Benedict XV was the 258th man to lead the Catholic Church and the 15th to assume the papal name “Benedict.” This article will be focusing on his personal history and works in order to make it easier for students to recall and analyze.
Early Life and Education.
Giacomo della Chiesa was born to Marchese Chiesa and Marchesa Migliorati. Even as a young man, he desired to become a priest; his father rejected Giacomo’s young wishes and pushed his son toward the pursuit of law. Marchese Chiesa would get his wish on August 2nd, 1875, the date Giacomo earned his doctorate in Law from the University of Genoa. Notably, this university’s politics were very harsh of the clergy and Catholicism due to Italian unification.
Despite the political climate he had earned his degree within, Giacomo once again sought his father’s blessing to serve God. While the Marchese reluctantly admitted that nothing could stop his son, he gave Giacomo his blessing on the condition that he study theology in Rome, away from Genoa. It was the Marchese’ hope that Giacomo would become something greater than a village priest or the Monsignore of a single province. Giacomo enrolled into Rome’s Collegio Capranica.
Career with the Church.
Giacomo became Father della Chiesa on December 21st, 1878 and from 1883, would study at Rome’s Pontificia Accademia dei Nobili Ecclesiastici. After pursuing the weekly practice of defending a research paper in the company of the Roman Curia, della Chiesa gained the attention of Cardinal Mariano Rampolla. Rampolla would expedite della Chiesa’s career by pushing him into the Vatican’s diplomatic endeavors in 1882. Della Chiesa would serve Rampolla as his secretary before being posted to Madrid. During his time under Rampolla, della Chiesa managed to arrange relief efforts during rampant cholera and also successfully negotiated an argument concerning the ownership of the Caroline Islands between Germany and Spain.
Shortly after Leo XIII’s death, Cardinal Rampolla sought to appoint della Chiesa to the position of conclave secretary. The Holy College stepped ahead and chose Rafael Merry del Val. When Rampolla left his post upon Pope Pius X’s election, della Chiesa became del Val’s subordinate. On December 18, 1907, della Chiesa would be appointed Archbishop of of Bologna in front of his family, the Vatican’s diplomatic corps, several cardinals and bishops and even Rompalla; February 23 of the following year would see him relocate to his dioceses. Bishop della Chiesa would make sure to visit each of his parishes, paying special attention to the mountainous ones that required a horse to reach.
On May 25, 1914, roughly half a year after Rompalla’s death, della Chiesa would be elevated to Archbishop della Chiesa. Upon returning to Bologna, he was beset by a Socialist uprising within Central Italy that resulted in vandalism, looting and ransacking of churches, utilities and railways. While Bologna managed to remain intact, much of the region slid toward Socialist politics. One of della Chiesa’s final acts in his capacity as an archbisop was to remind the globe of what the Church stood for as World War I began.
The bulk of Benedict XV’s efforts were put toward minimizing tensions during World War I, especially as each faction had its own opinions on the influence of the Church. Even when he sought to remind all parties involved that the Holy See was a neutral party and after multiple attempts to mediate the hatred, the fact that the differing factions had different religious beliefs did little to make simplify Benedict XV’s efforts.
On the 1st of August, 1917, Benedict XV penned a seven-point plan for ending the war. This plan called for righteousness over weaponry, a reduction of armaments among all parties, a means of pursuing international arbitration, true liberty and rights at sea, the renunciation of indemnities committed during wartime, the evacuation of occupied territories and a thorough examination of each faction’s claims.
Quick Facts About Pope Benedict XV.
- He was born on November 21st, 1854 in the province of Genoa within an area then known as the Kingdom of Piedmont-Sardinia.
- His full personal name was Giacomo Paolo Giovanni Battista Della Chiesa.
- His life ended on January 22nd, 1922. He spent his final minutes within the Kingdom of Italy’s Apostolic Palace.
- After celebrating Mass with Domus Sanctae Marthae’s nuns in January of 1922, he waited outside, in the rain, for his driver to collect him. Unfortunately, the exposure was prolonged enough for him to develop the flu. The flu then turned for the worse, becoming pneumonia. Between the pneumonia and his rheumatic ailments, his final days were filled with pain and difficulty in breathing.
- The papacy of Benedict XV began on September 3rd, 1914.
- Like many of the popes who came before him, and several who succeeded him, his papacy ended with his death on January 22nd, 1922.
- His papal successor was Pope Pius XI. Notably, Benedict XV succeeded the papacy of Saint Pius X.
Five Interesting Facts About Pope Benedict XV.
- His papal motto was simply Psalm 71:1.
- He referred to World War I as “the suicide of civilized Europe.”
- He is related to several notable figures of the Catholic Church and Italian monarchy. Specifically, Pope Callixtus II, Pope Innocent VII, King Berengar II and Blessed Antonio della Chiesa.
- Marchesa della Chiesa was considered unsatisfied with her son’s early career with the church and confronted his boss, Rampolla. Rampolla responded by saying that the few career steps her son would take would be gigantic ones.
- He was uncharacteristically unpleasant-looking and acknowledged this. He once referred to himself as resembling an offshoort version of one of the gargoyles perched atop Rome’s buildings.