The first of the "Fatima Popes" - Benedict XV was born Giacomo Francis Della Chiesa into an old Patrician Family in Genoa, Italy on November 21, 1854, just a few weeks before Pope Pius IX declared the Immaculate Conception a Dogma of the Church. After receiving his Doctorate in Civil Law from Genoa University in 1875, he enrolled at Capranica College to study for the priesthood, graduating from there and the Gregorian University in Rome. He was ordained on December 21, 1878 by the new Sovereign Pontiff who had been elected the 256th successor of Peter on March 3, 1878 - Pope Leo XIII. Father Chiesa was assigned to the Papal Diplomatic Corp studying at the Academy of Noble Ecclesiastics in Rome until 1882 when he graduated and served as secretary to the Nuncio of Spain. He was promoted to Under-Secretary of State in 1901 under Cardinal Mariano Rampolla who had been his boss in Spain. Because of politics within the Curia and the animosity between Rampolla and Pius X, he was caught in the middle. To not offend either friend, he requested an assignment outside Rome and Pope Saint Pius X reluctantly granted his wish, making him the Archbishop of Bologna in 1907. There he remained, virtually ignored until he was finally recognized with the cardinalate in June 1914. Three months later his fellow colleagues in the Sacred Conclave elected him the new Supreme Pontiff, succeeding Pius X who died on August 20, 1914. He took the name Benedict XV, the first Benedict since Benedict XIV who died on May 3, 1758.
Pope Pius X's passing coincided with the beginning of World War I and most of Benedict's pontificate was burdened by war and the aftermath of war. His first task was to summon the warring nations and beg for a ceasefire. It was an enormous step for the papacy since the English and Dutch had ceased diplomatic relations with the Vatican during the Reformation. Nevertheless they, along with France, Germany, Austria and Italy all sent ambassadors to meet with the new Holy Father who was able to effect a Christmas truce through his stirring encyclical Celebrating Peace Ad beatissimi Apostolorum. He offered to serve as mediator, but greed and power among the warring nations won out and with the dawn of 1915 war once again raised its ugly head in full force. Because of his influence and genuine concern, the world was won over in the ensuing years to Benedict who was a great benefactor of both the Allies and Axis nations in caring for the needy, homeless and prisoners of war. His actions prompted more nations to establish diplomatic relations with the Vatican, increasing from 14 to 27 nations.
Three years into Benedict's papacy, another event happened that would have a lasting impact on the world and the Church. That, of course, were the apparitions at Fatima in 1917 between May 13th and October 13th. He was very aware of the phenomena in Portugal but kept a low profile in keeping with the modus operandi of the Church regarding private revelation. Yet he was in constant contact with the bishop of Leira-Fatima and the Fatima commission and, from reports we have been able to garner, was most favorable to Fatima but chose not to make any proclamation to these unusual events for there had been no appreciative phenomena since Lourdes nearly seventy-five years before. Another reason Benedict believed was because of the world situation and Heaven's intervention seemed the only answer for a world at war.
Benedict also was caught between the devil and the deep blue sea when he had to accept Germany's offer to give Rome back to the Holy See after they had defeated Italy. Fearing the Russian Orthodox expansion if the Allies won, he accepted but because of that ill-fated decision, he was not allowed to participate in the peace settlement of 1919 which Italy orchestrated against the Vatican, upset that they had lost Rome. By excluding the Holy See in the negotiations ill feelings were fostered which Benedict never recovered from. Even though he pleaded for reconciliation to the world with his encyclical Pacem Dei munus on May 23, 1920, he was essentially a non-entity on the world stage. But he was not without influence within the Church, fostering two future Popes among his cardinals. One was a young Monsignor he sent to Germany as Papal Nuncio. His name was Eugenio Pacelli who would, of course, become Pope Pius XII. The other was Bishop Achille Ratti who was a close confidant and friend of Benedict. Ratti kept Benedict apprised on a regular basis of events in the Church including the Fatima findings and reports of a mystic Capuchin priest in San Giovanni Rotundo named Padre Pio as well as another mystic in Florence by the name of Maria Valtorta.
