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100 years ago: Pope Benedict XV — RIP

by
28 January 2022

January 27th, 1922.

WHEN we last wrote there seemed little cause for anxiety as to the Pope’s health, he was confined to his bed, the papers reported, by a slight attack of influenza. But in a few hours the whole world was watching the bulletins, and on Sunday morning he died. The sympathy of Anglo-Catholics goes out to those who have lost in him their Chief Pastor, our prayers conjoin with theirs for the repose of his soul. Benedict XV. could not capture the imagination of the whole Christian world as his predecessor had done, that peasant-Pope who kept his simplicity, whose choice of the name Pius seemed so apt. Many in the Allied nations, even of his own fold, are not yet convinced that he could have done no more at the outset of the war to condemn German brutality. But in days of calmer judgment we frankly recognize that he laboured continuously for peace, for the better treatment of prisoners of war, for the relief of innocent sufferers, for a truce of God. More, he allowed it to be said by the Secretary of State that the invasion of Belgium was precisely one of those acts which he openly condemned as unjust. He saw the resumption of formal relations with the Governments of France and England, and some evidence of a better understanding between the Vatican and the Quirinal may be seen in the notification that the Royal family of Italy was praying for his recovery, and in the half-mast flying of flags upon all the public buildings at his death, for the first time since the breach of 1870. For the rest, his reign saw the slow abatement of trouble raised by the reactionary party during their ascendancy, the revision of the Missal and the Breviary, the completion of the codification of the Canon Law. Benedict XV. disappointed some expectations, but history will pass upon his troubled pontificate a judgment more generous than that of some of his contemporaries.


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