existing dangers he made practical suggestions and a strong plea for a reorganization of the state which would permit all men to enjoy life with freedom and without fear.
On the day of his election Pius XI had indicated he would make peace with the Italian Government. No announcement was made but secret negotiations were commenced during the autumn of 1926. Signor Barome, an Italian Privy Councillor, represented the Government and the Marquis Pacelli, brother of Cardinal Pacelli, spoke for the Vatican. Many and complicated were the problems to be settled but with both sides anxious to end the dispute a settlement was gradually achieved. The Pope gave up his claims to the properties which had formerly constituted the Papal States and in return he was given a cash indemnity and the temporal sovereignty of a tiny state which embraced the buildings and gardens of the Vatican, the Lateran, the College of the Propaganda, and the papal summer residence, Castel Gandolfo. Temporal power might only be held over about one hundred and twenty acres but it meant that at last the papacy was to be free, yet unburdened by the responsibilities and demands of a larger territory. It was also agreed that the papal treasury be enriched by a cash payment of seven hundred and fifty million lire and that another billion, guaranteed by government bonds, be paid over a period of years. Once again Catholicism was to become the official religion of the Italian people, civil law was to be in accord with canon law, and Christian education was to be obligatory in the schools. The Papacy was to enjoy all the rights of an independent State such as the privilege of possessing an "Army," of maintaining its own postal and customs service, and of operating a radio and telegraph station.
[paragraph continues] There were numerous other points of agreement and compromise but these constituted the body of the treaty. The negotiations lasted about two and a half years and although there were rumors during that time there was no statement or admission from either the Pope or Mussolini, now head of the Italian Government, until February 11th, 1929. On this day Pius had occasion to be addressing the parish priests of Rome and when the bells tolled the noon hour he glanced at the clock and calmly told his astounded audience that at that very minute Mussolini and the papal Secretary of State, Cardinal Gasparri, were affixing their signatures to the Treaty of the Lateran.
Congratulations poured in from all parts of the globe. With photogenic triumph Mussolini beamed at millions of readers and the Pope accepted plaudits with dignity and grace. The design for peace had been sealed with all the gestures of protocol but was it to endure the test of reality? Could the demands and aims of a totalitarian form of government he reconciled with the policies of the Church? Apparently not, for soon there was trouble, the age old trouble of Caesar's due. Sponsored by the Church throughout Italy was the movement known as Catholic Action which embraced the activities of Youth Clubs, Boy Scouts, Student Societies, Educational Boards and a Public Morals Federation. Special classes were organized in each parish to receive instruction in the theory of social justice as explained by Leo XIII and the reigning pope. The Fascist Party regarded these groups with a suspicion which soon flared into open antagonism. There were hostile street scenes and a series of disagreeable incidents which culminated in the Pope issuing an Encyclical, non abbiamo bisogno. The encyclical was not issued in the usual way at the Vatican for normal procedure would have almost certainly invited delay or interference from Italian censorship. Instead the Pope summoned
an American priest in whom he placed great confidence, Monsignor Francis J. Spellman, later to be Archbishop of New York but then attached to the Vatican Secretariat of State, and instructed him to smuggle the document from Italy. This was done and the spirited words of protest were dramatically given to the world in Paris. "A conception of the State," wrote the Pope, "which makes the rising generations belong to it entirely without any exception, from the tenderest years up to adult life, cannot be reconciled by a Catholic either with Catholic doctrine or with the natural rights of the family. It is not possible for a Catholic to accept the claim that the Church and the Pope must limit themselves to the external practices of religion (such as Mass and the Sacraments) and that all the rest of education belongs to the State."
The Pope had spoken, to use his own words, with "profound bitterness" and the sympathetic reception which the encyclical was given in foreign countries was not lost upon the Italian government. Mussolini apparently saw the folly of repeating Bismarck's mistake of engaging in an open war with the Church. Overtures were made and once again envoys of the Vatican and the government met and conferred. Out of their talks came the agreement that Government antagonism towards Catholic Action would cease and on its side the Church guaranteed that religious clubs or organizations would not mark anti-government activities. Once again friendship between State and Church was announced with fanfare and amidst scenes of pomp and splendor Mussolini, in the full uniform of his rank, came to pay his respects to the pontiff. His King and Queen had already made their visit but this was the first time for the Prime Minister. A violet-robed prelate met and conducted him through the frescoed chambers and historic halls, the gaily dressed Swiss Guards swung glittering halberds to the Present Arms, and
finally the Dictator of Italy was in the presence of the Pope. For one hour the two men talked and then after a brief call upon the Papal Secretary of State Mussolini was ceremoniously conducted to the basilica of St. Peter's. Here, before the tomb of the Fisherman, a prie-dieu had been placed and it was here that the man who once had so ardently preached anti-clericalism and who had written heresy now kneeled and bent his head in prayer.
