Saturday, January 22, 2011
89 Years ago today Pope Benedict XV died
Pope Benedict XV may you rest in peace on this day your holiness,may you also give guidance to our current Pope, Pope Beneditct XVI.
Pope Benedict XV: 21 November 1854 – 22 January 1922), born Giacomo Paolo Giovanni Battista della Chiesa, reigned as Pope from 3 September 1914 to 22 January 1922, succeeding Pope Pius X (1903–1914). 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 choose Della Chiesa at the age of 60, indicating their desire for another long-lasting pontificate at the outbreak of World War I, which he labeled “the suicide of civilized Europe.” 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. 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. Benedict issued in 1917 the first ever Code of Canon Law of the Roman Catholic Church, 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 Marian apparitions in Fatima. World War One 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. After just over 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.
Benedict XV personally had a strong devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary. He added the title 'Queen of Peace' to her Litany, and gave his support to an understanding of Mary as Mediatrix of All Graces (by approving a Mass and office under this title for the dioceses of Belgium) and affirmed that "together with Christ she redeemed the human race" by her immolation of Christ as his sorrowful mother (in his apostolic letter Inter sodalicia).
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.
Views of His Successors:
Pope Pius XII showed high regard for Benedict, who had consecrated him a Bishop on 13 May 1917, the very day of the reported apparitions of Our Lady of Fatima. While Pius considered another Benedict, Benedict XIV in terms of his sanctity and scholarly contributions to be worthy as Doctor of the Church, he thought that Benedict XV during his short pontificate was truly a man of God, who worked for peace. He helped prisoners of war and many others who needed help in dire times and was extremely generous to Russia.
He praised him as a Marian Pope who promoted the devotion to Our Lady of Lourdes,for his encyclicals Ad Beatissimi Apostolorum, Humani Generis Redemptionem, Quod Iam Diu, and Spiritus Paraclitus, and, for the codification of Canon Law, which under della Chiesa and Pietro Gasparri, he as Eugenio Pacelli had the opportunity to participate in.
Pope Benedict XVI showed his own admiration for Benedict XV following his election to the Papacy on 19 April 2005. The election of a new Pope is often accompanied by conjecture over his choice of papal name; it is widely believed that a Pope chooses the name of a predecessor whose teachings and legacy he wishes to continue. Ratzinger's choice of "Benedict" was seen as a signal that Benedict XV's views on humanitarian diplomacy, and his stance against relativism and modernism, would be emulated during the reign of the new Pope.
During his first General Audience in St. Peter's Square on 27 April 2005, Pope Benedict XVI paid tribute to Benedict XV when explaining his choice: "Filled with sentiments of awe and thanksgiving, I wish to speak of why I chose the name Benedict. Firstly, I remember Pope Benedict XV, that courageous prophet of peace, who guided the Church through turbulent times of war. In his footsteps I place my ministry in the service of reconciliation and harmony between peoples."