Sunday, July 27, 2014

July 27, 1914: One Last Day of Peace

In 1914, today was a day of peace in Europe before war began--it was a Thursday--and the next day, the Austro-Hungarian Empire declared war on Serbia. On Saturday, July 29, Austria started bombing Belgrade, and Russia mobilized against Austria. The day after that, Austria and Russia started mobilizing against each other. On July 31, Germany issued an ultimatum to Russia and another one to France--step by step, day by day, the great powers of Europe moved closer and closer to waging war against one another.

The video above, from the Catholic News Services, emphasizes the efforts of Pope Benedict XV, elected in September of 1914 after the death of Pope Pius X, to negotiate peace at the beginning of the war--a Christmas truce in 1914--and a just peace at the end of the war. He was consistently ignored, as this EWTN page notes:

He was elected to succeed Pius X, probably because of his diplomatic experience. As father to all Catholics, Benedict XV favored neither side in the war. But his policy of neutrality was misinterpreted by both sides, each regarding him as siding with the other. He pressed for a Christmas truce in 1914 to ward off the “suicide of Europe,” but was ignored. In 1917, he tried to broker a peace plan, but his efforts were unsuccessful. He was able, however, to arrange the exchange of disabled prisoners through neutral countries, and to have the sick and wounded sent to neutral countries for treatment and recuperation. Through his intercession, deported Belgians were allowed to return home, and he donated money to relieve those suffering the effects of the war throughout Europe. After the war, in 1919, he asked for a Vatican role in the Paris Peace Conference, but was turned down. He pleaded with the victorious Allies to lift the blockade against Germany, because of the suffering it caused to women and children, and he took up a Church-wide collection to buy food. For human solidarity, he favored the founding of the League of Nations, though the Vatican itself was excluded from membership.

In his November 1, 1914 encyclical Ad Beatissimi Apostolorum (Appealing for Peace), he reached out to the Patriarchs, Primates, Archbishops, Bishops, and Other Local Ordinaries in Peace and Communion with the Apostolic See to remind themselves and their communities of their Christian brotherhood: 

Our Lord Jesus Christ came down from Heaven for the very purpose of restoring amongst men the Kingdom of Peace, which the envy of the devil had destroyed, and it was His will that it should rest on no other foundation than that of brotherly love. These are His own oft-repeated words: "A new commandment I give unto you: That you love one another (John 14:34); "This is my commandment that you love one another" (John 15:12); "These things I command you, that you love one another" (John 15:17); as though His one office and purpose was to bring men to mutual love. He used every kind of argument to bring about that effect. He bids us all look up to Heaven: "For one is your Father who is in Heaven" (Matt. 23:9); He teaches all men, without distinction of nationality or of language, or of ideas, to pray in the words: "Our Father, who are in Heaven" (Matt. 6:9); nay, more, He tells us that our Heavenly Father in distributing the blessings of nature makes no distinction of our deserts: "Who maketh His sun to rise upon the good and bad, and raineth upon the just and the unjust" (Matt. 5:45). He bids us be brothers one to another, and calls us His brethren: "All you are brethren" (Matt. 23:8); "that He might be the first-born amongst many brethren" (Rom. 7:29). In order the more to stimulate us to brotherly love, even towards those whom our natural pride despises, it is His will that we should recognize the dignity of His own very self in the meanest of men: "As long as you did it to one of these My least brethren, you did it to Me" (Matt. 15:40}. At the close of His life did He not most earnestly beg of His Father, that as many as should believe in Him should all be one in the bond of charity? "As thou, Father, in Me, and I in Thee" (John 22:21). And finally, as He was hanging from the cross, He poured out His blood over us all, whence being as it were compacted and fitly joined together in one body, we should love one another, with a love like that which one member bears to another in the same body.

He discussed the various evils of the day (besides the war) and how they contributed to the unrest that led to the war, including atheism, greed, racial hatred, contempt of laws and authority, etc. He urges the bishops and the patriarchs and bishops to be unified, charitable to each other, and to pray:

It remains for Us, Venerable Brethren, since in God's hands are the wills of princes and of those who are able to put an end to the suffering and destruction of which We have spoken, to raise Our voice in supplication to God, and in the name of the whole human race, to cry out: "Grant, O Lord, peace, in our day." May He who said of himself: "I am the Lord . . . I make peace" (Isaias 41:6-7) appeased by our prayers, quickly still the storm in which civil society and religious society are being tossed; and may the Blessed Virgin, who brought forth "the Prince of Peace," be propitious towards us; and may she take under her maternal care and protection Our own humble person, Our Pontificate, the Church and the souls of all men, redeemed by the divine blood of her Son.

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