Significant and gratifying though the historical meeting was it could not result in absolute harmony. The course of Fascism was bound to conflict with the way of the Church at many points. That veil which shrouds all contemporary history does not permit of a true perspective of the situation as it has existed since Pius XI gave audience to Mussolini. But repeatedly since that date the voice of the Pope has been raised against doctrines which exalt Stateism or Racism. When Italy was making ready to invade Abyssinia and when all the fiery ingredients of patriotism were being invoked to stir popular enthusiasm amongst the Italian people Pius XI made known his alarm and disapproval. "We long for peace," he told an audience of nurses, "and We pray God that We may be spared from war. The mere thought of war is a terror to Us. And now We understand that, abroad, there is talk of a war for conquest, a war of aggression. That is a hypothesis that We do not wish even to consider, a supposition which is truly disconcerting. Any war which is a war only of conquest would be an unjust war, obviouslya thing which routs imagination, something sad beyond words and horrible. We cannot think about an unjust war; We cannot envisage its possibility, and We deliberately turn our mind from it; We do not believe, We do not wish to believe there can be an unjust war. On the other hand, in Italy, they are saying that the war of which there is question will be a just war, because it is a war of defence,
to make the frontier safe against the continual, the incessant dangers to which it is exposed; that it is a war necessary now by reason of the expansion of the population which is increasing from day to day; that it is a war undertaken to defend or to make certain the country's material security; that such a war justifies itself. It is however true, and We cannot but reflect on this truth, that if there is this need for expansion, if there is this need to defend the frontier and make it secure, We can only wish that some other means may be found than war. What is this other means? Obviously it is not easy to say. We do not believe it is impossible to find another means. All the possibilities must be studied. One thing there is which seems to Us beyond all doubt, this namely that if the need for expansion is a fact with which We must reckon, the right of defence has its limits and qualifications, and these must be observed if the defence is to be free from blame."
The Pope spoke in vain. The Italian armies invaded Abyssinia on the 2nd of October, 1935. Six weeks later the League of Nations imposed the famous sanctions against Italy and thus a further step was made towards the Second World War. The United States was not a member of the League but the press of that republic left no doubts as to where sympathies were. But neither the sentence of the League nor North American opinion prevented the eviction of Haile Selassie and the annexation of his country to Italy. The economic power, and behind that power the martial strength, of the democracies proved incapable of stopping Mussolini's grandiose schemes, yet within these countries there were critics who upbraided the Vatican for not accomplishing that which their governments would not, or could not, do. The insignificant temporal power of the tiny Vatican State, so completely devoid of defence, was ignored by such critics and they cried that the Pope should invoke
the resources of spiritual authority, such as the imposition of an interdict, to end the imperial direction of Fascist policy. The employment of such an extravagant measure would have had only one result, further bloodshed and chaos and the catholic nature of the Church has for a goal the achievement of universal peace, not the castigation or exaltation of a particular party or nation. The Pope can deplore and condemn the actions of a government but he cannot force men to accept his decrees or wishes. The very voices in the democracies that called upon him to take more aggressive action against Mussolini would be the first to resent "papal interference" in the affairs of their own countries and few are the nations without ignoble episodes in their story, recent or past.
On January 30th, 1933, Adolf Hitler became Chancellor of Germany. Six months later a Concordat between the Vatican and the Reich was signed but disagreement was not long in coming. Since its beginning certain actions of the National Socialist party had drawn the criticism of German bishops and the Concordat brought no ease to a situation which gradually developed into persecution. Catholic societies were dissolved and ecclesiastical properties and schools were confiscated. Attacks, physical and oral, were made upon the clergy and they were accused of immorality and disloyalty to the state. A return to ancient German paganism was advocated by leading members of the Nazi party and the Judaic origins of Christianity were held up to ridicule. Catholic newspapers were suppressed and a law was passed which decreed that all young people must be educated "in the Hitler Youth, educated physically, spiritually and morally, in the spirit of National Socialism, for the service of the people and the commonwealth."
