In the years of his brief but fruitful pontificate (1914-22), Benedict XV found himself facing pastoral and ecclesiastical problems that were truly serious for the Church and for society. They were of a significance similar to those faced by Pius VII after the French Revolution, and by Pius IX in dealing with events that led to the unification of Italy. His reputation, however, unlike those two pontiffs mentioned, was obscured both by a war that in a short time went from European to worldwide bloodshed, and also by secular historians who have not seen him in a favorable light.
Benedict XV has been described as the “unknown pope.” In fact, so as to shed light on the tragic problems that the Christian community was facing in those difficult years, he diminished himself in the cause of the Gospel. Around two thirds of the Catholics of the time were involved in the First World War: 124 million on the side of the Triple Entente and 64 million on the side of the Central Empires (the German and the Austro-Hungarian).
This article deals in a general way with the question – a focus in recent times – of the relationship between Benedict XV and the war, stressing only the fundamental principles that guided his pastoral action, which was innovative and at the same time respectful of the traditional magisterium of the Church. Giacomo Della Chiesa was elected pope on September 3, 1914. He had been archbishop of Bologna and had been created cardinal a few months before the death of Pius X, on May 25, 1914.
His stance during the war was characterized by concern to maintain strict impartiality in dealing with the belligerents and by commitment to peace among nations. His thinking on these matters was clearly expressed in his first encyclical of November 1, 1914, Ad Beatissimi Apostolorum. In it he condemned nationalism, race hatred and class conflict, classic themes of the pontifical magisterium of recent decades. He did not side with any of the warring parties, but worked hard to point out to the heads of the powers and to the peoples the common ideological causes of the conflict, such as the de-Christianization of society and the “overthrow” of the values that it advocated above all on the practical level, appeared to be the norm of ethical conduct.
In the famous Consistory address of January 22, 1915, Benedict XV outlined the meaning of impartiality, which he called papal “neutrality.” He affirmed that the head of the Church “must not belong to any party,” “must embrace in the same sentiment of charity all the combatants,” because, as common father of Catholics, he has in each of the warring parties “very many sons.” Any other attitude “would expose the peace and internal concord of the Church to great disturbance.”
Moreover, “the proclamation that it is licit for no one, for whatever reason, to violate justice, belongs – there is no doubt – above all to the Roman Pontiff, as He who is constituted by God as supreme interpreter and vindicator of the eternal law; and We proclaim it without ambiguity, vigorously reproving every injustice, from whatever side it may have been committed. But to involve pontifical authority in the very contentions of the belligerents, would in truth be neither appropriate nor useful.” The pope next affirmed that anyone who judges the situation seriously cannot but recognize that the Holy See “in this immense struggle […] must remain perfectly impartial.”
Benedict XV worked hard to ensure that Italy did not enter the war. He feared that this might limit the freedom and impartiality of the Holy See – the “Roman Question” in fact had not yet been definitively resolved – and cause the outbreak of revolutionary movements in Italy.
What was the attitude of Italian Catholics towards Italy’s entry into the war? It was varied . The “intransigents,” hostile to the House of Savoy and to the unified State, disapproved of a war whose end represented, in fact, the crowning of unifying ideals, that involved the annexation of Trentino and Trieste to the Kingdom of Italy. The so-called “clerical-moderates,” eager to unite the Catholic cause with the patriotic one, were in favor of entry. The majority, however, while opting for neutrality, were ready to do their duty should Italy enter the war. This was the attitude taken by the Popular Union (Catholic Action), very close to the position of the pope. For his part, Benedict XV did not put any pressure on Italian Catholics, so that, little by little, the interventionist front in the Catholic sphere widened and gradually the fighting fervor infected everybody by degrees, including some sectors of the hierarchy.
The Holy See hoped to avoid Italy’s entry into the war by trying to open, through diplomatic channels, dialogue between the Italian government and Austria-Hungary. To this end, the pope sent Monsignor Eugenio Pacelli on a mission to Vienna. But Emperor Franz Joseph showed himself hostile to the proposals of the Holy See, supported among others by the leader of the German Center Party, Matthias Erzberger. The proposals consisted in the cession of Trentino to Italy, which, in return, would have meant international recognition of the Law of Guarantee and papal sovereignty over the Leonine City (and its access to the sea).
