The Catholic Southern Front

Chapter 9/53 – Popes for Peace and Our Lady




Forty-three Pontiffs brought peace and settled disputes between warring factions. Pope Celestine II (1143-1144) successfully attempted and stopped the war between Scotland and England. Pope Martin IV (1281-1285) strove to unite in the bonds of charity the kings and lords of the time. Pope Innocent VIII (1484-1492) assiduously attempted at bringing peace between Catholic states and did his utmost to repress the slave traffic, also assisting Columbus in his undertakings. Pope Clement VIII (1592-1605) succeeded in pacifying France and Spain and Pope Clement IX (1667-1669) acted as intermediary at the Peace of Aquisgrana for a peace pact between France, Spain, England and Holland. This treaty came to be known as the Clementine Peace.

The Pontiff Pope Pius VIII (1829-1830) brought peace for the Armenians with their Turkish Sultan, a peace that ended with the atrocities committed against the Armenian Christians in 1877, in 1895 and during the First World War. Approximately, 2,000,000 Christian Armenian civilians were massacred. Recently on January 19, 2007, Hrant Dink an Armenian genocide defender was murdered. Seventy-seven Roman Pontiffs have been declared Saints. In 1483 Rome was besieged by the Duke of Calabria who intended to punish Pope Sixtus IV for interfering in a military conflict between the Venetians and Ferrara. Pope Sixtus IV had immediate recourse to the Queen of Heaven and vowed that if she were to assist Rome, he would consecrate a newly built church under the title of ‘Our Lady of Peace.’ The city was delivered from the enemy and the building of this church was initiated and completed by the Papal successor, Pope Innocent VIII. To commemorate the delivery of Rome from the Calabrian Duke, a feast is held on January 17 at the Church of Our Lady Queen of Peace in Rome.

On May 5, 1917 Pope Benedict XV invited the world to perform a nine-day novena of prayer to Our Lady, for the prospects of Peace and a quick end to the First World War. Eight days later, on May 13, 1917, Our Lady appeared at Cova da Ira in Fatima, Portugal. The Heavenly Queen demanded that, for peace to reign in the world, all humanity should repent and pray the Holy Rosary. Her messages at Fatima spell out the fact that ‘war’ is a result of the collective sin of mankind and that conversion and prayer brings either an end to war, a relenting of war, or prevents war from occurring altogether and therefore produces the effect of a true and lasting peace.

On August 1, 1917, Pope Benedict XV ‘s ‘Peace Document’ addressed the ‘Heads of the Belligerent Peoples,’ who were busy destroying each other during the First World War. The Pontiff’s document declared, “From the beginning of Our Pontificate, amidst the horrors of the terrible war unleashed upon Europe, We have kept before Our attention three things above all: to preserve complete impartiality in relation to all the belligerents, as is appropriate to him who is the common father and who loves all his children with equal affection; to endeavor constantly to do all the most possible good, without personal exceptions and without national or religious distinctions, a duty which the universal law of charity, as well as the supreme spiritual charge entrusted to Us by Christ, dictates to Us; finally, as Our peacemaking mission equally demands, to leave nothing undone within Our power, which could assist in hastening the end of this calamity, by trying to lead the peoples and their heads to more moderate frames of mind and to the calm deliberations of peace, of a “just and lasting peace.” The Pontiff advised the substitution of material arms with “the moral force of law” and the “institution of arbitration, with its lofty peacemaking function, according to the standards to be agreed upon and with sanctions to be decided against the state which might refuse to submit international questions to arbitration or to accept its decisions.”(1) He advised on, “the true freedom and common use of the seas” which was supposed to “remove many reasons for conflict and, would open new sources of prosperity and progress to all.”(2) He ended this document, later known as ‘Benedict’s Plea for Peace,’ by advising for a quick solution for the cessation of the disputes on territory between Austria and Italy, France and Germany and the Polish (partition) question. On August 15, 1917, the Vatican required James Cardinal Gibbons, the leader of the Catholic Church in the United States of America, to exert pressure on President Wilson to adopt the Pontiff’s peace plan. On August 27, 1917, President Wilson publicly rejected the Pontiff’s plan, however, the Allied conditional acceptance of the ‘Fourteen Points’ occurred in November, 1918. In 1919, at ‘The Treaty of Versailles,’ President Woodrow Wilson’s Fourteen Points had elements resembling the Pontiff’s ‘Plea for Peace.’ The idea that the Pontiff exhibited favoritism to monarchies, governments and leaders, as parents in families might show such ‘favoritism’s,’ is disproved by the Pontiff’s view that: “…above all: to preserve complete impartiality in relation to all the belligerents, as is appropriate to him who is the common father and who loves all his children with equal affection.”(3) If hypothetically, all countries were to respect and acknowledge the Roman Pontiff as their spiritual Father, he surely would not show favoritism to any.