With sorrow and anxiety Pius XI gave his close attention to the developments in Germany and made known his concern
several times. Then on March 14, 1937, he issued the encyclical, On the Present Position of the Catholic Church in Germany. Because of the antagonistic attitude of the government great secrecy attended the publication of the encyclical and parish priests did not receive it until the early hours of the day on which it was intended it should be read in the churches. "It is with deep anxiety and growing surprise," said the pontiff, "that We have long been following the painful trials of the Church and the increasing vexations which afflict those who have remained loyal in heart and action . The experiences of these last years have fixed responsibilities and laid bare intrigues, which from the outset only aimed at a war of extermination. In the furrows, where We tried to sow the seed of a sincere peace, other menthe 'enemy' of Holy Scriptureoversowed the cockle of distrust, unrest, hatred, defamation, of a determined hostility, overt or veiled, fed from many sources and wielding many tools, against Christ and His Church. They, and they alone, with their accomplices, silent or vociferous, are today responsible, should the storm of religious war, instead of the rainbow of peace, blacken the German skies . . . Whoever exalts race, or the people, or the State, or a particular form of State, or the depositories of power, or any other fundamental value of the human communityhowever necessary and honorable be their function in worldly thingswhoever raises these notions above their standard value and divinizes them to an idolatrous level, distorts and perverts an order of the world planned and created by God: he is far from the true faith in God and from the concept of life which that faith upholds . . . None but superficial minds could stumble into concepts of a national God, of a national religion . . . Whoever wishes to see banished from church and school the Biblical history and the wise doctrines of the Old Testament, blasphemes the name of God,
blasphemes the Almighty's plan of salvation, and makes limited and narrow human thought the judge of God's designs over the history of the world . . . It is on faith in God, preserved pure and stainless, that man's morality is based. All efforts to remove from under morality and the moral order the granite foundation of faith and to substitute for it the shifting sands of human regulations, sooner or later lead these individuals or societies to moral degradation. The fool who has said in his heart "there is no God" goes straight to moral corruption (Psalms XIII, 1), and the number of these fools who today are out to sever morality from religion, is legion. They either do not see or refuse to see that the banishment of confessional Christianity, i.e., the clear and precise notion of Christianity, from teaching and education, from the organization of social and political life, spells spiritual spoliation and degradation. No coercive power of the State, no purely human ideal, however noble and lofty it be, will ever be able to make shift for the supreme and decisive impulses generated by faith in God and in Christ . . . To hand over the moral law to man's subjective opinion, which changes with the times, instead of anchoring it in the holy will of the eternal God and His commandments, is to open wide every door to the forces of destruction . . . Thousands of voices ring into your ears a Gospel which has not been revealed by the Father of Heaven. Thousands of pens are wielded in the service of a Christianity which is not of Christ. Press and wireless daily force on you productions hostile to the Faith and to the Church, impudently aggressive against whatever you should hold venerable and sacred. Many of you, clinging to your Faith and to your Church, as a result of your affiliation with religious associations guaranteed by the Concordat, have often to face the tragic trial of seeing your loyalty to your country misunderstood, suspected,
or even denied, and of being hurt in your professional and social life . . . Today, as We see you threatened with new dangers and new molestations, We say to you: If anyone should preach to you a Gospel other than the one you received on the knees of a pious mother, from the lips of a believing father, or through teaching faithful to God and His Church, let him be anathema (Gal. i,9). If the State organizes a national youth, and makes this organization obligatory to all, then, without prejudice to rights of religious associations, it is the absolute right of youths as well as of parents to see to it that this organization is purged of all manifestations hostile to the Church and Christianity. These manifestations are even today placing Christian parents in a painful alternative, as they cannot give to the State what they owe to God alone. No one would think of preventing young Germans establishing a true ethnical community in a noble love of freedom and loyalty to their country. What We object to is the willed and systematic antagonism raised between national education and religious duty. That is why We tell the young: Sing your hymns to freedom, but do not forget the freedom of the children of God. Do not drag the nobility of that freedom in the mud of sin and sensuality. He who sings hymns of loyalty to his terrestrial country should not, for that reason, become unfaithful to God and His Church, or a deserter and traitor to His heavenly country. You are often told about heroic greatness, in lying opposition to evangelical humility and patience. Why conceal the fact that there are heroisms in moral life? That the preservation of baptismal innocence is an act of heroism which deserves credit? You are often told about the human deficiencies which mar the history of the Church: why ignore the exploits which fill her history, the saints she begot, the blessing that came upon Western
civilization from the union between that Church and your people?"
The anti-clerical parties in Spain and Mexico were of the extreme Left variety and bitter and bloody were the attacks on the Church in both countries. In 1931 Spain ceased to be a monarchy and with Republican government came a separation of Church and State, a difficult and cruel process for a nation whose traditions and spirit had been Catholic for so long. Ecclesiastical properties, hospitals and schools as well as churches, were ruthlessly confiscated and stringent anti-clerical laws were decreed. The Jesuits were banished from the country and harsh restrictions were placed upon other religious orders. The Pope protested against this in his encyclical, Dilectissimi Nobis, but the oppression continued to grow more savage. Radical elements, bolstered by foreign aid, sought to form a Communist State of the Russian pattern and to prevent such a project General Franco led the military revolt of July, 1936. The horrors of the civil war which followed were particularly devastating and tragic and it is estimated that because of their religious belief more than six thousand priests were killed and in the fury of the conflict some twenty thousand churches were sacked and pillaged. Even the graves of churchmen and nuns were not exempt from insult and violation. "It appears clear from its beginnings," declared the Spanish bishops in a joint letter to all the bishops of the Catholic world, "that one of the belligerent parties was aiming directly at the abolition of the Catholic religion in Spain." Violent though the attempts had been to eradicate religion the bishops, in the same letter, stressed that: "We have not tied ourselves to anybodypersons, power or institutionseven though we thank for their protection those who have been able to preserve us from the enemy who wished to ruin us . . . As regards the future we cannot tell what will happen . . . We
would be the first to regret that the irresponsible autocracy, of a parliament should be replaced by the yet more terrible power of a dictatorship, without roots in the nation."