The failure of these negotiations pushed Italy to declare war on Austria (although they had signed a non-aggression pact), allying itself with the Entente. The basis of this new agreement was the secret Treaty of London of April 26, 1915, article 15 of which read: “France, Great Britain and Russia will support the opposition formulated by Italy against any proposal that attempts to introduce a representative of the Holy See into the negotiations for peace or for the settlement of the questions raised by the present war.” This explains the later refusal by the victors of an official presence of the Holy See at the time of the discussion of the peace treaties. Italy wanted at all costs to avoid the delicate “Roman Question” being reopened in an international forum.
In the meantime the pope made appeals for peace to the belligerent powers, inviting them, in the apostolic exhortation Allorché fummo chiamati (July 28, 1915), “to put an end to this horrendous carnage, that has been dishonoring Europe for a year.” In another speech to the Sacred College of December 6 of the same year, Nostis profecto, he appealed for “a just, lasting peace, not profitable to only one of the warring parties.” For this peace to be achieved, the pope continued, “the aspirations of all should be […] evaluated, eliminating the unjust and impossible and taking into account, with fair compensation and agreements if necessary, those that are just and possible.”
But it was with the Note of August 1, 1917 – made public on August 16 – addressed to the “heads of the belligerent peoples,” that Benedict XV set out in detail the principles that he considered “inescapable” for constructing a just and impartial peace. With that appeal he did not limit himself to setting out general principles – already made explicit several times in previous declarations – but went “to more concrete and practical proposals.” It was a courageous act that had no precedent in the history of the modern Church.
In this Note the pope asked the belligerent powers for: a simultaneous and reciprocal reduction of armaments; an institution of international arbitration with a pacifying function; freedom of navigation and the sharing of the seas (at Britain’s request); reciprocal amnesty for damages and war expenses (according to the requests of the Central Powers); reciprocal restitution of the territories currently occupied: hence, “on the part of Germany total evacuation both of Belgium, with the guarantee of its full political, military, and economic independence of any Power, and of the French territory,” and “on the opposite side restitution of the German colonies.” The other issues in dispute between the nations were then, the pontiff continued, to be resolved “in a conciliatory spirit.” The Note closed with that famous definition of war as “useless slaughter,” which was to arouse much controversy in European chancelleries and nationalist presses.
The proposals indicated by the Note could constitute, according to the intentions of the pontiff, a starting point for a diplomatic discussion between the belligerent parties to put an end to the bloody conflict. To be taken into consideration by the belligerent powers, however, it was necessary that it had at least the consent of Germany. The answer given by the German Chancellor to the Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Gasparri, on September 19, 1917, was very disappointing. Germany, for its part, was not willing to discuss the evacuation of Belgium before the beginning of an Anglo-German negotiation that would consider all pending questions, while Austria did not consent to cede Trentino.
France, Russia and Italy replied in a vague manner to the papal Note, while Britain took a rather nuanced position. On August 21, the British Foreign Secretary, Arthur James Balfour urged Count de Salis-Soglio, ambassador to the Holy See, to ask for details about Belgium. This step aroused disquiet in the President of the French Council, Alexandre Ribot. “Germany’s refusal of any concessions, under pressure from the military, cut short any possible continuation of negotiations, to the point of justifying President Woodrow Wilson’s reply, on August 27, that it was not possible to negotiate with Imperial Germany.” Therefore, the various chancelleries showed themselves to be “hostile, reserved, with a wait-and-see attitude” with regard to the papal Note.
In short, the pope’s diplomatic initiative was not welcomed by any of the major powers. For the nations of the Entente it played into the hands of the Central Empires; for them, instead, it was too unbalanced toward the interests of the other side. Public opinion was also indignant at the pope’s description of the war as “useless slaughter.” Despite the hostility with which his appeal was received, the pontiff had affirmed before the world his right and duty as supreme pastor of Catholics to preach peace and justice, also indicating the ways he considered most opportune for achieving those objectives. With his initiatives, Benedict XV had contributed to involving the magisterium of the Church in important matters such as war and a just peace, that is peace between nations, accompanied by indispensable conditions of justice for all, even for the smallest and most defenseless countries. In this way he had opened the way for his successors.
