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WWI: Papal diplomacy during and after The Great War

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Following a series of commemorations to mark the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I, this week attention turns to a world post-WWI, and Papal diplomacy.

By Lydia O’Kane

At the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month in 1918 the guns fell silent and an Armistice between warring nations was declared. When World War I began no one thought it would last for so long. Those who went off to fight expected to be back for Christmas. It was not to be, and for four long years Europe was ravaged and 16 million lives were claimed.

On Sunday 11th November 2018 in many countries around the world a 2 minute silence descended to remember the fallen in this conflict which changed the map of Europe. On Wednesday an international conference got underway focusing on Catholics and the Holy See in the post war world of 1918-1922. Fittingly, a diplomat and the Vatican’s Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, addressed the gathering remarking that at the end of this war and under the Pontificate of Pope Benedict XV, “there was a clear awareness of witnessing upheavals of unprecedented depth, but also Catholic optimism ready to open up to new paths…for the mission of the Church.”

The war time Pope

Pope Benedict XV, who was elected in a Conclave at the outbreak of WWI, had been a career diplomat and according to Papal author and Emeritus Fellow of Trinity Hall, Cambridge, Dr John Pollard, “saw the war as a tragedy and in some sense an unnecessary tragedy.” He also notes that Benedict’s diplomatic skills were to stand him in good stead before and after this lengthy campaign as, “he did understand the international scene and he also made an absolutely crucial appointment of Cardinal Pietro Gasparri as his Secretary of State. Gasparri, like Benedict, was a diplomat and had long diplomatic experience.”

The author of Pope Benedict XV, “The Unknown Pope”, said “he adopted very very quickly the position of neutrality and impartiality…”

World War I was in many respects different from wars that had been fought in the past and was seen as the first truly modern war. Aircraft, armoured vehicles, modern artillery and machine guns were the weapons of choice and they were used to deadly effect. This type of mechanized warfare, Dr Pollard says, horrified the Pontiff. “He was outraged by the new methods of warfare, i.e. the trench warfare; by the torpedoing of passenger merchant vessels; by the aerial bombardment; by the attacks on civilian populations.”

Listen to the interview with Dr John Pollard

Cardinal Parolin and post-WWI diplomacy

In his address, at the Pontifical Lateran University, Cardinal Parolin underlined that following the Armistice that ended WWI the fundamental path to tread was that of peace.
“It was natural”, he said, “that pontifical diplomacy, which during the war had dedicated so many forces to the restoration of peace, should first of all seek, even after the end of hostilities, the true consolidation of peace and its basic presupposition – the relaxation of tensions.” The Cardinal also noted that ”the peace negotiations took place without the participation of the Holy See, excluded because of article 15 of the London Pact, but also because of the intervention of the secularist forces determined to oppose religious-ecclesiastical interference in international bodies. Nevertheless, Benedict XV did not renounce those cards that remained for him to intervene with: the pastoral word in public pronouncements, the mobilization of Catholic public opinion and the presence, at least unofficially, of his diplomatic representatives.”

Dr Pollard also alludes to the exclusion of the Holy See from these post war discussions and says that Benedict and his Secretary of State Gasparri, “were very concerned about the outcomes of the Versailles peace conference of 1919 and in the end they felt it was too harsh particularly on Germany; they did not feel that it was a really good basis for future peace.”

The Pope of Peace

History has a habit of looking back at the life of a Pope and applying a label; St John XXIII was known as “Good Pope John “ and Pope John Paul I was affectionately described as the “smiling Pope”. In Benedict XV’s case, he was known as the “Pope of Peace”. This Dr Pollard explains is due to the fact that “he very genuinely and quite persistently tried to get the belligerent powers to the negotiating table, not just with the famous peace note of August 1917, but on several occasions before that and even after the peace note, tried to persuade the powers to start negotiating.”