In 1914 Mexican churches had been burnt and their pastors slaughtered with a ferocity which equalled the violence of the Spanish and Russian revolutionaries. Fifty years previously the properties of the Mexican Church had been confiscated yet the clergy always remained a favourite target for the accusations and plots of dishonest politicians. When Plutarco Elias Calles became President in 1924 there was a vigorous renewal of persecution. "Whole chapters of canons, old men amongst them who had to be transported in their beds, were hauled to prison," wrote the Pope in his encyclical On the most bitter state of the Catholic Church in Mexico. "Priests and laymen, too, were pitilessly slain, at the cross-roads, in the public squares, before their very churches." The brave cry of "Long Live Christ the King" was heard in all corners of the large and rich country as scenes of martyrdom were enacted time and time again. The Apostolic Delegate was expelled from the country and the number of clergy permitted to officiate among a Catholic population of 17,000,000 was reduced to such a pathetically low figure that by the end of 1936 their total did not exceed two hundred. The severest restrictions, often grotesque and absurd, hindered the activities of these priests and although national law required them to be of Mexican birth they were, with ordination, automatically deprived of civil or political rights. Their churches, their residences, their schools and seminaries, had been confiscated and the wearing of clerical dress was banned. Religious instruction was forbidden and the performance of all religious functions needed police permission. The passing of Calles from the presidency brought a lessening of the persecution but although his regime had been one of outrage and terror there was little
indignation or emotion in the foreign press. Pius XI deplored such "a conspiracy of silence" yet he did not allow his sorrow to bring further grief to the Catholics of Mexico. Revolution is a familiar process in their country and there were many who would have followed the banners of a Holy War with eagerness and despatch. But from the Vatican came no rash counsel. The faithful in Mexico were advised to practice patience at the cost even of heroism. They were instructed to give the lie to the accusations of their tormentors and to abstain from organizing a Catholic political party. Catholic Action should not take the form of insurrection. The Church must not assume the direction of purely temporal affairs but must keep to its own domain. The bishops must not "be preoccupied more with the numbers than the quality of collaborations" and as for the formation and exercise of Catholic Action "publicity and the method of the circus have no place in it. It looks upon noisy methods as an enemy." Time has proven the wisdom of the Pope's advice and gradually and peacefully Catholicism is returning to its rightful place in the life of the Mexican people.
The chant of the anti-clerical in both Spain and Mexico was a recitation of familiar accusation. All priests were either ignorant fools or rich knaves, covering their misdeeds with the dark cloak of superstition and hypocrisy. No admission was made of clerical charity or vocation. Priests, and nuns too, were always the villainous allies of the landlord, the employer, and the capitalist. They were never the dispensers of alms, the friends of the poor, hosts to the sick, teachers of the young. There are knaves and fools in the ranks of the clergy everywhere and undoubtedly there will always be so as long as priests are men and not creatures of another world. There were ecclesiastical conditions in Spain and Mexico which called for change and correction but it was conveniently forgotten
by the Communist propagandists that these conditions were the product of centuries of lay intrusion upon Church affairs, the continuous determination of successive governments and rulers to control investitures and benefices and to confine Catholicism within the boundaries of nationalism.
The constant exhortation from the Vatican to the practice of social justice was ignored by those who pointed at the priest as being the tool of the oppressor. The words of Christ were forgotten, as were the profound teachings of St. Thomas Aquinas and Leo XIII and all the intervening Doctors of the Church. It was even forgotten that earlier in the century a Spanish archbishop had been murdered because he championed the rights of the working man to form trade-unions. The great cathedrals, the glorious works of art, the richly adorned altars, all these historic accumulations of piety were pointed at as visible evidences of the Churches wealth. Little was said about the long years of confiscation which had made them "national property." Little was said of the miserable pittance which, by statute, served as salary for the average priest. Little was said of his sacrifices and good deeds. The sins and weaknesses of an occasional rascal provided the sole pattern of his detractor's calumnies.
Opinion or prejudice on the part of those hostile to Catholicism was not needed to persuade Pius XI that clerical standards could be strengthened and elevated. The learning and conduct of the clergy of today compare well with that of any age but he never ceased to stress the necessity of rigorous discipline and the advantages of thorough training and education. The possession of a pious nature, the consciousness of a religious sense, these factors alone were not sufficient to make a good priest for he was of the same opinion as St. Jerome that "uninformed holiness profits only its possessor, and whatever the service his merits render the
[paragraph continues] Church of Christ, he does it just as much harm when he is unable to throw back the enemy . . ." Pius XI was a stern man and from the moment he took the tiara the Vatican felt the strong hand of an autocratic master. As a man's years are usually reckoned he was old but like Leo XIII he was driven by energy that would have been remarkable even in a far younger person. He lived in difficult and distressing times and with the clear discernment of the trained historian he was aware of the dangers of the future. Yet he never displayed confusion or fear nor did he ever hesitate to do that which he considered his duty or responsibility. The extreme Leftists of Mexico and Spain received his condemnation but equally severe was his attitude towards the extreme Rightists of France who supported the Action Française. This movement was growing rapidly in numbers and influence and many priests and bishops as well as laymen had been deluded by its leaders. Ostensibly it was Christian in principle and it was definitely a reaction to the mistakes of liberalism but the keen eye of the Pope detected "a new religious, moral and social system . . . the traces of a renaissance of paganism" that would, he thought, lead to the deification of the state. Here were the beginnings of a totalitarian power which proposed to operate under the cloak of Christianity. The books and newspaper of the Action Française had been in ill repute at the Vatican since 1914 but because of the war no disciplinary measures had been taken. Pius XI was definite in his condemnation and alarm and invoking the drastic threat of excommunication he forbade Catholics to support the movement.