This affair, which marked the history of the contemporary papacy, can certainly provide lessons for us today as well, as we live in difficult times, in a “Third World War in pieces” – to use Pope Francis’ expression – and in the current Russian-Ukrainian conflict, particularly the tension between Western countries and Russia, in which it appears difficult to reach, through serious negotiation, a just agreement concerning the most important controversial issues.
Concerning the policy of Benedict XV, we can repeat what Giuseppe De Luca wrote: “The Holy See was neutral, but its neutrality cost it a double war: wars with some, wars with others. The Holy See was unable to do anything good that was not immediately regarded badly.”
In the years of the conflict the Holy See’s activity was directed above all to helping the military and civilian victims of the war. It did so both at the diplomatic level, using pontifical diplomacy for the cause of peace and for important mediation operations (such as the exchange of prisoners of war); and at the humanitarian level, organizing at a central level (i.e. in the Vatican), through an army of volunteers – made up above all of priests, religious and nuns – a center for collecting details of the dead, the wounded on the battlefields and the numerous missing, so as to provide information to families desperate for news of their loved ones. Furthermore, there was the incalculable charity that the pope provided to the needy, through his legates and various networks of charitable volunteers that were created in numerous places. In recent years, thanks to the abundant documentation in the Vatican archives in this regard, this aspect has been much studied by historians.
The valuable contribution that the military chaplains made to the soldiers sent to the front should not be forgotten. It was General Luigi Cadorna, a devout Catholic, who issued, in April 1915, a circular with which he reassigned the chaplains to the armed forces, so that they would provide for the spiritual needs of the soldiers and encourage them in the most difficult and tragic moments of the war. This initiative, much praised by the pope, created a strong sense of solidarity between the clergy and the Italian masses. Many of the soldiers sent to the front came, in fact, from the countryside and were very attached to the Church and its liturgies. It was the first time that the Kingdom of Italy had asked the Church for a commitment in the public sphere. This had a very great political and social significance, and soon the fruits of such courageous choices would be gathered. The new unified state, in its moment of need, no longer considered the Church as an enemy to be fought or ignored. On the Catholic side, in those years a “devotion” linked to the country in danger developed; the model of the “devout soldier” was proposed through figurines, prayers and various publications. In addition, prayers began to be said in the churches for the combatants at the front and for peace among Christian peoples.
The papacy was not officially involved in the framing of the various peace treaties that followed the First World War. Article 15 of the London Treaty in fact prohibited such participation. Despite that, Monsignor Bonaventura Ceretti, of the Secretariat of State, was present at the negotiations in Versailles, with the task of overseeing the guarantees of the practice of worship and ecclesiastical property in the former German colonies. Article 238 of the Pact satisfied the Holy See, affirming that the missions did not depend on the nations from which the missionaries came, but on the Holy See, whose supranational role was thus recognized and highlighted.
The Catholic Church was immediately able to adapt to the new order that resulted from Versailles. As early as October 1918 Benedict XV instructed his nuncio in Vienna “to set up friendly relations with the different nationalities of the Austro-Hungarian empire that have now constituted themselves into independent States.” The Church, the pope recalled, as a “perfect society whose sole end is the sanctification of men of all times, of all countries, just as it adapts itself to different forms of government, so it accepts, without any difficulty, the legitimate political territorial aspirations of peoples.”
The diplomatic actions of Benedict XV, aimed at widening relations between the Holy See and the states that had just come out of the Great War, was generally crowned with success. When Benedict XV ascended the papal throne, only 14 states had official representatives at the Holy See, while at his death there were 27. The most important diplomatic event was the resumption of relations with France. During the war France had been particularly hostile to the pope’s peace policy, in that it considered it favorable to the interests of the Central Empires. In France, in fact, Benedict XV was called le pape boche. After the end of the war, relations between the Holy See and the French government became more cordial.
The pope never hid his aspiration to see the conflict with France resolved. He recalled several times that his predecessor Leo XIII had been very favorable to the French people and that he had made friendship with them one of the cornerstones of his policy. The Church in France, in fact, despite the anticlerical governments of Gambetta and Combes, had throughout the 19th century been very alive and sensitive to modern thinking. On May 28, 1920, Jean Doulcet, sent as chargé d’affaires to the Holy See, concluded an agreement with Cardinal Gasparri for the resumption of relations with France. Meanwhile, on May 16 of that year, the pope canonized Joan of Arc, and this act reverberated through the French Church.
