Benedict XV

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Benedict XV (1915)
Signature of Benedict XV.

Benedict XV (born Giacomo della Chiesa ; born November 21, 1854 in Genoa , Kingdom of Sardinia ; † January 22, 1922 in Rome ) was Pope from September 3, 1914 until his death in 1922. Because of his committed appearance against the First World War , he was appointed Pope for Peace known.


Archbishop della Chiesa (1906)

Giacomo della Chiesa was born in Genoa, Italy, into a noble margravial family. On his mother's side he came from the same family as Pope Innocent VII, who was in office at the beginning of the 15th century. In 1875 he obtained a doctorate in law. Only then did his father allow him to study for the priesthood; For this he became a seminarian at the Almo Collegio Capranica (Rome). He then graduated from the Accademia dei Nobili Ecclesiastici . He completed his education in 1880 with a doctorate in canon law . On December 21, 1878 he received the Sacrament of Holy Orders . He spent most of his ecclesiastical career in the Vatican .

Signature of Benedict XV. in the year of his election 1914
Benedict XV as cardinal, 1914

Cardinal Mariano Rampolla , eleven years his senior, was his friend and mentor. Della Chiesa met him in January 1881, served him first in Madrid and later as secretary from 1887, when he was appointed Cardinal Secretary of State at the Curia . During this time, della Chiesa helped mediate a conflict between Germany and Spain over the Caroline Islands in the Pacific (read more here ) and organized relief efforts during a cholera epidemic . When Rampolla left the office with the election of Pius X and Cardinal Merry del Val succeeded him, Giacomo della Chiesa initially retained his position as a substitute in the Secretariat of State (since 1901).

Because of his close relationship with the pro-France Rampolla, the architect of Leo XIII's comparatively open foreign policy. and favorite in the 1903 conclave , the industrious, energetic, but unimposing della Chiesa was soon removed from the diplomatic service by the new, conservative church leadership. On December 16, 1907 he was appointed Archbishop of Bologna . However , Pope Pius X personally consecrated him as a bishop on December 22, 1907 as a sign of solidarity . On August 4, 1909 he was buried in the convent church of St. Dominic was admitted to the Third Dominican Order in Bologna .

It was not until May 25, 1914 that della Chiesa was admitted to the College of Cardinals as a cardinal priest with the titular church of Santi Quattro Coronati . Equipped with the new ranks, he delivered a speech at the outbreak of World War I in which he described the position and tasks of the church in the face of the world situation, stressed the need for neutrality and the will for peace, and invoked the alleviation of war-related suffering.


election to the Pope

On September 3, 1914, in a difficult conclave with 57 cardinals eligible to vote, della Chiesa was elected pope on the 10th ballot by 38 votes to 18 (against Domenico Serafini ) and, with reference to the memory of Pope Benedict XIV , who was also Archbishop of Bologna had been, the name of Benedict XV. on.

The suspicion expressed by Cardinal Merry del Val that della Chiesa had chosen himself, which has been the case since Gregory XV. was strictly forbidden, could be cleared out on the morning of September 4 using the ballot paper. He accepted the election and took immediate action. Due to the war, the coronation took place in a hurry in the Sistine Chapel . His style was sometimes ironic or choleric, but very assertive. Despite the best skills, Benedict XV. hardly gain public popularity.

Coat of arms of Benedict XV
Pope Benedict XV

peace efforts in World War I

Benedict's pontificate was marked by the war and its effects. Benedict XV, who personally tended to side with France but maintained strict neutrality in his statements, organized humanitarian aid and made several unsuccessful attempts at peace negotiations. He issued the first circular Ubi primum a few days after taking office. In 1915 he again addressed the warring nations in drastic terms in his Exhortatio Allorché fummo chiamati .

Dès le début , the peace note of Benedict XV, was particularly well known . on the third anniversary of the beginning of the war (August 1, 1917). In it, the Pope, as a neutral mediator, proposed peace negotiations to all the belligerent powers. He called for disarmament, effective international arbitration to avoid future wars and the abandonment of territorial cessions. With this, the Vatican took up essential features of the international peace movement of the pre-war period. The plan was rejected because each of the warring parties saw themselves as disadvantaged by it. The Triple Entente was also suspicious of the papal secret chamberlain Rudolf von Gerlach , the Central Powers' most important direct contact with the pope. The Vatican was even excluded from the ceasefire negotiations. His encyclical Pacem, Dei munus pulcherrimum , published on May 23, 1920, was a plea for the reconciliation of peoples. In it, Benedict opposed the harsh measures taken by the victors in the Treaty of Versailles . During the post-war period he reorganized the church administration to better meet the demands of the new international situation.

Politics in Italy and France

Since the conquest of Rome by the new Italian nation-state in 1870, Italian Catholics have been forbidden to vote in elections. Benedict XV lifted this ban in 1919 and advocated support for the Catholic-leaning Italian People's Party under Luigi Sturzo .

He made attempts to improve relations with the anti- clerical government of France (1913–1920 under Raymond Poincaré ) by canonizing French national heroine Joan of Arc in May 1920 . The diplomatic recognition of the Holy See by France and Great Britain is considered a political success.

After the First World War

After the Second Republic was proclaimed in Poland in November 1918, Benedict XV. the new state and sent Achille Ratti when Pius XI. his later successor as apostolic nuncio to Poland. A concern of the Holy See was the settlement of the conflict between Poland and Lithuania, which opposed Poland's 1772 claims to its territory.