Pius XI was a realist and while he appreciated the treasures of the past he faced with comprehension the uncharted seas of tomorrow. The harsh litter of modern civilization, the vast clatter and confusion of a mechanical age, these all made for materialism in its basest forms. Yet the Pope saw
no reason why the Mystery of the Altar should not continue to give the same hope and comfort as it had in those days when fervent men had translated their prayers into Gothic glories. His days were full and no corner of the world was too distant to escape his attention. Visitors of every nationality and race and class crowded his ante-chamber and those with something to say would be given a keen interest. But he had little use and certainly no time for the superficial courtesies and for that reason he has been accused of irascibility, this busy man who in one year alone and in deference to custom turned from his many tasks to allow one million, two hundred thousand pilgrims to kiss his ring.
Every sphere of ecclesiastical influence was carefully examined by him and the thorough scrutiny resulted in many and far reaching decisions. His dislike of Bolshevism did not prevent him from taking two and a half million lire from the Vatican treasury and sending a relief mission to Russia and from appealing to the world for further assistance when a terrible famine blighted that country in 1922. The rulers of the Kremlin permitted his charity on this occasion but their attitude towards religion remained unchanged. However, Pius was too great an historian to believe that a whole people could be abruptly deprived of their faith by decree or proclamation so looking beyond the tragedy of his own time he made preparations for that day when the men and women of Russia could bring their children before their altars and ikons without fear or restriction. The organization of the Orthodox Church had been previously controlled by the Czarist government and had grievously suffered because of the revolution, and in the revival of religion that the Pope was confident would eventually and surely come he saw a chance for the reunion of the Eastern and Western churches which for so long had stirred
the hopes and haunted the dreams of the popes. He appointed a special commission to study Russian ecclesiastical affairs and he opened a college in Rome for the purpose of training clergy in the Slav-Byzantine rite. These priests were not only to work amongst refugee populations but were to prepare for the time when they would be allowed entrance to Russia.
Aware of the growing consciousness of nationalism and race which was dominating political life everywhere Pius sought to avoid future problems by encouraging and preparing, wherever possible, a native clergy and hierarchy amongst those peoples whose spiritual needs had hitherto been administered by foreigners. It was an ancient policy of the Church to do so but no pope gave it stronger emphasis than he. In 1936 six Chinese bishops were personally consecrated by him before the tomb of St. Peter and an Apostolic Delegate was appointed to deal directly with the government of their country. No great enthusiasm was evinced in France at this action for formerly, because of the preponderance of French missionaries in China, the discussion of Chinese ecclesiastical affairs had been negotiated through the offices of the French diplomatic service. European priests serving in China and other missionary fields were emphatically reminded that in their work they must shed allegiances to the country of their birth and must act only as Catholic priests. Catholicism, stressed the Pope, must be "understood in a truly Catholic spirit and not as an occidental importation." He issued orders that ecclesiastical architecture and art in China should utilize the native tradition rather than copying Western styles. Similar messages went to Japan and Indo-China and India where native clergies and hierarchies were already functioning. In every way possible he made his theories of catholicism practical. A school was established at the Vatican for Ethiopians, a
[paragraph continues] Catholic University was founded in Pekin, seminaries were built in Central Africa, a Syrian prelate was elevated to the cardinalate, and in 1937 a Japanese archbishop presided for the first time in Tokio. There was an enormous increase of missionary activity in the time of this pope and further expression of his energy was reflected in the many names which, after the required processes of scrutiny and announcement, were added to the Calendar of Saints. He created fifty-two cardinals and during the seventeen years of his pontificate thii cy-seven encyclicals were issued. They form a fitting monument to his industry and his learning and their varying titles give evidence of the universality of his interest.
During the latter part of 1936 the Pope was taken ill and the world was told he was dying. He was nearly eighty-one years old yet the news came as a shock, for his strength and customary freedom from illness had made most men forget his age. His retirement to the sick-bed had not been accomplished without a struggle for he had insisted upon working until he collapsed and repeatedly he had refused medical attention. "The Pope cannot be ill," he told one doctor with firmness. "The Pope is in the hands of God who will call him from his labours in His own good time. We shall continue to work until called." When Christmas Eve arrived he insisted upon rising to broadcast a message to the world. "The pains are atrocious," he admitted on this occasion, "yes, most atrocious. But we are here to labour. Our vocabulary does not find words to express the torment which we are now suffering. Nevertheless, we shall continue to labor. We are desirous of delivering the message as we have planned." He spoke as he desired and the effort resulted in a confirmation of the doctor's fear. There was collapse and worse and soon his physician was making the sorrowful statement that "Pius XI is slowly passing away."