The icy relationship between France and the Holy See, breached since 1905 was warmed on May 9, 1920 when Benedict canonized Saint Joan of Arc. He then turned his attention to Italy and sought an honorable settlement to the strained relations with the king of Italy in hopes of freeing the Vatican State from the restrictions placed on it when King Emmanuel placed Pope Pius IX under house arrest and took Rome from the Holy See in 1871. A complete restoral of Vatican City would not come until Pius XI's papacy. Benedict did promulgate a new Code of Canon Law that had been prepared by Pius X and established the Congregation for the Oriental Churches in hopes of reconciling with Eastern Orthodox Churches. To help in this, he named Saint Ephrem, the Syrian Theologian a Doctor of the Church.
During the latter years of Benedict's pontificate, he concentrated on calling on the "haves" to come to the assistance of the "have nots," thus becoming a great champion for the poor and downtrodden. Because the war had disrupted so many foreign missions, he devoted much of his later years to restoring the Missions and urged the bishops to foster native vocations to replenish the missions worldwide and place the emphasis on the welfare of the people in their own lands rather than foreign interests out to exploit those mission lands. He is known as the "Pope of the Missions" because of his devotion to Christ's charge in Mark 16: 15 to "Go out into the world and preach the Gospel to everyone you meet."
In 1921 he made his friend Bishop Ratti the Archbishop of Milan and a cardinal but Cardinal Ratti's tenure in Milan would be short-lived for less than a year later on January 22, 1922 the cardinal's close friend Benedict XV would succumb to pneumonia, brought on quickly by a stifling case of the flu at the age of 67. The College of Cardinals convened at the beginning of February and six days later, to his great surprise, his peers elected Cardinal Ratti as the 259th successor of Peter. In honor of Pope Saint Pius X, Cardinal Ratti chose to be Pius XI.
He was born Ambrogio Damiano Achille Ratti, the son of a silk-factor manager in Desio, Italy just outside of Milan on May 31, 1857. He was ordained at the age of 22 in the Lateran on December 27, 1879 and sent back to school to achieve three Doctorates from the Gregorian University after which he was assigned by Leo XIII to teach at the seminary in Padua from 1882 to 1888. The Holy Father, so impressed with his expertise in palaeology, assigned him to the Ambrosian Library in Milan where he edited the Ambrosian missal and published numerous other articles and theses. He remained in Milan until 1911 when Pius X beckoned him to the Vatican Library in the same position. In 1914 Benedict made him Prefect of the Vatican Library and four years later, dispatched him to Poland as Apostolic Visitor because of his command of so many languages. He was promoted to Papal Nuncio to Poland and titular Archbishop of Lepanto in October 1919 and stood strong in Warsaw in August 1920 during the Bolshevik revolution. Little did he realize that another future Pope was only four months old in the Krakow area of Poland. After the revolution, nationalism set in throughout Poland and, being Italian, Archbishop Ratti became a target of resentment. Benedict XV realized his friend's predicament and appointed him Archbishop of Milan and a cardinal during his Consistory of June 13, 1921.
On the fourteenth ballot he was chosen as a compromise choice on February 6, 1922 and selected the name Pius XI, choosing as his motto "Christ's Peace in Christ's kingdom" and indicated the Church would become very much involved in society, not remain isolated. His first encyclical of December 23,1922 set the tone with Ubi arcano which introduced Catholic Action to the world, a movement of the laity working in cooperation with the hierarchy and which throughout the century has been expanded upon where today the laity is a powerful, influential force in the life of the Church and the world. On December 11, 1925 he instituted the Feast of Christ the King. If ever it was necessary to recognize Our Lord as king it was now for the war and industrial revolution had changed the face of Europe forever. Gone was the great Austrian-Hungarian empire which had aligned with Germany in a long, losing last-ditch effort to maintain supremacy. The once-proud Germans were reeling in the aftermath of a devastating war that had left their countries and egos in shambles. Bitterness prevailed throughout the German Republic and festered a boil that played a large role in fomenting hate and the rise of Adolph Hitler and his Nazi regime a decade later. The balance of power had shifted greatly. Just as Benedict had, so also Pius XI sought to soothe a restless world as the Nazi swastika of fascism along with the hammer and sickle of communism began to cast a long, dark and ominous bestial global shadow that would fulfill the portents the Blessed Mother of God foretold at La Salette and again at Fatima. By the mid 1920's the Bolsheviks were openly calling themselves members of the communist party having formed an international organization from Russia to Mexico for the specific purpose of establishing proletariat dictatorships across the globe.
