Item description for The Unknown Pope: Benedict XV (1914-1922) and the Pursuit of Peace by John F. Pollard...
Best known for his efforts to end World War I, Benedict XV was the first contemporary pope to assume the role peacemaker, a role that has persisted in the papacy since. Although Benedict's 1917 Peace Note was rejected by officials, he went on to help establish Save the Children and to lead European efforts at humanitarian aid. His brief pontificate resulted in a positive reassessment of the Church's attitude towards colonialism and colonized peoples. Using previously unpublished correspondence and private papers from the Vatican archives, John Pollard has written the first biography on Benedict XV in almost half a century.>
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More About John F. Pollard
John Pollard is at Anglia Polytechnic University, Cambridge.
John F. Pollard was born in 1944 and has an academic affiliation as follows - University of Cambridge.
John F. Pollard has published or released items in the following series...
Reviews - What do customers think about The Unknown Pope: Benedict XV (1914-1922) and the Pursuit of Peace?
Outstanding!!! Jun 16, 2006
I bought this book long before the new Pope Benedict in order to understand World War I and perhaps find some additional insight into how it affected my mother who lived in Europe during this time. This book not only does an outstanding represention of a great Pope, but also gives an inside look into the politics of the different countries during the war years. And, it contains some political surprises. I would recommend this book highly to anyone looking for additional information regarding World War I and how many of the countries involved limited the charitable works and role of the Papacy in trying to establish peace during that time period. It is extremle well written and very easy reading. You will certainly treasure this book.
Fine survey of an unjustly forgotten man and his times Jun 10, 2005
Joseph Ratzinger's selection of "Benedict" as his regnal name, and his statement that he chose it at least in part to honor his predecessor Benedict XV, has begun to shine a bit of light once again on this important but largely forgotten leader and statesman. Readers looking for English-language resources on Benedict XV don't have a lot of alternatives. Fortunately, one resource they do have -- this book by John F. Pollard -- is a very good one.
That said, I don't think all readers will find this biography equally satisfying. I happen to be (finally) getting around to reading David McCullough's massive biography of John Adams, and the contrast between the two is great. Unlike the current trend in popular bios, of which "John Adams" is a good example, "The Unknown Pope" is not really a deep personal and psychological exploration of Giacomo Della Chiesa. A mention toward the end of the book of his "besetting sin" of irascibility came as a bit of a surprise, for example, because Pollard hadn't really emphasized that sort of personal portraiture before. Likewise, a discussion of Benedict in his role as governor of the Roman Catholic Church and his devotion to the Sacred Heart take up only a few pages in the final chapter, although they were evidently a pretty significant part of the man's own life. So I think it's fair to say that readers may come away from "The Unknown Pope" with Benedict XV remaining somewhat of an unknown pope -- at least by, as I say, the standards of current personality-driven biography.
Nevertheless, I still argue this is a fine work of history. Pollard does an excellent job of placing Benedict XV in his historical context with a particular emphasis, as the subtitle says, on "the pursuit of peace." Benedict deserves to be remembered as the man who, more than perhaps anyone else, tried to end World War I in a way that prevented slaughter and national humiliation. The fact that he singularly failed to do so is hardly due to his lack of honest and intensive effort. Perhaps also forgotten these days is Benedict's role in restoring peace to the church after the anti-Modernist purge overseen by his predecessor Pius X. If the current pope is intending to work for peace in the world and harmony within his Church, he couldn't have chosen a better namesake. Pollard gives us a fine overview of all of this, with an emphasis on the tightrope Benedict was walking, given the uncertain diplomatic and political status of the Holy See at the time. Readers without a grounding in Vatican history of a century ago (readers like me) may be surprised by the large role Italian politics plays in this story. Here too, Pollard does a good job cutting through a pretty complex knot in a way most general readers should be able to handle.
Personally, I've admired Benedict XV for some time for his efforts to end the Great War, though admittedly my knowledge of the man was pretty sketchy. Even without this volume being an intensely personal look at a private and apparently somewhat introverted man, "The Unknown Pope" helps rescue him from an obscurity he certainly does not deserve. If Benedict XVI truly sees Benedict XV as someone to emulate, then the Church and the world should be in for some interesting years ahead. Benedicamus Domino!
The Greatness of Benedict XV Jul 1, 2000
There has of late been something of a cottage industry for Twentieth Century Vatican history, partially due to increased openness of Catholic archives. Pope Benedict XV is not only the unknown Pope of John Pollard's title, but surely the last great figure of World War I to be the subject of a modern biographer.
Lacking the sensationalism that has been a recent hallmark of some Catholic history, this work combines substantial original research in Catholic and State archives in the Vatican City, Italy, Britain and the United States with an exhaustive analysis of printed primary and secondary sources in an array of languages.
Having also pursued researches in the Vatican's Secret Archive I can testify that this must have been no easy task.
What emerges is a portrait of Pope Benedict XV balancing delicate issues between the Allied and Central Powers in the face of continued difficulties with the Italian state, but also a compassionate man who cared greatly for those around him, and for the sufferings of war.
Adopting a broadly chronological approach, Pope Benedict XV's origins, ascent to the papacy, role in the war and relations with Italy, humanitarian relief, peace diplomacy and post-war relations with Italy and the rest of the world are all covered seemlessly.
A seminal work which points the way ahead for church history and will surely prove the inspiration for further work on Pope Benedict XV and the role of the Papacy in the Twentieth Century, this book also deserves to be read by anyone with an interest in World War I, humanitarian aid, diplomatic and Italian history.
More uncommonly, this work is written in a clear style. John Pollard continues to hold the reader's attention and employs a light touch to explain the many curiosities of a pre-Vatican II pontificate.