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Pius XI

Pope from 1922. Born Ambrogio Damiano Achille Ratti, he earned three doctorates and before election as pope was archbishop of Milan. He significantly advanced Catholic formulation of the church’s role in the secular post-World War I era. With the Lateran Treaties (1922), the long and complex question of the end of papal temporal power (1859-61, 1870) attained new status and apparently a conclusion: by mutual agreement between the papacy and Mussolini’s Italy, the State of Vatican City was established, a Vatican-Italian concordat was signed, and Italy paid the Vatican a substantial indemnity. For Mussolini, the pact won initial Catholic support of his emerging totalitarian regime, while it gave the Vatican the independence it had sought.

The encyclical Quadragesimo anno (1931) developed Catholic societal principles, consistent with Leo XIII, along the lines of subsidiarity and corporativism: a pluralism of societal relationships arranged under the dogmatic and moral teachings of the church. His was a clear alternative to Communism or collectivist Socialism, individualism, and then Nazism. Mussolini eclectically tried to coopt some of the ideas into his Fascist system. Pius elsewhere condemned the principles of Fascism (1931), German Nazism (1937), and Soviet Communism (1937). Pius’s advocacy of Catholic Action* (1922, 1928) provided a concrete way for nonclergy to join in social reconstruction in harmony with episcopal control and the church’s teachings. He thought of it as “lay” sharing in the apostolic mission of the church. His encyclical Divini illius magistri (1929) defined the basis for Catholic school education and argued against exclusive state control of education.

He concluded many concordats, especially establishing the church in the new central E European states, like Poland (1925) and Romania (1927). He defined an accommodating role for the church in secularist France by resuming diplomatic relations (1921) and obtaining a new ecclesiastical agreement (1928). In missions he promoted indigenous episcopal leadership by naming six Chinese bishops (1926) and a Japanese bishop (1927). A number of World Eucharistic Congresses displayed the church’s international character.

Bibliography: Sixteen encyclicals of His Holiness Pope Pius XI (1938); R. Fontenelle, His Holiness Pope Pius XI (1938); R.J. Miller, Forty years after: Pius XI and the social order (1947).C.T. Mc Intire