Pope Pius XI (Latin: Pius PP. XI; Italian: Pio XI; May 31 1857 – February 10 1939), born Ambrogio Damiano Achille Ratti, reigned as Pope from February 6 1922, and as sovereign of Vatican City from 1929 until his death on February 10 1939. He issued numerous encyclicals including Quadragesimo Anno highlighting capitalistic greed and social justice issues and Quas Primas establishing the feast of Christ the King. He took as his papal motto "Christ's peace in Christ's kingdom".
Achille Ratti underwent the most unusual papal career in the 20th century. Throughout his life he was an accomplished scholar, librarian but humble priest. He celebrated his 60th birthday as a priest on May 31,1917. Less then five years later, February 10, 1922, he was elected Pope, succeeding Pope Benedict XV, who was only thirty months older and thus from the same generation as Ratti. In those five years he had short stints as papal nuncio in Poland, which forced him to leave the country, and as Archbishop of Milan, where he served for a few months before being elected Pope. He choose the name Pius, and his personality was strong , similar to Pius IX and Pius X. But as a scholar, he was open to science and research like no other Pope since Leo XIII. To establish or maintain the position of the Church, he fostered and concluded a record number of concordats including the Reichskonkordat with Germany. Under his pontificate, the 1870 stalemate concerning the Roman Question with Italy over the status of the papacy was finally solved in the Lateran Treaty of 1929 with the assistance of Pietro Gasparri and Francesco Pacelli, brother of the future Pope Pius XII. He was unable to stop the Terrible Triangle consisting of massive Church persecution and killing of clergy in Mexico, Spain and the Soviet Union. While in Mexico and Spain, the persecution was mainly directed against the Catholic Church, hostility in the Soviet Union were directed against all Christians but especially against the Eastern Catholic Churches united with the Vatican. He vehemently protested against both Communism and National Socialism as demeaning to human dignity and a violation of basic human rights, but found no echo or support in the democracies of the West, which he labelled a Conspiracy of Silence. Against totalitarian demands, he fostered the freedom of families to determine on their own the direction of education of their children.
In one of his most important encyclicals on the social order of modern society, Quadragesimo Anno he stated that social and economic issues are vital to the Church not from a technical point of view but in terms of moral and ethical issues involved. Ethical considerations include the nature of private property. in terms of its functions for society the development of the individual. He defined fair wages and branded the exploitation both materially and spiritually by international capitalism. He canonized important saints including Albertus Magnus, Thomas More, Petrus Canisius, Konrad von Parzham and Don Bosco. He beatified and canonized Thérèse de Lisieux, for whom he held special reverence. He created the feast Christ the King
Pius XI took strong interests in fostering the participation of lay people throughout the Church, especially in the Catholic Action movement. The end of his pontificate were dominated by defending the Church from intrusions into Catholic life and education.
Achille Ratti was born in Desio, province of Milan in 1857, the son of an owner of a silk factory. He was ordained as a priest in 1879 and embarked on an academic career within the Church. He obtained three doctorates (in philosophy, canon law and theology) at the Gregorian University in Rome, and then from 1882 to 1888 was a professor at the seminary in Padua. His scholarly specialty was as an expert paleographer, a student of ancient and medieval Church manuscripts. Eventually, he left seminary teaching to work full time at the Ambrosian Library (the Biblioteca Ambrosiana) in Milan, from 1888 to 1911.
During this time, he edited and published an edition of the Ambrosian Missal (the rite of Mass used in Milan), and researched and wrote much on the life and works of St. Charles Borromeo. He became chief of the Library in 1907, and undertook an impressively thorough programme of restoration and re-classification of the Ambrosian's collection. The scholar was also an avid mountaineer in his spare time, reaching the summits of Monte Rosa, the Matterhorn, Mont Blanc and Presolana. In 1911, at Pope Pius X's (1903 – 1914) invitation, he moved to the Vatican to become Vice-Prefect of the Vatican Library, and in 1914 was promoted to Prefect.
Ratti's career took a sharp turn in 1918. Pope Benedict XV (1914 – 1922) asked him to leave the Library and take on a vital diplomatic post: apostolic visitor (that is, papal representative) in Poland, a state newly restored to existence, but at that time still under effective German and Austro-Hungarian control. Before all other heads of State, Pope Benedict XV in October 1918 congratulated the Polish people to their independence. On March 1919, he nominated ten new bishops and, soon after, Achille Ratti, already in Warsaw as his representative, as papal nuncio. He was consecrated as a titular archbishop in October 1919.