Benedict XV also played an important role in questions of a political nature, in particular as regards “things Italian,” blocked for decades by the “Roman Question,” which prevented Italian Catholics from taking part in national political life. It is thanks to this “little pope” – he was in fact rather short in stature – that Catholics, immediately after the war, fully re-entered the renewed political institutional framework and contributed to re-founding the nation that had just emerged from the war.
Benedict XV and the birth of the Italian Popular Party
In the war, Catholics of all nations had fought heroically, without, however, espousing the values of an “exaggerated” militarist nationalism. They had, as far as possible, followed the papal teaching, which invited everyone to moderation and piety, and they had also shown that they were faithful to their nation. In particular, the Italians had dispelled the legend, circulating among the liberals, that they lacked patriotic spirit and love for their country. This fact contributed to the integration of Catholics within civil and political society, sweeping away the contrasts that had previously existed between intransigent Catholics, hostile to the unification of Italy, and the new liberal ruling class, mostly anticlerical. The participation of Catholics in the war helped to overcome the previous “self-exclusion” from political life. In this perspective should be seen the pope’s abrogation of the non expedit, which gave rise to the entry of Italian Catholics into the political and parliamentary life of the nation.
One of the most important effects of the war was certainly the birth of the broad-based popular parties with nationwide appeal, such as the Partito Popolare Italiano, PPI (Italian Popular Party). With the Socialist Party, born in Genoa in 1892, it changed once and for all the old party and institutional structure of the monarchical-liberal state produced by the Risorgimento.
The parliamentary elections that took place in the autumn of 1919, conducted for the first time with a proportional system with multi-nominal constituencies and universal male suffrage, gave large parliamentary representation to the new mass parties, thus bringing new life to the nation state and forcing the liberal bourgeoisie to make alliances with the new parties, in particular with the PPI. The last political elections had been those of 1913, in which the Catholics had been urged to vote, on the instructions of the local Catholic hierarchy, for the liberal candidates influenced by Gentiloni. The entry onto the scene of the PPI was considered by a large part of the Catholic world as a very significant fact, rich in political and moral implications. But with the advent of Fascism, in 1922, this political unity of the Catholics would break because of internal conflicts between conservatives and progressives.
The PPI was born with a clear economic-social reforming program, with a political orientation alternative to – or breaking with – that which organized Catholics had made their own, at the suggestion of the Holy See, starting from the first clerical-moderate alliances of 1904, then renewed with greater conviction in the elections of 1909 and 1913. This explains why the new party, from the outset, was viewed by the ecclesiastical hierarchy with a certain suspicion, or rather with a prudent “wait-and-see” attitude. The latter never openly sided – the non expedit was still in force, at least in official speeches – with the new party, in which Catholics from different backgrounds were active; but at the same time it never disavowed it, not even in moments of greatest friction. Benedict XV played a fundamental role in the birth of the new party “of Catholics,” encouraging and supporting it in every way, even if he did not publicly take sides with it. Indeed, it is not inappropriate to affirm, on the historical level, that the pope was the real “moral founder” of the PPI (in the sense that he made possible its birth and development), even if not its creator.
The new party was officially born on January 18, 1919. From a room in the Santa Chiara hotel in Rome Don Luigi Sturzo issued an appeal “to all free and strong men.” It was broadcasted after a few months of gestation and, apparently, without any direct intervention of the Holy See in setting the political program and action. It should be remembered, however, that the president of the “small constituent assembly,” which met in Rome to fine-tune the political project conceived by Don Sturzo, was Count Carlo Santucci, a lawyer working at the Rota, a personal friend of the Secretary of State, Cardinal Gasparri, and strenuous defender of the papal cause. It therefore seems very strange that the Holy See was kept in the dark about what was happening, or that it limited itself to watching with detachment and indifference what was going on in the ranks of the Catholic movement.
It should also be remembered that without the abrogation of the non expedit, established as long ago as 1874 by the Sacred Penitentiary, Italian Catholics were forbidden to participate at the ballot box, even to vote for a party of Catholic inspiration, without the approval of the Holy See, and that is what Don Sturzo actually managed to obtain before issuing the above-mentioned proclamation.