In the shadow of the Vatican walls a group of journalists gathered to keep the "Death Watch." The obituary of the dying pope was written and complete save for the hour of his death. It only remained for the journalists to wait and report that actual moment by the clock. But this time the macabre expectation was not fulfilled. The Pope did not die. He willed that he should live and he did. By Easter, to the astonishment of the awed physicians, he was able to preside from his throne in St. Peter's and soon after his activities resumed their previous full tempo. He had so much to do. The spectre of another world war was looming. The Pope knew it, he had always feared it, and throughout his pontificate he had struggled to avert it. Now, after his illness, crisis was succeeding crisis in the national capitals with frightening rapidity and desperation and hopelessness had become the mood of envoys. The machinery of diplomacy was breaking down and the generals and admirals were looking to their maps. These were the melancholy facts to distress the last years of the man who had taken the name of Pius because it was a name of peace. But he did not despair and to the end he employed every resource at his disposal to stave off the catastrophe. The full story of what he did cannot yet be told. There are rumours and whispers of remarkable things. But the facts are not yet gathered or revealed. They remain locked in the archives of the chancelleries and in the memories of living man. Pius XI lived until his eighty-second year and then during the early hours of a February morning he died and his last words were an echo of the purpose which had dominated his pontificate. "Peace . . . . Peace of Jesus. . . ."
The official period of mourning prescribed to honor his memory came to an end and on the first day of March 1939 the Sacred College assembled to elect his successor. There were sixty-two cardinals present, including those from
[paragraph continues] North and South America. Thirty-five of their Eminences were Italian born. On the second day of the conclave the violet canopied chairs which lined the historic walls of the Sistine Chapel, traditional scene of the papal election, were occupied early and at ten o'clock the first ballot had been collected and counted. By four thirty that same afternoon the third ballot had been taken and a majority had been found in favour of the Cardinal Eugenio Mario Giuseppe Giovanni Pacelli. It was a unanimous decision and the quickest of any conclave. A thin column of white smoke rising from a chimney atop the Sistine told the multitude outside that a pope had been elected and soon, clad in white and gold and scarlet, he appeared on the high balcony of St. Peter's to give his benediction to the world. Cannons shook the air with salvo after salvo and the great crowd cheered and all the bells of Rome made song when it was announced that in honor of his predecessor the new pope would take the name of Pius XII.
It was a popular choice, this selection of the sixty-three year-old former Papal Secretary of State, who in every way seemed qualified for the exalted office which was now his. He came of a family which had served the Vatican well. His father had been Dean of the Vatican Bar and his elder brother, the Marquis Francisco Pacelli, who was also a lawyer, had represented the Church in the negotiations which led to the Vatican Treaty. It had been the plan of his parents that the future pontiff should follow the family profession but a steadfast vocation led him to the seminary and then to the altar. He was a brilliant pupil, excelling particularly in foreign languages, but delicate health forced him to abandon community life and special permission was given for him to continue his clerical training as a day student. The favour did not weaken his diligence and in 1899 he was ordained and said his
first Mass. He wished to assume parochial duties but his reputation as a scholar had attracted attention and he was attached to the staff of Cardinal Gasparri. Success continued to attend every step of his career and when Cardinal Gasparri was appointed Papal Secretary of State it was his friend and protégé, now Monsignor Pacelli, who succeeded him as Secretary of the Congregation for Extraordinary Ecclesiastical Affairs. In this position he was responsible for the execution of the papal scheme to exchange prisoners of war and so successful was he that in 1917 the Pope, Benedict XV, made him titular Archbishop of Sardes and sent him as his nuncio to the Catholic Kingdom of Bavaria. In the turbulent and shifting scenes of war and defeat and revolution which was the sad story of Germany for the next decade the name of Pacelli became noted for ability and courage and honesty. It was he who presented the papal peace plans to the Kaiser. It was he who, during the revolutionary disorders of Munich, felt the cold steel of a looter's pistol pressed against his breast. He was unafraid. "What good," he calmly asked the ruffian, "would it do to shoot me?" In 1929 he was recalled to Rome but before leaving Germany he received the publicly expressed gratitude of President von Hindenburg and thousands of workers and students escorted him to his train. A Red Hat awaited him at the Vatican and when in 1930 Cardinal Gasparri, because of his advanced age, resigned the Secretariat of State the appointment went to his friend Pacelli.