In 1856, Pope Pius IX commissioned a statue of the Blessed Virgin to be placed in Rome’s Piazza di Spagna, in commemoration of the Dogma of the ‘Immaculate Conception.’ On December 8, 1856, the Pontiff beautifully reaffirmed that: “The Blessed Virgin Mary was preserved, in the first instant of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege of God omnipotent and because of the merits of Jesus Christ the Savior of the human race, free from all stain of Original Sin.” On December 8, 2000, Pope John Paul II knelt before the statue of the Blessed Virgin and recited a prayer to beseech the help of Mary for all mankind in the third millennium. The Pontiff laid a floral wreath at the foot of the Virgin and recited the words from Genesis 3:15, “I will make you enemies of each other: you (the serpent) and the woman, your offspring and her offspring. It will crush your head and you will strike its heel.” The Pontiff commented, “Prophetic words of hope that resounded at the dawn of history! They proclaim the victory of Jesus, born of woman, over Satan, prince of this world. … Do these words not summarize, perhaps, the dramatic truth of all man’s history? …. History, in its deepest reality, is the scene of a terrible struggle against the powers of darkness, a struggle that began at the origin of the world, and that will last, as the Lord says, until the last day. Man, every man, is involved in this all-out confrontation, he must combat without respite to be able to remain united to the good, at the price of great efforts, with the help of God’s grace…. Turning toward Mary, therefore, we raise our eyes to you and pray that you sustain us in our struggle against evil and our commitment to the good. Keep us under your maternal protection, beautiful and holy Virgin! Help us go forward in the new millennium, adorned with that humility that made you the favorite in the eyes of the Most High. May the fruits of this Jubilee Year not be lost!”(4) Following this prayer Pope John Paul visited Santa Maria Maggiore Basilica and together with Russian, Ukrainian, Rumanian, Hungarian, and Byelorussian Christians he sang the ancient prayer which commemorated the deliverance of Constantinople from the Persians, the Akathist hymn, in several languages. The Basilica, which was one of the first Christian Churches dedicated to Mary, united the Christian representatives similarly as in the past ages, previous to the great Eastern schisms, which occurred at the beginning of the second millennium. Pope John Paul II prayed that Mary: “…will lead us this coming Christmas to contemplate the mystery of God made man for our salvation!”(5)

In ‘Pacem in Terris,’ the Encyclical Letter of Pope John XXIII of 1963 on ‘Establishing Universal Peace in Truth, Justice, Charity and Liberty,’ specifically points out that: “The arms race should cease; that the stockpiles which exist in various countries should be reduced equally and simultaneously by the parties concerned; that nuclear weapons should be banned; and that a general agreement should eventually be reached about progressive disarmament and an effective method of control. In the words of Pius XII, Our Predecessor of happy memory: The calamity of a world war, with the economic and social ruin and the moral excesses and dissolution that accompany it, must not be permitted to envelop the human race for a third time.” Elsewhere the Encyclical explains: “Our Lord Jesus Christ, after His resurrection, stood in the midst of His disciples and said ‘Peace be to you’, alleluia: the disciples rejoiced seeing the Lord. He leaves us peace, He brings us Peace: Peace I leave with you, my peace I give you; not as the world gives do I give to you. This is the peace, which We implore of Him with the ardent yearning of Our prayer… Finally, upon all men of good will, to whom this Encyclical Letter is also addressed, We implore from Almighty God health and prosperity”(6)

At the beginning of his Pontificate, Pope John Paul II, declared himself as ‘Totus Tuus Ergo Sum’ his motto in honor of Our Lady. On March 8, 2003, he repeated this declaration at the eighteenth World Youth Day. To the young people gathered before him, the Pontiff said that the Church looks upon them with confidence inviting them to be the people of the Beatitudes. He introduced the theme chosen related to the Year of the Rosary as: “Behold, your mother!” (John 19:27) Pope John Paul II encouraged the youth to look upon Our Lady as the ‘Mother of Humanity,’ to recite the Holy Rosary alone, among themselves, in their associations and organizations to bring about the transformation of society and to overcome the “loneliness, failures and disappointments in your personal lives; difficulties in inserting yourselves in the adult world and in professional life: the separations and losses in your families; the violence of war and the death of the innocent.” The Pontiff elucidated further: “Courageously proclaim that Christ, who died and is risen, has vanquished evil and death! In these times threatened by violence, hatred and war, you must witness that He and He alone can give true peace to the heart of individuals, families and peoples on this earth. Commit yourselves to seeking and promoting peace, justice and fellowship. Do not forget the words of the Gospel: “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God” (Matthew 5:9). As I entrust you to the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of Christ and Mother of the Church, I accompany you with a special Apostolic Blessing, sign of my trust and demonstration of my affection for you all.”

