THE Central Powers have sent in their replies to the Pope’s appeal to the belligerents, and the Vatican is alone in discovering that they are so pacific in their tone as to afford a basis for further intervention on the part of the Holy See. As we might have expected, the Austrian Note is more intimate in its manner. It addresses the Pope directly, and as the Spiritual Head of the Church rather than a Sovereign ruler. The German Note is sent by the Chancellor to the Cardinal Secretary, and its wording is cold and official. The Vienna document also, on the face of it, is somewhat more reasonable than that from Berlin, but, for all practical purposes, the two amount to the same thing; they contain little more than flourishes about arbitration, disarmament, and the freedom of the seas, to which the German Note adds some hypocritical cant concerning the Kaiser’s lifelong labours in the cause of peace. We know, of course, what is meant by the “freedom of the seas”. That was enjoyed by the whole world before the war, thanks to the world-wide activity of the British Navy. For Germany it now means her right to destroy without leaving a trace behind even the ships of neutral countries to which her representatives are accredited, and it means the paralysis of our dominant fleet. Not a word concerning the restoration of Belgium, of Alsace-Lorraine, and of other invaded countries still in German and Austrian hands; not a word about reparation for the ruin in Northern France, nor about atonement for the thousand unspeakable crimes is expressed by the German Chancellor.
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