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Benedict XV (1914-1922) and the pursuit of peace

(Vatican Radio ) The 11th of November is the day many nations mark Remembrance Day to pay tribute to the memory of those who have died and indeed are still dying on the battlefields across the world.
As we know, the choice of this date goes back to 1918 when the Armistice, which brought an end to the hostilities of the First World War, was signed at the 11th hour on the 11th day of the 11th month - although the war officially ended with the signing of the Treaty of Versailles on the 28th of June 1919.
As we know too, it’s a day which inspired the so-called remembrance poppy, an emblem recalling the poppies which grew over the graves of fallen soldiers, during the great war, and which was so movingly described in John McCrae’s poem ‘In Flanders Fields’.
And as commemorations begin to take place across Europe to mark a century since the outbreak of that first world war, Veronica Scarisbrick interviews historian Professor John Pollard in an effort to find out more about the Pope of the time, Benedict XV .
Professor Pollard has a particular expertise in this pontificate as he wrote the first biography in English, in forty years, of Benedict XV, born as Giacomo Della Chiesa. The title of this book is : 'Benedict XV (1914-1922) and the Pursuit of Peace'
Listen : RealAudioMP3
It's a biography in which the author makes use of hitherto unavailable archival sources from both the Vatican and the Della Chiesa family. As he tells Veronica Scarisbrick, in the course of his research he discovered to what extent this twentieth century Pope, who wrote four encyclicals calling for peace, was dedicated to this cause:

"Benedict XV tried to stop the First World War, quite an extraordinary thing to do, but he did. In his peace note of 1917 he condemned a war of 'useless slaughter', which as you can imagine did not go down very well in certain allied and German, Austrian Hungarian circles. It was a note to the powers... He had sent Eugenio Pacelli to Germany to prepare the ground with the Germans and then he issued the peace note which wasn't just a sort of pious plea to please stop the war. It actually set out a list of issues on which they could negotiate: the evacuation of Belgium, resolution of problems, access to the seas, and so on and so forth... He was the first pope to engage in humanitarian efforts... Benedict created an office dedicated to receiving letters from the families of prisoners of war or from families of soldiers who were missing, trying to trace them. He also got young injured soldiers to be taken to Switzerland so they could get better health care, it was quite a substantial undertaking...."


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