According to the testimony of the Sicilian priest, from the beginning the Vatican did not oppose his project, since the new party “in its program and in its name proposed to avoid any confusion that might in any way bind the responsibilities of the Holy See.” On this point Don Sturzo had very clear ideas: 1) he intended to found a non-denominational party, independent and autonomous from the ecclesiastical hierarchy, although of clear Christian inspiration, according to the Guelph tradition of intransigent Catholicism (from which he also took the symbol of the party); 2) the new party would be called simply Italian People’s Party, without any particular denominational connotation, something that in the first Congress of the party (held in Bologna, from June 14, 1919), was strongly contested by some intransigent Catholics; 3) he wanted the new political party to be absolutely independent from Catholic Action organizations, which depended entirely on ecclesiastical authority. Against the opinion of some exponents of the PPI, he opposed the PPI using, even only for electoral propaganda, both the central and regional organs of Catholic Action. In those months he worked hard to bring to maturity in the Catholic leadership the idea that “the political conscience of a national party operating and linked from one end of Italy to the other” must grow and develop “not through the bodies of Catholic Action, but in the spiritual cohesion and operational trust of people.”
At that moment, all this could not be anything but pleasing to the Holy See, which wanted, according to the sensibility and culture of Benedict XV, for there to be no confusion between the two spheres of religion and politics. For the pope, the action taken by Catholics in the religious, cultural and social sphere, as well as in the economic sphere (involving bodies such as cooperatives and leagues) was one thing, and the action taken by Catholics (including through a party) in the sphere of politics and the management of public affairs was quite another. It should be remembered that Benedict XV, already in the years in which he worked in the Secretariat of State during the pontificate of Pius X, was considered a “progressive,” that is a supporter of the Christian Democrat movement. There is even a trace of this in the diary of Fr. Angelo De Santi, in relation to an article published in December 1904 by La Civiltà Cattolica in support of the clerical-moderate agreements wanted by the pope. In the diary one reads that “Monsignor Della Chiesa showed himself opposed to our article and spoke with little diplomatic sense,” and that because on this point he supported the view of Don Murri and of the other Christian Democrats, among whom was also Don Sturzo. For this reason, according to some authors, he was suspected of “social modernism” by the conservative party of the Curia (Cardinal Merry del Val, Cardinal De Lai and Monsignor Umberto Benigni), removed from the Secretariat of State and sent to Bologna as archbishop. In this diocese Archbishop Della Chiesa waited eight years before receiving the cardinal’s hat. He was appointed cardinal a few months before Pius X died, and was elected pope at the conclave immediately following.
It is worth, however, taking a step back in the narrative and looking closely at how things went between Don Sturzo and the Secretariat of State, and in what way the latter favored the birth of the first political party of Italian Catholics. Don Sturzo’s appeal “to all free and strong men,” which marked the official birth of the Italian Popular Party, must certainly have surprised many of those prelates who days before had expressed themselves on political matters, for example, the various bishops of northern Italy, in particular those from Veneto, who had been asked by the Secretariat of State to give their written opinion on the matter. On January 27, 1919, the Patriarch of Venice wrote to the Secretariat of State to ask once again for indications on how Catholics should respond to such an unexpected invitation. “The constitution of the Popular Party,” wrote Cardinal La Fontaine, “puts me in a rather embarrassing situation in relations with the faithful. When we are asked by them whether they can adhere to it not only tota conscientia but also according to the aims of the Holy See, what must we answer? If it is a good thing, why not encourage it? If it is not good, what answer may be given?” On this point Cardinal Gasparri spoke in clear and peremptory fashion: “To this proposal I wish to signify to you, in an equally reserved way as is in the aims of the Holy See, that Italian Catholics may adhere to the said party,” that is to Sturzo’s new party.
Cardinal Gasparri, certainly with the consent of Benedict XV, wanted Italian Catholics to enter the arena of national politics in their own right, with a party that was not an expression of the particular interests either of the Holy See or of Catholic Action, using in the political struggle only their own people and means. This point of view, however, was not fully shared by many Catholics, who opposed the professed non-denominational nature of the PPI right from the first Congress. They, unlike the Secretary of State, would have preferred a frankly confessional party, that took full responsibility for the religious question in Italy and moved along the lines of the old intransigentist tradition, advocated by men like Count Giovanni Battista Paganuzzi, Don Francesco Olgiati and Father Agostino Gemelli.