Overall, the Pope's diplomatic approach was crowned with success; whereas in 1914 only 14 states had diplomatic missions to the Holy See, after Benedict's death in 1922 this number had risen to 27.

In his encyclical Pacem, Dei munus pulcherrimum , published on May 23, 1920, Benedict XV. the idea of ​​reconciliation after wars and stressed the common sense of diplomacy. At the same time, with his idea of ​​a community of nations, he coined the term of today's United Nations as early as 1920 .

Benedict XV died in early 1922 at the age of 67 from pneumonia .

church concerns

Within the church, Benedict XV. in the face of the new world situation, the excesses of anti-modernism that had marked the end of the Pius X era. In the mission areas of the Third World , he promoted the training of local priests who were to replace the European missionaries as soon as possible. He promulgated Canon Law , the 1917 CIC .

Mary as Coredemptrix

Benedict XV explained his view of Mary 's co-redemption in 1918 : when Mary stood under the cross, she suffered with the dying son, renouncing "the maternal rights to the son for the salvation of the people". Thus, one could say "that she redeemed the human race with Christ." Therefore, "the various graces from the treasury of redemption are distributed, as it were, from the hands of the suffering Virgin herself". The Baptist Franz Graf-Stuhlhofer objected to this idea, arguing that Jesus would have redeemed people even if Mary had not stood under the cross, and, like many Protestants, countered the idea of ​​Mary as co-redeemer with the Reformation solus Christ .

Exhortatio against the war

In his Exhortatio Allorché fummo chiamati of July 28, 1915, Benedict XV. the war as "horrible butchery" ("orrenda carneficina"), which was softened in a German translation to a "terrible struggle". Karl Kraus translated it ( The Last Days of Humanity , Act I, Scene 27) as “horrible murder”.

"In the holy name of God, our heavenly Father and Lord, for the sake of the blessed blood of Jesus, which was the price of human redemption, we adjure you, who have been appointed by divine providence to govern the warring nations, to this terrible slaughter that For a year now, Europe has been dishonored to finally set a target. It is fraternal blood that is shed on land and sea. The most beautiful parts of Europe, this garden of the world, are strewn with corpses and ruins. You bear the terrible responsibility for peace and war before God and man. Listen to Our plea, to the paternal voice of the vicar of the eternal and supreme Judge, to whom you will have to give an account. The abundance of riches that God the Creator has bestowed on the lands under your authority surely allow you to continue the struggle. But at what price? The thousands of young lives that die every day on the battlefields may answer that.”

The publication of the Exhortatio in a new translation in 1931 prompted Kurt Tucholsky to polemic in which the controversial phrase " Soldiers are murderers " was coined.

Aftermath as the “Peace Pope”

The Peace Doctrine of Benedict XV. became an integral part of the ecclesiastical teaching of his successors. Finally, the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965) demanded that a state of the world be brought about in which war would be completely forbidden ( bellum est omnino interdicendum; GS n. 82).

Joseph Ratzinger , as Benedict XVI. Pope from April 2005 to February 2013, by choosing his papal name, he consciously placed himself in the tradition of the Pope for Peace Benedict XV, as he explicitly affirmed in his message on the World Day of Peace on January 1, 2006.

Benedict XV is not one of the better-known popes of the 20th century. His pro-peace attitude differed from that of most other monarchs and leaders of his day.

Admiral Giovanni Antonio della Chiesa, brother of the Pope


The Pope's brother, Marchese Giovanni Antonio della Chiesa, was a Rear Admiral in the Italian Navy .



web links

Commons : Benedictus XV  - Collection of images, videos and audio files
Wikisource: Benedict XV.  – Sources and full texts


  1. Ferdinando Procaccini di Montescaglioso: La Pontificia Accademia dei nobili ecclesiastici. Memoria storica . Befani, Rome 1889, p. 50.
  2. Analecta sacri ordinis fratrum Praedicatorum , 17 (1909), fasc. 4, pp. 261-262.
  3. Benedict XV. in the letter Inter Sodalicia (1918); after Walter Delius : History of Marian devotion. 1963, p. 267.
  4. Franz Graf-Stuhlhofer: Praying to saints? Veneration of the saints according to the Bible, by the Church Fathers and in contemporary church practice and teaching . Follow Verlag, Langerwehe 2014 (e-book), chap. "Mary as Coredemptrix" (1st printed edition Asslar 1988).
  5. War is a dreadful butchery! on Wikisource.
  6. The guarded theater of war entry from August 4, 1931 on the website . Retrieved March 15, 2021.
  7. In truth lies peace Message of His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI. to celebrate the World Day of Peace of January 1, 2006 on the website (full text). Retrieved March 15, 2021.
  8. The death of Pope Benedict XV's brother, Rear-Admiral Marchese Giovanni Antonio della Chiesa.  in the German Digital Library
predecessor government office successor
Domenico Cardinal Svampa Archbishop of Bologna
Giorgio Cardinal Gusmini
Pius X Croix de l Ordre du Saint-Sepulcre.svg Grand Master of the Order of the Holy Sepulcher of Jerusalem
Pius XI
Pius X CoA Benedetto XV.svg Pope
Pius XI