Speaking about this famous Peace Note, Cardinal Pietro Parolin commented that the document signified a “respect for justice and equity in relations between States and peoples, renunciation of reciprocal compensation, respect for the natural principle of nationality and the legitimate aspirations of peoples, fair access to material goods and means of communication for all, the reduction of arms, arbitration as a peaceful means of resolving conflicts. Significantly, the Pontiff preferred, instead of justice, to speak of equity, that is, of animated justice”, he said.


Papal Polices and the Path of Peace

So what is the legacy of Pope Benedict XV and his diplomatic efforts during and after this devastating war? According to the Cambridge Fellow, “the moral standing of the Papacy was enormously enhanced by Benedict’s policies during the war, one of the most important being the humanitarian efforts which the Vatican made; the Vatican ran a sort of relief effort for prisoners of war and for civilians… secondly, the war obliged many countries to have a second look at the Vatican”, such as Britain who re-established diplomatic relations with the Holy See very shortly after World War I started. Dr Pollard adds that, “it can be argued that, -with I think a great deal of conviction- that Benedict’s policies during the First World War really put the Holy See on the path of peace diplomacy, that it became its vocation, if you like, or one of its vocations and ever since, the Papacy has been very concerned about peace and also about broader issues of social justice in the world.”

 

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CATHOLIC WORLD

Killing of Christians: Buhari lied to Trump – CAN fumes

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Killing of Christians: Buhari lied to Trump - CAN fumes

The Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) has reacted to President Muhammadu Buhari’s revelation of his conversation with United States President, Donald Trump, on the massacre of Christians in Nigeria, saying President Buhari was economical with the truth.

President Buhari had on Tuesday, revealed that at the heat of the bloody clashes between herdsmen and farmers in Nigeria, the United States President, Donald Trump, unequivocally accused him of killing Christians.

Buhari said these in his closing remarks at the two-day ministerial performance review retreat held at the Presidential Villa, Abuja on Tuesday.

At a point, the President digressed from his prepared speech and narrated his encounter with Trump on the bloody clashes.

He said he managed to explain to the American leader that the clashes were not about ethnicity or religion.

He said, “I believe I was about the only African among the less developed countries the President of United States invited.

“When I was in his office, only myself and himself, only God is my witness, he looked at me in the face, and asked, ‘Why are you killing Christians?’

“I wonder, if you were the person, how you will react. I hope what I was feeling inside did not betray my emotion, so I told him that the problem between the cattle rearers and farmers, I know is older than me not to talk of him. I think I am a couple of years older than him.

“With climate change and population growth and the culture of the cattle rearers, if you have 50 cows and they eat grass, any root, to your water point, then they will follow it. It doesn’t matter whose farm it is.

“The First Republic set of leadership was the most responsible leadership we ever had. I asked the Minister of Agriculture to get a gazette of the early 60s which delineated the cattle route where they used meager resources then to put earth dams, wind mills even sanitary department.

“So, any cattle rearers that allowed his cattle to go to somebody’s farm would be arrested, taken before the court. The farmer would be called to submit his bill and if he couldn’t pay, the cattle would be sold, but subsequent leaders, the VVIPs (very important persons) encroached on the cattle routes. They took over the cattle rearing areas.

“So, I tried and explained to him (Trump) that this has got nothing to do with ethnicity or religion. It is a cultural thing.”

However, CAN’s Vice President and Chairman of the association in Kaduna State, John Hayab, was not impressed with Buhari’s submission, saying “Buhari and his government will never stop from amusing us with their tales by moonlight because what is happening in Zamfara, Sokoto, Katsina, Birnin Gwari, Southern Kaduna, Taraba, Plateau and others cannot be described as a cultural thing.

He told Punch correspondent in an interview: “President Buhari’s weak story about his conversation with President Donald Trump further confirms why his government does not care about the killings in our country by calling them cultural things.

“Just this (Tuesday) evening, I received a report from the Kaduna Baptist Conference President about the number of their members that have been killed by bandits in Kaduna State from January 2020 to date to be 105 and our President will call it a cultural thing? All we can say is may God save our Nigeria.”

