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Vatican

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Pope Francis

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Find out how Benedict XV tried to stop World War I

2014-07-16

One hundred years have passed, since World War I was fought. It was a war that saw three major empires crumble, as the Austro-Hungarian, Prussian and Ottoman empire, became obsolete. 

The Pope who lived through it all was Benedict XV. He was a Pontiff who sought peace and although he was practically forgotten by history, he has not been forgotten by the Church. 

FR. BERNARD ARDURA
President, Pontifical Committee of Historical Sciences 
"Benedict XV is an unknown Pope, who was almost forgotten, but Benedict XVI remembered him. From what he has explained, he chose the name of St. Benedict, because he is the patron saint of Europe, but also because Benedict XV promoted peace.” 

In a world fueled by nationalism, he made numerous appeals for peace. In fact, it was the theme of his first encyclical, 'Ad beatissimi Apostolorum.' 

FR. BERNARD ARDURA
President, Pontifical Committee of Historical Sciences 
"It's based on peace, the need for peace and the benefits it brings. It also highlights the responsibility of cultivating peace and above all else of avoiding the triggers that provoke conflict. It's a call for justice, because justice and peace go hand in hand. A so called 'unjust' peace will only bring more war.” 

In retrospect, it's something Benedict XV clearly warned about. World War I came to an end with the Treaty of Versailles, but eventually it gave way to World War II. In light of the violence, the Vatican spoke out. 

FR. BERNARD ARDURA
President, Pontifical Committee of Historical Sciences 
"The Vatican was not silent. It proposed ways to plan out a path for peace. It included the simultaneous cease of fire and a coordinated disarmament of all parties, but obviously the Pope's recommendations were not followed.” 

Even though his words fell onto deaf ears, Benedict XV continued to promote peace. He was one of the architects of the so called 'Christmas Truce' which established a ceasefire between German and British forces on Christmas back in 1914. The night of December 24 hatred and violence were exchanged for carols and decorations. 

His tireless work is even recognized beyond the Christian sphere. In Turkey, a monument honors his life, remembering his work and mission to promote the common good of all people, regardless of their religion or nationality. 


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