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Pope Benedict XV : biography

21 November 1854 - 1922-1-22

Pope Benedict XV (Latin: Benedictus PP. XV, ; 21 November 1854 – 22 January 1922), born Giacomo Paolo Giovanni Battista della Chiesa, was the head of the Catholic Church from 3 September 1914 to his death in 1922. His pontificate was largely overshadowed by World War I and its political, social and humanitarian consequences in Europe.

Between 1846 and 1903, the Church experienced its two longest pontificates in history up to that point. Together Pius IX and Leo XIII ruled for 57 years. In 1914, the Cardinals chose Della Chiesa at the age of 59, indicating their desire for another long-lasting pontificate at the outbreak of World War I, which he labeled “the suicide of civilized Europe.”Franzen 379 The war and its consequences were the main focus of Benedict. He declared the neutrality of the Holy See and attempted from that perspective to mediate peace in 1916 and 1917. Both sides rejected his initiatives. German Protestants rejected any “Papal Peace” as insulting. French politician Georges Clemenceau regarded the Vatican initiative as anti-French.Franzen 380

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

In 1917 Benedict promulgated the Code of Canon Law, the creation of which he had prepared with Pietro Gasparri and Eugenio Pacelli during the pontificate of Pius X. The new Code of Canon Law is considered to have stimulated religious life and activities throughout the Church. He named Pietro Gasparri to be his Cardinal Secretary of State and personally consecrated Nuncio Eugenio Pacelli on 13 May 1917 as Archbishop on the very day of the first Marian apparition in Fatima. World War I caused great damage to Catholic missions throughout the world. Benedict revitalized these activities, asking in Maximum Illud for Catholics throughout the world to participate.

His last concern was the emerging persecution of the Church in the Soviet Russia and the famine there after the revolution. Benedict was an ardent Mariologist, devoted to Marian veneration and open to new perspectives of Roman Catholic Mariology. He supported the mediatrix theology and authorized the Feast of Mary Mediator of all Graces.AAS 1921, 345 After seven years in office, Pope Benedict XV died on 22 January 1922. With his diplomatic skills and his openness towards modern society, "he gained respect for himself and the papacy."Franzen 382

Death and legacy

Benedict XV fell ill with pneumonia in early January 1922. He succumbed to that illness on 22 January 1922.

Possibly the least remembered pope of the twentieth century, Benedict XV is nevertheless an unsung hero for his valiant efforts to end World War I. In 2005, Pope Benedict XVI recognized the significance of his long-ago predecessor's commitment to peace by taking the same name. Benedict XV was unique in his humane approach in the world of 1914–1918, which starkly contrasts with that of the other great monarchs and leaders of the time. His worth is reflected in the tribute engraved at the foot of the statue that the Turks, a non-Catholic, non-Christian people, erected of him in Istanbul: "The great Pope of the world tragedy...the benefactor of all people, irrespective of nationality or religion." This monument stands in the courtyard of the St. Esprit Cathedral.

Church affairs

Theology

In internal Church affairs, Benedict XV reiterated Pius X's condemnation of "modernist" scholars and the errors in modern philosophical systems in his first encyclical Ad Beatissimi Apostolorum, and declined to readmit to full communion scholars who had been excommunicated during the previous pontificate. However, he calmed what he saw as the excesses of the anti-modernist campaign within the Church. On 25 July 1920 he wrote the motu proprio Bonum sane on Saint Joseph and against naturalism.

Living octopus

Living octopus

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