In Memory of Pope Pius XI

Journal Put’, feb. / apr. 1939, No. 59, p. 55-56.

In Memory of Pope Pius XI

(1939 – #442)

The death of the most highly placed people, of tsars, ministers and generals, popes and patriarchs, before the face of God, and afront the highest rule, has no greater a significance, than the death of common people reposed. The first will be last, and the last will be first. The Christian reversal of values, lacks comprehension by people. But among the most highly placed people there are people who stand out by their personal qualities, rather than by qualities of hierarchical rank. And therein their death assumes a special significance. And this can be said for Pope Pius XI. Rarely within history has the opinion of the papacy been raised to such a moral height, as with Pius XI. He did not possess an impeccable authority, since no one from among the dead possesses it, but he was imbued with a personal moral authority, acknowledged not only by Catholics, and this was quite moreso greater a thing, than any authority of papal infallibility. He happened to live in a very difficult era for the Catholic Church and he came out honourably through innumerable difficulties. Within him there occurred a cleansing of Catholicism from the historical sins of the past, from the sins of the papacy itself. Pope Pius XI defended not only the undoubtable Christian truths, forgotten by the world, but also truths and values of mankind in general, things trampled underfoot by modernity. He defended freedom of spirit, which popes rarely had done, he defended the dignity of the human person, he denounced totalitarian states and dictators, whether they be Communism or Fascism or National-Socialism. He denounced the lie of racism and the anti-Christian character of anti-Semitism. He proclaimed the humanness of Christianity, which for many produced the impression of a revelation. In his time he condemned reaction in the figure of the Action Francaise, and he unmasked the anti-Christian and atheistic character of the ideas of Ch[arles] Morras. He condemned also the injustice of the capitalist regime, though in so general and moderate a form, which should not much frighten off the greater mass of bourgeois Catholics. In his final years Pius XI was much tormented by the condition of the modern world, pervaded by hatred, the lust for power and inhumanity. And these torments were profoundly human a feature of his. He was a man of Christian conscience. He condemned war, and the nationalism, that begets war. He called him at one point a social pope, and then a pope of peace. He denounced the heresies of life, rather than doctrinal heresies. He was mistaken, for not decisively denouncing the pseudo-Catholicism of General Franco. The voice of Pius XI reached throughout the world. But it was not easy for him to say everything, that he said, it was not easy to lead the struggle for the rights of the Christian conscience, enslaved for centuries. It mustneeds be remembered, that he was surrounded. He lived within the monstrous bureaucratic mechanism of the Vatican, filled with intrigues, reflecting varied interests, subject to the laws of the age-old tradition of duplicitous diplomacy. He was surrounded by Fascist cardinals, ready each for conformism and capacity for evil. Thus moreso the honour to him. The name of Pius XI will take its place in history, as a noteworthy voice in the crisis, occurring within Christianity, as a moral cleansing of Christianity, as a remembrance of Gospel truths, obscured by sinful history. The Orthodox hierarchy would do well to emulate him.

Nikolai  Berdyaev.


©  2006 by translator Fr. S. Janos

(1939 – 442 – en)

PAMYATI  PAPY  PIYA  XI.  Journal Put’, feb./apr., 1939, no. 59, p. 55-56.