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The Pope/Vatican as mediator


Khaki
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Is there any evidence that the Pope or Vatican ever offered to act as mediator in bringing the Great War to an end. Please, I don't want to start any arguments over should have/could have. I can understand that the Vatican was not the Vatican State of today with its diplomats and modern resources, but I wondered if any dialogue with the leaders of the warring powers ever occurred.

khaki

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Yes. Eugenio Pacelli (later Pius XII) was papal nuncio to Bavaria, appointed 1917 and was involved in attempts initiated by Pope Benedict XV to mediate peace.

Short and sweet - go from here.

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There is rather more to it.

The reigning Pope at the start of the war was Pius X, who as early as 2 August pleaded for it to stop. He died on 21 August, some say of a broken heart caused by the outbreak of a war he had long predicted.

At the ensuing conclave to elect a new pope, Cardinal Hartmann, Archbishop of Cologne, said to Cardinal Mercier, Archbishop of Brussels- Malines, "I hope we shall not speak of war", to which Mercier responded, "I hope we shall not speak of peace". It therefore seemed appropriate that when Giacomo della Chiesa was elected by the conclave on 3 September, he chose the name Benedict (XV), because, it is said, the Benedictine Order had Pax (Peace) as its motto.

Five days later, on 8 September, he issued his first plea, in the Apostolic exhortation Urbi Primum, for the end of the war. On All Saints' Day, 1 November, Benedict published his first encyclical, Ad Beatissimi, "Surely there are other ways and means whereby violated rights may be rectified?" On Christmas Eve 1914, presaging the Christmas Truce, his message was, "It seems as if the Divine Spirit says to us, Clamas, ne cesses - Cry out, cease not - May the fratricidal weapons fall to the ground, may they fall at last, stained as they are by too much blood ... that an end may come to the terrible scourge which now grips and throttles such a great part of the world".

On 28 July 1915, first anniversary of the start of the war, Benedict issued another Apostolic exhortation, Allorche Fummo, "in the holy name of God ... we adjure you, whom Divine Providence has placed in authority over the nations now at war, to put a final end to this horrible butchery which has been disgracing Europe for a whole year. It is the blood of brothers that is being poured out on land and sea. The most beautiful regions of Europe, the garden of the world, are strewn with corpses and with ruin ... the guns now thunder fearfully, and in their destructive fury they spare neither village nor city, but spread havoc and death everywhere ... Why not from this moment consider with a serene conscience the rights and just aspirations of peoples? Why not commence in goodwill an exchange, direct or indirect, of views ... and thus put an end to this conflict ... Blessed be he who first raises the olive branch of peace and extends his right hand to the enemy ..." In his Christmas message in 1915, he said the world had become "a hospital and a charnel house".

On 1 August 1917 Benedict wrote a Peace Note, Des le debut, sent to the leaders of the belligerent states on 15 August, urging "a just and lasting peace", proposing that the rule of law be restored, and the moral force of right replace the material force of arms.

All such overtures were largely ignored, if not overtly rejected, everywhere, including by Cardinal Bourne, Archbishop of Westminster, leader of English Roman Catholics. A notable exception was the Guild of the Pope's Peace, founded by the writer and publisher Francis Meynell and the printer Stanley Morison, both conscientious objectors.

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Europe's last chance lost.

khaki

Not really much of a chance. Orthodox Russia, Protestant Britain and Prussia, and secular France were never going to pay much attention to the Bishop of Rome.

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