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Nuncio tasks clergy, laity on good stewardship

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Nuncio tasks clergy, laity on good stewardship

The Apostolic Nuncio to Nigeria, Archbishop Antonio Guido Filipazzi, has urged the clergy, religious and lay faithful to be trustworthy, transparent, selfless and generous stewards in the discharge of their duties in the Church, following the way of Jesus.

Archbishop Filipazzi made the call during the opening ceremony of the maiden General Assembly of the Abuja Archdiocese, which was held on at Our Lady Queen of Nigeria Pro-Cathedral, Friday September 4.

The General Assembly, with the theme “Catholic Archdiocese of Abuja: Together in Evangelization,” saw Bishops, priests, religious men and women, and the laity gathered together to discuss means of strengthening the faith of God’s people amid the ongoing Covid-19 health crisis.

Addressing participants, Archbishop Filipazzi said that “an administrator is neither a master nor a slave who cannot decide anything, but one who is given a responsibility by the Master.” In this light, the faithful are called to be “true administrators of divine mystery” entrusted to them by Our Lord, according to their varying roles in the Church.

The Apostolic Nuncio also said “differences must not lead to division,” as everyone, though different, must strive for unity since there is no room for divisions in the body of Christ.

Archbishop Filipazzi, speaking on the upsurge in violence in northern Nigeria in a Vatican News interview on 29 August, had also called for shunning divisions along religious and ethnic lines.

Rather, he appealed for “general respect of the law and general intervention of the government” in the violent attacks which have claimed many lives and caused massive material damage.

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Assumpta CMO raises fund to roof “St Joseph’s Hall of Faith”

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Assumpta CMO raises fund to roof “St. Joseph's Hall of Faith”

The Catholic Men Organization, CMO, Maria Assumpta Cathedral Parish Owerri, joined their counterparts in the Archdiocese to celebrate Father’s Day on Sunday, August 30.

The celebration earlier scheduled for May 10 this year was differed because of Covid-19 pandemic.

The occasion began with a Pontifical Mass presided over by His Grace, Most Rev. Anthony Obinna, Archbishop of Owerri cum Parish Priest of the Cathedral Parish.

In his homily, Archbishop Obinna called on Christians to live a life of witnessing to Christ at all times. He said that the zeal to preach the word of God is like a fire that burns inside the heart of a Christian and will not abate until one bears witness to Christ. This, he said, must be done in the course of our daily lives, in our places of work, in our families, among our friends, through living life that is Christ-like.

He congratulated the Christian fathers on the occasion and appealed for support to enable them complete their building project in no distant time. His Grace also appreciated the performance of the CMO choir during the Mass.

The theme for the parish celebration is: “Catholic Men As Spiritual Heads of the Domestic Church: Implications in the Family.”

The parish CMO used the celebration to raise fund for the roofing of their building project named: “St. Joseph’s Hall of Faith.”

In his brief remark at the occasion, the Parish CMO President, Arc. Anthony Emeka Ozoude said, “We have been able to complete the block work,” adding that, “the task before us now is to put a roof on the building.”

He therefore made a passionate appeal for generous donations from members and well wishers, assuring donors that every kobo donated will be prudently applied for the purpose.

Arc. Ozoude recalled that early this year, the parish CMO executive identified a three-prong programme of focus, namely: Membership revalidation, Debt recovery and Fund raising for the roofing.

He advised members not to sit on the fence anymore as there is so much to gain spiritually, morally and even intellectually from participating in the CMO activities both at the parish, stations and prayer groups levels.

“The committed members who attend our programmes regularly have discovered this and have remained resolute in their participation,” he said.

Activities marking this year’s celebration included Retreat, visit to ailing members in their homes, thanksgiving Mass blessing of the mini altars for the 5 prayer groups of CMO etc.

Arc. Ozoude thanked in a special way, Archbishop Obinna, the Cathedral Administrator and priests working in the Cathedral for their support. He also commended the various stations and prayer groups for their cooperation.

The CMO president acknowledged the good work and sacrifice of the Planning Committee, headed by Dr. Uche Ukozor and thanked them for a job well done.

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