Rorate Caeli

Exhortation Dum Europa, of August 2, 1914,
for Peace in Europe
- The Final Words of Pope Saint Pius X

Le sang injustement répandu
est long à pénétrer dans la terre.
Paul Claudel
June 1915

The Austro-Hungarian ultimatum to Serbia of July 23, 1914, caught most of Europe by surprise. 

Vatican diplomacy, which had been weakened since the fall of Rome in 1870, was also shocked with the fast pace of events, since political assassinations of major figures were not exactly a rarity in the period, and, to the world outside the very highest Vienna, Budapest, and Berlin government circles, the escalation towards war had remained mostly unknown for almost a month until the ultimatum.

It is an opinion shared by all his biographers that Pope Saint Pius X's health deteriorated rapidly when the scale of events became clear in the days following the ultimatum. Pius X died for peace: that was also the unanimous judgment at the time of his death -- his health, that had been under great threat in 1912, was in an apparently excellent state in 1914, including in the tense weeks of July and early August.

And almost all Europeans, Pope Sarto could not believe his eyes, so many of his children involved in a fight to death, ones against the others, Catholic Austrians, Hungarians, Croats, Slovenians, Czechs, Slovaks, Poles, Ruthenians, Bavarians, Swabians, Prussians, Alsatians, and so many others... against Catholic Poles, Ruthenians, Lithuanians, Ukrainians, Russians, Belgians, Frenchmen, Englishmen, Scottish, Welsh, Irish, Catholics from throughout the French, Russian, and British Empires and so many others...

On August 2, the same day on which Italy formally proclaimed its neutrality and the non-application of the Triple Alliance treaty in those circumstances, Pope Pius X, burdened by a general European conflagration just put into motion in the hours before, made a final appeal.

It would be his final public document. The Pope died 18 days later.


While nearly all Europe is being dragged into the storm of an extremely gruesome war, of which no one can foresee the dangers, the massacres, and the consequences without feeling oppressed by the sorrow and by the horror, also We could not but be concerned and could not but feel Our soul torn by the most poignant pain for the safety and for the lives of so many individuals and peoples for whose welfare We are supremely solicitous.

Amidst these upheavals and dangers, We absolutely feel and realize that Our fatherly charity and Our apostolic ministry demand of Us to direct the minds of all the Christian faithful to Him from Whom alone help can come, towards Christ, we say, the Prince of Peace and the all-powerful Mediator between God and men.

Therefore, We exhort the Catholics of the entire world to turn to His throne of grace and mercy, first of all the clergy; that they, under their Bishops, institute special public supplications in their respective parishes so that God, touched by piety of these prayers, may take away as soon as possible the disastrous scourge of war and inspire those who preside over the commonwealths to think thoughts of peace, and not of affliction.

From the Vatican, August 2, 1914


(L'Osservatore Romano, August 3, 1914)

[Personal recess, with occasional blogging. NC]