Benedict XV - Encyclopedia


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"BENEDICT XV. (GIACOMO DELLA CHIESA), Pope (1854-), was born at Genoa on Nov. 21 18 J4. In contrast to his immediate predecessor Pius X., who was of humble origin, and whose ministerial experience was mainly pastoral, Benedict XV. was descended from one of the most ancient of the noble families of Italy, and his work and training had been chiefly in the official or diplomatic service of the Holy See. His ancestors in the Middle Ages were enrolled in the patricians of Genoa, while other branches of his family followed the popes to Avignon in the 14th century, and eventually their sons took service in the army of the king of France, under the name of d'Eglise. His brother served as rearadmiral in the Italian navy.

Giacomo della Chiesa was educated in the seminary and at the university of Genoa, where he took his degree as Doctor of Law in 1875. Afterwards he went to Rome and studied for the priesthood in the Collegio Capranica from which he passed to the Accademia dei nobili Ecclesiastici, the usual training school for those who devote themselves to the " carriera " or diplomatic service of the Vatican. Here he became the friend and favourite of Cardinal Rampolla who, on being sent in 1883 as papal nuncio to Madrid, took Mgr. della Chiesa with him as his private secretary. He remained in Spain four years, and in 1887, when Leo XIII. recalled Cardinal Rampolla to make him his secretary of state, Mgr. della Chiesa returned to Rome in the suite of his patron, and was given the post of minutante in his department. In this, his work was the summarizing and inditing of the official letters and dispatches of the Holy See, combined with the functions of confidential secretary. As he discharged these duties for 13 years, he had a full opportunity of acquiring a unique knowledge of the international relations of the Church throughout the world. In 1903, when Cardinal Merry del Val succeeded Cardinal Rampolla as secretary of state, Mgr. della Chiesa was retained in his post. On Dec. 16 1907, Pius X. appointed him Archbishop of Bologna, and on May 25 1914 raised him to the dignity of cardinal. The outbreak of the World War in Aug. of that year, and the death of Pius X. a few weeks later, found him in the midst of the pastoral duties of his great diocese. At this time, as Cardinal-Archbishop of Bologna, he delivered a remarkable address on the attitude and duty of the Church during the war, and strongly emphasized the paramount importance of the Holy See observing strict neutrality, not of indifference, but of impartiality, while leaving nothing undone to restore peace and good-will and to mitigate suffering. The address caused a deep impression, and it was no doubt much in the minds of the cardinals when they assembled in conclave for the election of a new pope on the last day of Aug. 191 4. On Sept. 3, after io scrutinies or votings, Cardinal della Chiesa was elected by a large majority, and was proclaimed from the balcony of St. Peter's as Benedict XV.

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