If in the end it was the Sturzian vision that imposed itself on the new party of Catholics, after the stormy events of the first National Congress, it was due to the powerful but discreet protection that the priest from Caltagirone received from the “little pope,” who, during the years of his pontificate, never abandoned him at any time.
Benedict XV has gone down in history as the forgotten pope even among the Catholic faithful. During his pontificate, in particular after the famous Note of 1917, he was much criticized, almost vilified and accused of partiality. But he was a pope who deserves to be remembered for his courageous and tireless action for the cause of peace and for his holiness of life.
. Benedict XV, Giacomo Della Chiesa, was born in Genoa of a noble family, on November 21, 1854, and died on January 22, 1922. One hundred years after his death we are pleased to remember this pontiff who was very close to our magazine and the then editor, Fr. Enrico Rosa (1870-1938). The latter had great esteem and affection for him; he described him as: “a saintly and courageous pope, who had the misfortune to exercise his high ministry in calamitous times” (E. Rosa, “In morte di Benedetto XV”, in Civ. Catt. 1922 I 193-208). All the people who knew him at close quarters had the same impression. Although his exemplary virtues have not yet been canonically attested, many people of faith consider him one of the “holy popes” of the 20th century.
. Cf. J. Pollard, Il papa sconosciuto. Benedetto XV (1914-22) e la ricerca della pace, Cinisello Balsamo (Mi), San Paolo, 2001.
. Cf. A. Melloni – G. Cavagnini – G. Grossi, Benedetto XV. Papa Giacomo Della Chiesa nel mondo dell’“inutile strage”, Bologna, il Mulino, 2017; A. Scottà, Papa Benedetto XV. La Chiesa, la grande guerra, la pace (1914-1922), Rome, Storia e Letteratura, 2009.
. Benedict XV, Discourse Convocare vos, January 22, 1915, in www.vatican.va
. Cf. P. Scoppola, “Cattolici neutralisti e interventisti alla vigilia del conflitto”, in G. Rossini (ed), Benedetto XV, i cattolici e la prima guerra mondiale, Rome, Cinque Lune, 1963, 92f.
 . www.it.wikisource.org/wiki/Trattato_di_Londra
. Benedict XV, Allorché fummo chiamati, in www.vatican.va/content/benedict-xv/documents/19150728
. Benedict XV, Speech “Nostis profecto”, December 6, 1915. In a letter to Cardinal Pompilj of March 4, 1916, Benedict XV defines the current conflict “a suicide of civilized Europe.” Cf. J. M. Mayeur, “Guerre mondiali e totalitarismi (1914-1958)”, in Storia del cristianesimo, Religione, politica, cultura, Rome, Borla – Città Nuova, vol. 12, 2002, 294.
. For a detailed analysis of the matter, cf. A. Scottà, Papa Benedetto XV…, op. cit.; Melloni – G. Cavagnini – G. Grossi, Benedetto XV…, op. cit.
. Benedict XV’s Note had been preceded by two important diplomatic initiatives: the Note of the Central Empires to the Entente of December 12, 1916, which, however, did not contain precise details , and the appeal of US President Wilson of December 18, that had great resonance even after the war. These initiatives showed that in the international sphere there was a certain willingness to set up negotiations, and “challenged the static nature of military operations and the weariness of the internal fronts” (G. De Rosa, “Benedetto XV”, in Enciclopedia dei papi, Rome, Istituto dell’Enciclopedia Italiana Treccani, 2000, 611).
. The pontiff wrote: “As regards the territorial questions, such as those, for example, that are being agitated between Italy and Austria, between Germany and France, it is to be hoped that, in view of the immense advantages of a lasting peace with disarmament, the contending parties will examine them in a conciliatory spirit.” The Note also refers to other territorial questions, such as “the issue of Armenia, of the Balkan States and of the countries forming part of the ancient Kingdom of Poland.” See www.vatican.va/content/benedict-XV/letters/1917/documents/hf
. The Note was delivered to the interested powers through those States that had diplomatic relations with the Holy See. England transmitted the Papal document to Italy. At that time, in fact, the Kingdom of Italy had no formal diplomatic relations with the Holy See, although the most important affairs were somehow dealt with through compliant interlocutors (such as Baron Carlo Monti, on the Vatican side).