While the world regressed into nationalism, only the Church stood strong against this new threat. Little did anyone truly realize the ominous beast it would become and that, only through Mary's words at Fatima...only through consecration to her Immaculate Heart and recitation of the Rosary...would the Iron Curtain be smashed. This would not happen for nearly seventy years; years filled with persecution and suppression of the church and an all-out war on God throughout the wide-ranging borders of the Soviet Union, including Poland, a loyal Catholic country which has given us great saints over the centuries and would produce a few more great ones in the 20th century. The leaders of communism knew only too well that their only obstacle was the Church. The rest they could fool. As proof of the Church's influence against this demonic threat, Pius XI followed the lead of his predecessors, issuing yet another encyclical against the hammer and sickle, entitled Divini Redemptoris in exposing atheistic communism. In the Vatican's back yard Italy was still rebounding from the aftermath of the war and the effects of the industrial revolution boon, which had caused great consternation with the cultural assets of this proud people. Slowly rising in rank was a young Italian power-broker in Italy's and the Church's destiny: Benito Mussolini.
On February 11, 1929 Pius XI and Premier Mussolini, representing the Italian government, signed the landmark Lateran Treaty. In retrospect, we can see now how this was a stroke of genius by the Holy Father who finally had succeeded in bringing to an end the problem of temporal power and of being beholden to another country. To be the truly universal Church for all people the Vatican had to be free of political involvement. Finally, under Pius XI it was. The terms of the Treaty established the Vatican State as it is today with 160 acres inside the city limits of Rome but with total autonomy. The Treaty also stipulated that the Vatican would have total jurisdiction over the churches of Rome including St. John Lateran, St. Mary Major and St. Paul Outside-the-Walls in addition to Castel Gondolfo just outside the city high in the Alban Hills where the Popes reside during the hot Italian summers. Pius XI had truly established that the Papacy was a spiritual reign, not a temporal reign. This was in full accordance with Christ's words in Matthew 6: 33 and John 18: 36. The Treaty assured the Vatican and the world that the mission Christ gave to Peter would continue by focusing solely on spiritual matters.
With this resolved Pius XI was able to concentrate his efforts solely on the soul of the world while still caring deeply for the world body in respect food and shelter. He turned his attention to the missions as did his predecessor, by canonizing the Little Flower of Lisieux, Saint Therese of the Child Jesus, anointing her as the "patroness of the missions." Other saints he canonized, to name a few, were Saint John Vianney - the Cure d'Ars, Saint John Bosco, Saint John Eudes, Saint John Fisher, Saint Thomas More, Saint Isaac Jogues, and Saint Margaret Mary Alacoque who had received the devotion to the Sacred Heart from Jesus. He placed a special importance on the Communion of Saints, emphasizing Catholics' role in life as members of the Church Militant to seek intercession and example from the Church Triumphant while praying ceaselessly for the Church Suffering in Purgatory. Pius also reached out to all separated brethren inviting them back into the one fold, specifically the Greek Orthodox and Protestants. Needless to say, this fell on many deaf ears because of hardened hearts and centuries-old prejudices. But Pius made a special point of reinforcing Christian Marriage and Christian education through numerous documents and encyclicals, emphasizing the importance of harmony within a family for sewing the seeds of vocations and good Catholic leaders of tomorrow, as well as asserting in no uncertain terms the right and necessity for the Church to build and operate schools throughout the world. Unity was stressed at a time when nationalism was replacing patriotism. Despite this hurdle, Pius XI was able to instill, through the bishops, the unity of Catholics in their fight against those who would suppress or denigrate the Faith. In 1936 he established Vatican City Radio which continues to this day broadcasting to the world.
In 1930, after thirteen years of investigations the Bishop of Liera-Fatima declared the events at Fatima worthy of belief and Pius XI concurred, realizing the importance of the messages and the prophecies that had been fulfilled as truly coming from Heaven. He had personally received the two messages from the surviving Fatima seer Sister Lucia in 1927 which included their vision of hell and Our Lady's promise to take the visionary children to Heaven as well as the prophesy of another world war, the martyrdom of countless Christians, destruction of many nations, the persecution of the Church and her Vicar of Christ, and the spread of the hammer and sickle. The third secret was not divulged to Pius but kept secret until 1960. Pius XI made a concerted effort to spread devotion to Mary's Immaculate Heart at Our Lady's request through Fatima and he placed a special emphasis on the importance of her Holy Rosary. But the seeds of dissension had already begun, just as Our Lady had prophesied at La Salette and Fatima.