His Holiness Pope John Paul II authored the book, ‘Crossing the Threshold of Hope,’ when asked regarding the fall of communism in Russia, the Pontiff said: “Christianity is a great action of God…. communism fell by itself, because of its own inherent weakness…. God, on the other hand, is faithful to His Covenant… Will man surrender to the love of God, will he recognize his tragic mistake? Will the Prince of Darkness surrender, he who is “the father of lies” (Jn *:44), who continually accuses the sons of men as once he accused Job (cf. Jb 1:9ff)? It is unlikely that he will surrender, but his arguments may weaken. Perhaps, little by little, humanity will become more sober, people will open their ears once more in order to hear that word by which God has said everything to humanity. And there will be nothing humiliating about this. Every person can learn from his own mistakes. So can humanity, allowing God to lead the way along the winding paths of history. God does not cease to be at work. His essential work will always remain the Cross and the Resurrection of Christ. This is also the unending source of God’s action in the sacraments, as well as in other ways that are known to him alone. His is an action which passes through the heart of man and through the history of humanity.”(7)

On January 13, 2003, Pope John Paul II, at Vatican City before the one hundred and seventeen ambassadors accredited to the Vatican, emphasized: “No to war!… That adventure without return… War is not always inevitable. War is always a defeat for humanity….” The Pontiff stressed: “War is never just another means that one can choose to employ for settling differences between nations… As the Charter of the United Nations Organization and International Law itself remind us, war cannot be decided upon, even when it is a matter of ensuring the common good, except as the very last option and in accordance with very strict conditions, without ignoring the consequences for the civilian population both during and after the military operations.”(  On January 13, 2004, Pope John Paul II called for world peace and said: “Let us welcome Him with trust and joy! The Blessed Virgin Mary, who, as a thoughtful Mother, presents Him to us, also watches over us. I invite you to turn to her at every moment and to entrust the just-begun year of 2004 to her.” The Pontiff celebrated the 160th anniversary of the publication of the book, “True devotion to Our Lady” by Saint Louis-Marie Grignion de Montfort. The book he said inspired his Mariology and concluded by referring to Our Lady as a sign of hope saying: “The Church awaits the glorious coming of Jesus at the end of the world. Like Mary and with Mary, the saints are in the Church in order to make its holiness radiate and to extend the work of Christ, one and only Savior, to the ends of the earth and till the end of the world.”

Sir Winston Churchill would write, “I cannot forecast to you the action of Russia. It is a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma. But perhaps there is a key.”(9) He goes on saying that that key was Russia’s national interest. However, today we know too well what that key was, the key which unraveled the riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma, was the fulfillment of Our Lady’s wish at Fatima in 1917. The consecration of the USSR to the Immaculate Heart which was carried out by the Polish Pontiff in 1984 precipitated the fall of the Berlin wall, the collapse of the Communist Party in Russia and the liberation of the Eastern European countries. The same writer earlier (in the same page) wrote, “the heroic defense of Warsaw shows that the soul of Poland is indestructible, and that she will rise again like a rock, which may for a time be submerged by a tidal wave, but which remains a rock.”(10) Indeed, that rock can best be represented by the Polish Pontiff Pope John Paul II, (And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it. Matthew 16:18). Pope John Paul II lived the horrors of the Second World War and knew too well the effects brought upon the Eastern countries by Communist USSR. On becoming the successor of Peter, he embarked on world tours introducing reforms and bringing peace. Following a Mass celebrated by Pope John Paul II in Argentina, Augusto Pinochet’s government crumbled before the pressures of the people who demanded change. The situation resulted in General Augusto Pinochet’s resignation. Pope John Paul II was an obvious influence for the Polish workers movement ‘Solidarnosc’ which were initiated by Leck Walensa, a worker who carried the badge of Our Lady of Czestochowa in full view upon his chest. Solidarnosc acted as the catalyst and peoples movement, bringing about the changes in Eastern Europe, resulting in the ‘fall’ of the Berlin wall and the beginning of Russia’s ‘Glasnost and Perestroika.’ On September 30, 2001, Pope John Paul II, before his Sunday public audience, stated that the attack on the United States of America of September 11 was: “A somber day in the history of humanity.” He reminded the audience that October is the month of the Holy Rosary and urged all Catholics to pray the Holy Rosary, “so that the world might be preserved from the terrible iniquity of terrorism…. The Church will be faithful to her prophetic charism, and call all men to their duty to build a path toward peace for the human family…. Peace certainly cannot be distinct from justice, but justice must always be seasoned with mercy and love.”(11)