. J. M. Mayeur, “Guerre mondiali e totalitarismi (1914-1958)”, op. cit., 296.
. G. De Luca, Il cardinale Bonaventura Cerretti, Rome, Storia e Letteratura, 1971, 209.
. Cf. G. Quirico, Fatti e non parole. L’opera del Santo Padre Benedetto XV durante la guerra, Rome, La Civiltà Cattolica, 1918.
. There were about 2,500 Catholic chaplains with the troops at the front. Among them were figures of great prestige, such as Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli, the future John XXIII, Fr. Giovanni Semeria, Don Giovanni Minzoni and others. On Italian chaplains during the First World War, cf. R. Morozzo della Rocca, La fede e la guerra. Cappellani militari e preti soldati 1915-1919, Rome, Studium, 1980; V. Pignoloni (ed.), Cappellani militari e preti-soldati in prima linea nella Grande Guerra, Cinisello Balsamo (Mi), San Paolo, 2016.
. In this regard, see the letter sent on May 25, 2015, by Benedict XV to Cardinal Vannutelli, Dean of the College of Cardinals, in which the pope granted military chaplains broad faculties in the spiritual sphere (celebration of Mass and assistance to the dying). “While our hearts bleed at the sight of so many misfortunes, we have not desisted from working to alleviate and diminish, as far as we could, the sad consequences of the war. We give praise to God who has wished to crown with happy success the care We have taken to obtain from the belligerent nations the exchange of prisoners of war unfit for further military service. In addition to this […], We have made efforts […] on behalf of wounded or sick prisoners of war.” Cf. wwwvatican.va/content/benedect-xv/en/1915/documents
. Cf. L. Botrugno (ed.), Inutile strage. I cattolici e la Santa Sede nella prima guerra mondiale, Vatican City, Libr. Ed. Vaticana, 2017; A. Beltrami, “Sotto le bombe o in trincea: gli ex voto raccontano la guerra”, in Avvenire, March 1, 2017.
. J. M. Mayeur, “Guerre mondiali e totalitarismi (1914-1958)”, op. cit., 298.
. G. De Rosa, “Benedetto XV”, op. cit., 614.
. Ibid., 615.
. Cf. Id., Il Partito Popolare Italiano, Rome – Bari, Laterza, 1974; F. Traniello, Città dell’uomo. Cattolici, partito e Stato nella storia d’Italia, Bologna, il Mulino, 1990, 51-140; G. Sale, Popolari e destra cattolica al tempo di Benedetto XV, Milan, Jaca Book, 2006.
. It is said that it was Monsignor Della Chiesa, back in 1905, at the time when he worked in the Secretariat of State, who advised Don Sturzo to accept the post of deputy mayor of Caltagirone “for the public good.” Don Sturzo kept for all his life a good memory and a feeling of gratitude for that courageous “little pope,” who had not hindered, but indeed in some way encouraged the birth of the first political party of Catholics in Italy.
. G. De Rosa, Il Partito Popolare Italiano, op. cit., 14; F. Malgeri, Luigi Sturzo, Milan, Paoline, 1993, 103-113; A. Canavero, I cattolici nella società italiana. Dalla metà dell’800 al Concilio Vaticano II, Brescia, La Scuola, 1991, 149.
. On Carlo Cantucci, cf. De Rosa, I conservatori nazionali. Biografia di Carlo Santucci, Brescia, Morcelliana, 1962.
. Il Messaggero, January 29, 1919.
. A. Canavero, I cattolici nella società italiana…, op. cit., 147.
. Archives of Civiltà Cattolica (ACC), Diario De Santi, December 14, 1904.
. The patriarch continued: “Here the liberals have held meetings and have decided to widen their base, allying themselves with conservative radicals and others, and they have asked if the Catholics will maintain the formulas of alliance devised under the patriarchate of the most eminent Sarto, especially for the municipal elections. Perhaps in the strictest confidence, I would like to have a sure answer in regard to the two questions from the Holy See. I beg Your Eminence to favor me with courteous solicitude, because given the intense and effective work that the leaders of the extreme parties are doing, it is clear that there is no time to lose” (ibid., 38). For the historical context of these facts, cf. S. Tramontin, Cattolici, popolari e fascisti nel Veneto, Rome, Cinque Lune, 1975, 4-20.
. AAEESS, Italia, 346, 38.