In Spain communism was gaining a strong foothold and in 1936 ceased operation as a kingdom. The True Faith was once again threatened in a country which had bequeathed such powerful saints as Saint Anthony, Saint Teresa of Avila and Saint John of the Cross as well as millions of faithful who had cherished and promulgated the Faith throughout Spain and the new world. The formula was the same in Mexico: the "Popular United Front," as they were called, sought to destroy the Faith by ridding the faithful of their priests. Blessed Miguel Pro is just one of many of the victims in this persecution south of the border.
One of the opposition leaders in Spain decided enough is enough and formed an army to march on Madrid. This man was Generalissimo Franco. In a last ditch effort to save Spanish heritage and the Faith, civil war broke out all over Spain. At the same time in Germany, the bitterness gave rise to a new nationalism that had begun to limit the authority of the Church, interfering in numerous liberties previously afforded her. Hitler decoyed the Church and the world into believing it was nothing to become alarmed over. By the time he had annexed Austria by force and later a large section of Czechoslovakia, it was too late. Saddened and greatly concerned, Pius XI directed a hope-inspiring encyclical to the German people encouraging them to stay the course no matter the obstacles facing them. Sadly many of the faithful were denied access to this encyclical as the Fuhrer placed a censorship over the churches, setting in motion the satanic course he would take as the swastika coiled like a deadly cobra ready to strike all of Europe in revenge for past aggressions against the proud German nation. The goose-step overshadowed religious processions and soon the sound of church bells were silenced as the Nazi nadir of Fascism plummeted not only a nation, but the entire world in a war to end all wars.
Like Pope Saint Pius X, his namesake, Pope Pius XI suffered gravely for his worldwide family and on February 10, 1939 just six months before World War II would begin, illness took the life of Pius. The Vicar of Christ's 17-year pontificate had come to a close on a sad note as the world awaited with trepidation the prophecies that were yet to come. All the faithful could do was pray that Mary's Immaculate Heart would triumph as she foretold before the world destroyed itself. The "Fatima Popes" were gone and with them the hopes of many, but as both Benedict XV and Pius XI realized intrinsically, God would not abandon His Church and His children.
Pope Honorius I becomes the 70th successor of Peter. His reign would last 13 years and it was he who instituted the feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross on September 14. He had a great zeal for the missions, dispatching missionaries throughout the old world. He resolved the problem of the Eastern Church and the Schism of Aquilea on the question of the "Three Chapters."
Christopher Columbus declares the island of Cuba for Spain and the Roman Catholic Faith, a faith that has stood strong for 500 years despite the communist regime of Fidel Castro and which, thanks to Pope John Paul II's visit in January, is showing a strong spirit of perseverance.
Pope Pius IX issues his 26th encyclical Levate dealing with the afflictions of Holy Mother Church.
Pope John Paul II beatifies Blessed Adolph Kolping.
Returning to his home diocese, he was assigned as spiritual director of the seminarians in Guadalajara. A year later he became the Prefect of Discipline at the Seminary where he remained until August 22, 1980 when he was appointed Recotor of the seminary he had been at for 19 years. Eight years later Pope John Paul II made him the Coadjuotor Bishop of Ciudad Juarez on March 3, 1988 and he was consecrated to the episcopal ranks on April 30, 1988 in the Diocese of Ciudad Juarez. Four years later on July 11, 1992 he was made the Bishop of Ciudad Juarez.
Two years later the Pope transferred him from Ciudad Juarez to his home see of Guadalajara where the Holy Father made him the new Archbishop of Guadalajara on April 21, 1994. Later that same year His Holiness John Paul II named him in his Consistory of November 26, 1994 elevating him to the cardinalate and bestowing on him the titular church of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Guadalajara and St. Philip the Marytr on Via Aurelia in Rome. Since then he has served membership in the Congregation for the Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic LIfe, the Congregation for Catholic Education, and the Pontifical Commission for Latin America. Presently sixty-six year-old Cardinal Sandoval Iniguez remains solidly entrenched as the Archbishop of Guadalajara, residing at Arzobispado, Apartado Postal 1-331, Liceo 17, 44100 Guadalajara in Jalisco, Mexico.