In 1945, during the Second World War a young German soldier named Joseph Ratzinger deserted his post in the German army and was spotted by the SS troops who were ordered to shoot deserters. He was spared for he had explained to the SS troops that he was wounded to the arm. The Pontiff in his book ‘Milestones’ wrote that the true reason for being spared was that the SS troops: “…had enough of war and did not want to become murderers.”(12) The election of Cardinal Ratzinger as Pope Benedict XVI, was his desire to: “…continue the efforts of Benedict XV on behalf of peace … Throughout the world.” Pope Benedict’s views on ‘preventive war’ can be summarized best by his statement: “The damage would be greater than the values one hopes to save…. The concept of preventive war does not appear in the Catechism of the Catholic Church…. It should never be the responsibility of just one nation to make decisions for the world.” In light of the ‘Just War Theory,’ as defined in antiquity by the Saints Augustine and Thomas Aquinas, and ‘Penitential War’ as described by Blessed Pope Urban II, Saints Bernard of Clairvaux and Basil, Pope Benedict XVI said at a press conference on May 2, 2003: “There were not sufficient reasons to unleash a war against Iraq. To say nothing of the fact that, given the new weapons that make possible destruction that go beyond the combatant groups, today we should be asking ourselves if it is still licit to admit the very existence of a ‘just war.’”(13)

Pope Benedict XVI is not the first Pope to doubt the relevance of the ‘Just War Theory’ and its applicability to modern day warfare. The whole World knows that the Second World War with its introduction of nuclear weapons has changed the perspective on the chivalric just war, forever. Pope Pius XII stated that: “The enormous violence of modern warfare means that it can no longer be regarded as a reasonable, proportionate means for settling conflicts.” Accordingly, on matters of the use for defense of atomic, biological and chemical warfare the Pontiff commented on the conditions of their use as, “The same principles, which are today decisive for permitting war in general.”(14)

In the encyclical ‘Pacem in Terris’ Pope John XXIII stated that: “Therefore in this age of ours, which prides itself on its atomic power, it is irrational to think that war is a proper way to obtain justice for violated rights.” The document ‘Gaudium et Spes’ clearly indicates that modern weapons “…can inflict immense and indiscriminate havoc, which goes far beyond the bounds of legitimate defense.”(15) Nonetheless, the Second Vatican Council clearly justified: “The right of a nation to defend itself by a discriminate and proportionate use of force as a last resort” and “war is not morally justifiable to punish an offense or to recover a thing, but is justifiable only to repel injury and aggression.” This teaching fulfills Saint John the Baptist’s teachings to the Roman soldiery (Luke 3:14) “‘No intimidation! No extortion! Be content with your pay!’” The Roman Catholic Church views ‘Peace’ as essential for humanity. At the Vatican Council the Church called each person to: “devote oneself to the cause of peace with renewed vigor.” As the “…artisans of peace are blessed ‘because they will be called the sons of God.’” (Matt.5:9) Again, the Church: “points out the authentic and noble meaning of peace and condemns the frightfulness of war the Council wishes passionately to summon Christians to cooperate, under the help of Christ the author of peace, with all men in securing among themselves a peace based on justice and love and in setting up the instruments of peace… That earthly peace which arises from love of neighbor symbolizes and results from the peace of Christ which radiates from God the Father. For by the cross the incarnate Son, the prince of peace reconciled all men with God. By thus restoring all men to the unity of one people and one body, He slew hatred in His own flesh; and, after being lifted on high by His resurrection, He poured forth the spirit of love into the hearts of men… Insofar as men are sinful, the threat of war hangs over them, and hang over them it will until the return of Christ.”(16)

CCC 2317 indicates clearly that: (17)“Injustice, excessive economic or social inequalities, envy, distrust and pride raging among men and nations constantly threaten peace and cause wars. Everything done to overcome these disorders contributes to building up peace and avoiding war: Insofar as men are sinners, the threat of war hangs over them and will so continue until Christ comes again; but insofar as they can vanquish sin by coming together in charity, violence itself will be vanquished and these words will be fulfilled: ‘they shall beat their swords into plough shares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.’” (Isaias 2:4).

Quoting Pope John Paul II prayer for Peace is fitting for the closure of this chapter: “O God, Creator of the universe, who extends your paternal concern over every creature and guides the events of history to goals of salvation, we acknowledge your Fatherly love when you break the resistance of mankind and, in a world torn by strife and discord, you make us ready for reconciliation. Renew for us the wonders of your Mercy, send forth your Spirit that He may work in the intimacy of hearts, that enemies may begin to dialogue, that adversaries may shake hands and peoples may encounter one another in harmony. May all commit themselves to the sincere search for true peace, which will extinguish all arguments, for charity, which overcomes hatred, for pardon, which disarms revenge.”



1 Comment »

  1. […] history, a total of 43 popes have brought peace and settled disputes between warring factions. You don’t hear much about […]

    Pingback by 7 Reasons Why I Like Religion | Catholic Hotdish — January 30, 2012 @ 3:49 pm | Reply

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