From then on his life was attuned to the rapid tempo of the many activities of Pius XI. It was always a harmonious relationship and as the years passed by it was believed by many that the Pope hoped his Secretary of State would be his successor and thus the continuity of his policies be assured. It certainly seemed as though Cardinal Pacelli was receiving a special training for the great position. Not only was he the Pope's confidant and responsible for the execution
of the papal decisions but acting as Papal Legate he journeyed to France and to Hungary and even across the oceans to North and South America. The United States he explored by air, visiting many cities from the Eastern to the Western coasts, meeting all types of citizen from President to working man and winning the esteem of everybody, including the journalists of the Republic. Superb diplomat though he showed himself to be, he was first and foremost the priest and this fact impressed itself upon all who saw him. He claimed no privileges of rank and there never was the slackening of even the minor disciplinary observances because of the exigencies of travel. Those who had the privilege of witnessing him at his daily devotions, who saw his tall figure bowed before the Tabernacle, who saw his ascetic face raised to the uplifted chalice, these fortunate ones carry the vivid memory of an unusual sincerity, of unshakeable faith.
The death of Pius XI was a grievous personal loss to the new Pope and he had wept bitterly. A friend had gone and so too had a guide. The great responsibilities were now his and he was alone. With the death of his predecessor there had seemed to come everywhere a greater realization of the significance of the papacy. Non-Catholics and even non-Christians, as well as Catholics, were looking to the Vatican as an influence which might halt the onward sweep to war. Woven with hope and desperation a surge of worldwide acclamation saluted the election of the new pontiff but he knew well the instability of applause. Custom decrees that the pomp of papal coronation should be halted by a priest who displays a wisp of burning oakum and in Latin cries to the pope: "Holy Father, so passes away the glory of the world." To the new Pius, carried high in a golden chair and flanked by a glittering procession of prelates and chamberlains and gold helmeted soldiers, the admonition must have
seemed particularly significant. The gigantic interior of St. Peter's was ablaze with light and warm with enthusiasm and a great congregation bent knee to him as he passed. Outside, in the warm sun, a multitude waited patiently for his benediction and beyond the precincts of Rome men everywhere sent assurances of devotion. The most extravagant gestures of respect were shown to his name and person but surely there must have been gloom in his heart. Men saluted him, men hoped fervently that he would find the formula for peace, but it was terribly certain that these same men would ignore or reject his guidance and advice.
In his first message to the world and in his Easter sermon he revealed that the policies of Pius XI would also be his concern. There would be the same zealous pursuit of peace and social justice, the same insistence on a moral code which would govern not only the conduct of individuals but governments as well. "How can there be real and solid peace," he asked, "while even men with a common nationality, heedless of their common stock or their common fatherland, are torn apart and kept asunder by intrigues and dissensions and the interests of factions? How can there be peace, We repeat, while hundreds of thousands of men, millions even, lack work? For work is not only, for every man, a means of decent livelihood, but it is the means through which all those manifold powers and faculties with which nature, training and art have endowed the dignity of the human personality, find their necessary expression, and this with a certain natural comeliness. Who is there, then, who cannot see how, in such crises of unemployment as those our own time experiences, huge multitudes are created, through this very lack of work, of men utterly wretched, whose unhappy condition is worsened by the bitter contrast it presents with the pleasures and luxurious living of others altogether unconcerned about these armies of the needy? Who does not
see how these poor men fall an easy prey to others whose minds are deceived by a specious semblance of truth, and who spread their corrupting teaching with ensnaring attractions?
"Moreover, how can there be peace, if there be lacking between the different States that common, equitable judgment of reason and consent of minds, which have been the power guiding the nations of the world along the shining road of civil progress? When, on the contrary, solemnly sanctioned treaties and pledged faith are stripped of that force and security which plighted faithfulness implies and by which it is strengthened, if this force and security be taken away, it becomes every day more difficult to lessen the increase of armaments and to pacify the minds of men, twin desires today of all men everywhere. . . . Let men seek once more that road by which they may journey back to friendly alliances in which the convenience and the profit of each are carefully considered in a just and kindly system; in which the sacrifices of individuals shall not be made an excuse for the acquisition of the more valuable properties of the human family; in which, finally, faith publicly given shall flourish as an example to all men of goodwill."
Through the summer of 1939 papal nuncios and representatives strove desperately to convince the heads of governments that war could be averted by negotiation. There were rumors that the Pope had suggested the convention of a Five Power conference at the Vatican but this was officially denied although there is no doubt that many appeals were made to the various rulers. In June the Regent of Hungary, Admiral Horthy, told his parliament that: "The time has certainly come for the Powers finally to meet and find a solution which, if just, must be adhered to by all and it would probably be best if this call came from some high personage like the Pope." A great diplomatic activity was
evident in Rome and speculation was rife as the interested journalists watched important visitors hurrying to and from the Vatican. There were schemes afoot but what happened or what was proposed is yet unrevealed. That a great war was inevitable few could doubt and in those anxious days pessimism was the mood as suspicion and obstinacy and hostility triumphed over reason. With terrible acceleration the fever of violence was spreading but the Pope persisted in his efforts and a fervent message went To Those in Power and Their Peoples who were told that: "Conquests and empires not founded on justice cannot be blessed by God. The danger is enormous, but not desperate. Nothing is lost by peace, but everything may be lost by war. Men often retrace their steps and yield to negotiation. Once they begin discussing with goodwill and respect for mutual rights, they will discover that peaceful negotiations never stood in the way of a creditable issue. . . . We know that the heart of every mother beats in response to ours. The fathers who would have to leave their homes, the humble who work and care not, the innocent who will bend under the threat, the young who are inspired by the noblest ideals, are all with Us. With Us also is the very spirit of old Europe which has preserved the faith and the genius of Christianity: With Us the whole human race which hungers for bread and liberty, not for steel; which has turned maternal love into a fundamental principle, and made it part of its religion as a promise of salvation to men and nations." . . . These words came from the Vatican on the 24th of August, the very day that Poland informed Germany that the annexation of Danzig would not be tolerated. Polish troops moved to stations of combat and England and France made ready for mobilization. Declaring that his only way was to "meet force with force" Adolf Hitler a week later unleashed the German army and without a formal declaration of war German batteries
opened fire and German bombers poured destruction and death upon Polish cities.
