Sunday, October 26, 2014

Pope Pius XII and Peace

The place of the Pope in human affairs is unique. While his own flock reverences a him the Vicar of Christ, the whole world recognises in him the voice of Christendom, and the moral conscience of humanity. The terrible events of our time have thrown the impartiality, the constancy, the all embracing charity of the Papal office into conspicuous relief. All men acknowledge, some reluctantly and others with gladness, that the Pope is the friend of peace, whose counsels, if they were but followed, would save the nations from the miseries into which they have fallen. Whether they admit or deny the spiritual claims of the Holy See, all men admit that 'the Pope has stood above and aloof from the anarchy of the age, labouring like no other person or institution for the universal good of humankind.'

For this, history will thank in a special way the remarkable Pontiffs of the present century. When an Irish publisher this week issues a book, Pius of Peace, in which a Holy Ghost Father has chronicled the labours of Pius XII for peace, during his six year' Pontificate six years that coincide with the dreadful upheaval of war and famine, he begins by recalling the earlier work of Pius X, Benedict XIV and Pius XI. These Pontiffs in turn strove to avert the two world wars, and, when they proved inevitable, to mitigate their ferocity, and to hasten the restoration of peace. If the troubled world does not realise as yet all that it owes to these Popes, history will not fail to record the truth: for these names will stand out inevitably, as the brightest lights in this Dies Irae, the time of darkness and calamity. The words of Pius XII are the culmination of what his predecessors said, just as the events of his reign are the culmination of four decades of disaster.

To-day, when the storm has raged, out, it is Instructive to read in Father Walker's book the Encyclical which Pius XII published on the very eve of the war, Summi Pontificatus. In that notable document, the Sovereign Pontiff stressed one great consideration, which the secular statesmen, the writers and teachers of the Powers, seemed all to have ignored. That was: the Solidarity of Mankind. The Pope affirmed the one-ness and rightful brotherhood of the human race. Men were not to be segregated in breeds or classes or even in States that owned no mutual obligation. The nations possessed a natural right to freedom, but must realise that they are mutually dependent, with an overriding obligation to contribute to the common good. That is the conception which has governed all that Pius XII has said and done, in international affairs. Again and again he has affirmed the right of small nations to live their own life, according to their own laws, customs and ideals; and always he has reminded great nations and small that they belong to a greater unit, which is mankind itself. Perhaps, it is a happy circumstance that a book, in which the Sovereign Pontiff's teaching is proclaimed so thoroughly and clearly, appears in a little country which has won freedom by great travail, and aspires to use its freedom in the promotion of world peace and welfare.

- Irish Press, April 11 1946.

*This post is the first part of a regular feature of this blog concerning the role of Pope Pius XII and World War II.

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