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Pope Pius XI and Poland


Jan 3, 2022

The relationship between Pope Pius XI and Poland is often considered to have been good, as Church life in Poland flourished during his pontificate.

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Achille Ratti, already in Warsaw as his representative, was named papal nuncio by Pope Benedict XV.[1] During the Bolshevik advance against Warsaw, he asked for worldwide public prayers for Poland. Nuncio Ratti was the only foreign diplomat to stay in the Polish capital. On June 11, 1921, he wrote to the Polish episcopate, warning against political misuses of spiritual power, urging again peaceful coexistence with neighbouring people, stating that “love of country has its limits in justice and obligations.”[2] He sent nuncio Ratti to Silesia to act against potential political agitations of the Catholic clergy.[3]

Ratti, a scholar, intended to work for Poland and build bridges to the Soviet Union, hoping even to shed his blood for Russia.[4]Pope Benedict XV needed him as a diplomat and not as a martyr and forbade any trip into the USSR although he was the official papal delegate for Russia.[4] Therefore, he continued his contacts to Russia. This did not generate much sympathy for him within Poland at the time. He was asked to go. “While he tried honestly to show himself as a friend of Poland, Warsaw forced his departure, after his neutrality in Silesian voting was questioned”[5] by Germans and Poles.

Nationalistic Germans objected to a Polish nuncio supervising elections, and Poles were upset because he curtailed agitating clergy.[6] On November 20, when German Cardinal Adolf Bertram announced a papal ban on all political activities of clergymen, calls for Ratti’s expulsion climaxed in Warsaw.[6] Two year later, Achille Ratti became Pope Pius XI, shaping Vatican policies towards Poland with Pietro Gasparri and Eugenio Pacelli for the following thirty-six years. (1922-1958)

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