The Second World War had begun and the Pope's part in it, for the first few years at least, parallels the sad story of Benedict XV and his relations with the warring countries during the conflict of 1914-1918. There is the same noble record of constant plea and negotiation and suggestion and there is, alas, the same melancholy record of rejection and obstinacy on the part of those to whom he has appealed. A little more courtesy is perhaps paid to the present pontiff, polite audience is given to his voice, the niceties of protocol are suitably observed but actually the same bitter failure seems to be his. Nevertheless he continues his efforts. Shortly after the outbreak of hostilities he issued his aptly named encyclical Darkness over the Earth and then, on Christmas Eve, came his Five Point Plan for Peace. For a while there was a glimmer of hope and the headlines flared when special emissaries from the United States came to Rome and then flew to other capitals. But the hope died and despair deepened as the conflict instead of diminishing spread on to newer territories. The conflict truly and terribly was becoming a world war. On every ocean, in every sky, death was petitioned as never before. In all the continents all the ingeniousness and all the resources of modern civilization were mustered in the service of calamity.
The Pope is "beyond every rivalry and outside every party" but when neutrality is violated he does not hesitate to lift his voice and to Poland, Norway, Denmark, Holland, Belgium, and Luxembourg, went messages of profound sympathy. "The territorial neutrality of two more countries has been violated," stated the Osservatore Romano, journal of the Holy See at the time of the invasion of Norway and Denmark. "Those who have defended the sacred rights of neutral countries against all and any cannot but
regard with the deepest pain this sudden and dramatic extension of the theater of war." "The life of one nation or people," said the Pope, "does not mean the death of any weaker neighbor." His concern for neutrality and the absolute necessity for his own neutrality did not prevent the usual carping from those men in all countries who without offering the slightest token of allegiance to the Pope in any form give grieved tongue to accusations of partisanship or timidity when the Vatican does not endorse their views or actions. As in the First World War the organization of the Church has been utilized for works of charity and mercy and particular effort has gone to alleviate the sufferings of prisoners of war and their families. It cannot be forgotten that in this conflict the Vatican itself could meet with destruction. It is a neutral state but its very smallness and inseparable proximity to the rest of the city would mean its disaster if Rome were bombed. If Rome were bombed! That the historic scene could be burned and devastated makes for sad contemplation. But Rome is no stranger to violence and from the long pattern of history the Pope draws confidence for the future. "Whilst in fact, with the passing of years," he states, "and with the alternate vicissitudes of events, innumerable things rise, grow and fall, and then, changed and renewed again, emerge or, quite consumed, precipitate and perish, the Catholic Church is not shaken by the waves of time, is not overcome by difficulties, is not changed by pressing vicissitudes. Instead, the Church advances with firm and sure step, and still today, through her vocation and divine mission, accomplishes for the good of mankind what she already accomplished twenty centuries ago. And while desires for earthly things, internal hatreds and jealousies too often split and divide the souls of men, the Church of God, beloved mother of all peoples, embraces with immense charity the whole human family, without distinction
of race or rank, and provides, either with prayer or with external works, for the salvation and the true felicity of all. . . . With the passing of these dark days, in which so many are living in terror and discouragement, there will come not the terrors which the small-minded dread, but the brilliant fulfillment of the hopes of faithful magnanimous souls. The Church of today . . . holds her head high and maintains unchanged in her members the vigor of her youth; she remains necessarily what she was at her birth. Always the same, she does not change in her dogma or in her strength. She is impregnable, indestructible, invincible; she is immovable, changeless in the writ of her foundation; sealed with the blood of the Son of God, yet she moves, she takes new forms with the age in which He goes forward on her wayprogressing, yes, but not changing. . . . No, there cannot be for the church whose steps God directs and accompanies through the agesthere cannot be for the human soul who studies history in the spirit of Christany going back, but only desire to go forward toward the future and to mount upward. . . ."
So speaks Pope Pius XII.
But with tragedy and shame darkening the entire world, confident though he is of the imperishability of that which is his trust, sad indeed must be the mood of him who is the Successor of the Prince of the Apostles, and as he raises his heart and hopes to his Master surely his prayers echo the agony of the Divine Plea: "Father, Forgive Them For They Know Not What They Do."