Benedict XV

Pope from 1914. Born Giacomo della Chiesa, he became archbishop of Bologna in 1907 and succeeded Pius X shortly after the outbreak of World War I. He consistently urged peace on both the Allies and Central Powers, especially in the encyclical Ad beatissimi (1 November 1914) and in a seven-point peace note to the governments involved (1 August 1917). His policy held the papacy to be above the conflict, the voice of moral authority, and thus frequently condemned what he considered to be violations of morality and right, and he established avenues of Christian charity to locate missing persons, care for the sick and wounded. The Vatican and some agencies were accused, probably falsely, by anticlericals in France and Italy of espionage activities for the Central Powers, while Germans and Austrians called him “the French Pope.” Generally his perspective was neo-Thomist, following Leo XIII. He condemned modernism, led a codification of canon law (1917), greatly promoted Catholic missions, worked to establish better relations with the Eastern Orthodox Church. He sought to augment the papal position through establishing diplomatic relations with additional states, increasing the number so represented at the Vatican from fourteen to twenty-six, including Britain. Continuing to resist the Italian-imposed solution of the Roman Question, he maintained the need for clear papal temporal sovereignty, and established secret negotiations between his secretary of state and Benito Mussolini.

Bibliography: F. Hayward, Un Pape méconnu: Benoît XV (1955); W.H. Peters, The Life of Benedict XV (1959); idem, “Benedict XV,” New Catholic Encyclopedia, II, pp. 278-280; J. Schmidlin, Papstgeschichte der neusten Zeit (4 vols., 1933-39); G. Dalla Torre, “Benedetto XV,” Enciclopedia Cattolica, II (1950), pp. 1285-94.C.T. Mc Intire