Benedict XV and Nuncio Ratti repeatedly cautioned Polish authorities against persecuting the Lithuanian and Ruthenian clergy. During the Bolshevik advance against Warsaw, the Pope asked for worldwide public prayers for Poland, while Nuncio Ratti as the only foreign diplomat showed personal courage, refusing to flee from Warsaw when the Red Army was approaching it in August 1920. On June 11, 1921, Benedict XV asked Ratti to deliver his message 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”
Ratti, a scholar, intended to work for Poland and build bridges to the Soviet Union, hoping even, to shed his blood for Russia. 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. Therefore he continued his contacts to Russia. This did not generate much sympathy for him within Poland at the time. The Pope sent nuncio Ratti to Silesia to act against potential political agitations of thePolish Catholic clergy. Ratti was asked to leave Poland after that. “While he tried honestly to show himself as a friend of Poland, Warsaw forced his departure, after his neutrality in Silesian voting was questioned” by Germans and Poles. Nationalistic Germans objected to a Polish nuncio supervising elections, and Poles were upset because he curtailed agitating clergy 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. 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)
His had been a fast rise in the world of practical Church affairs after his long years of scholarship. In the consistory of June 3, 1921, Pope Benedict created three new cardinals, among them Achille Ratti, who was appointed as Archbishop of Milan simultaneously. The Pope joked with them, saying, well, today I gave you the red hat, but soon it will be white for one of you. After the Vatican celebration, Ratti withdrew for a retreat into the Benedictine monastery Monte Cassino to prepare spiritually for his new role. He accompanied Milanese pilgrims to Our Lady of Lourdes | Lourdes in August of 1921 . Before his enthronisation on Milan on September 8, Ratti visited his home town Desio, where he received a tumultuous welcome. His episcopate in Milan was cut short on January 22, 1922, when it was announced that Pope Benedict XV had died that day unexpectedly of pneumonia. At the ensuing conclave (the longest of the 20th century), Ratti was elected Pope on February 6 1922 on the fourteenth ballot, taking the name of Pius XI. His first act was to revive the traditional public blessing given from the balcony, Urbi et Orbi, ("to the city and to the world"). His immediate predecessors had refused to do so ever since the loss of Rome from papal hands to the Italian state in 1870.
Pius XI's first encyclical as Pope was directly related to his aim of Christianising all aspects of increasingly secular societies. Ubi arcano, promulgated in December 1922, inaugurated the "Catholic Action" movement. The idea was to involve lay men and women in an organisation, under the close supervision of the bishops, which would actively spread Catholic values and political ideas throughout society. Pius XI also gave his approval to specialised movements like the Jocists, associations of young Catholic industrial workers who aimed to Christianise the workforce, and provide a Catholic alternative to Communist and socialist trade unions. Similar goals were in evidence in his encyclicals Divini illus magistri (1929), making clear the need for Christian over secular education, and Casti Connubii (1930), praising Christian marriage and family life as the basis for any good society, condemning artificial means of contraception, but also acknowledging at the same time the unitive aspect of intercourse as licit:
In contrast to some of his predecessors in the nineteenth century, who had favoured monarchy and dismissed democracy, Pius XI took a pragmatic approach toward the different forms of government. In his encyclical Dilectissima Nobis (1933), in which he addressed the situation of the Church in Republican Spain, he proclaimed, that the Church is not "bound to one form of government more than to another, provided the Divine rights of God and of Christian consciences are safe", and specifically referred to "various civil institutions, be they monarchic or republican, aristocratic or democratic".
A related issue, so Pius is the relation between capital and labour and the determination of fair wages. Pius develops the following ethical mandate: The Church considers it a perversion of industrial society, to have developed sharp opposite camps based on income. He welcomes all attempts to alleviate these cross differences. Three elements determine a fair wage: His family, the economic condition of the enterprise and the economy as a whole. The family has an innate right for development, but this is only possible within the framework of a functioning economy and a sound enterprise. This Pope Pius concludes, that solidarity not conflict is a necessary condition, given the mutual interdependence of the parties involved.
Industrialization, so Pius XI, resulted in less freedom at the individual and communal level, because numerous free social entities got absorbed by larger ones. A society of individuals became a mass and class society. People are much more interdependent, than in ancient times, and become egoistic or class-conscious in order to save some freedom for themselves. The pope demands more solidarity, especially between employers and employees through new forms of cooperation and communication. Pius draws a negative view of Capitalism, especially of the anonymous international finance markets. He identifies here problems: dangers for small and medium-size enterprises, who have insufficient access to capital markets and are squeezed or destroyed by the larger ones. He warns, that capital interests can become a danger for states, who would be reduced to be “chained slaves of individual interests”
Pius XI was the first Pope to utilise the power of modern communications technology in evangelising the wider world. He established Vatican Radio in 1931, and was the first Pope to broadcast on radio.
In his management of the Church's internal affairs Pius XI mostly continued the policies of his predecessor. Like Benedict XV, he put a great emphasis on spreading Catholicism in Africa and Asia and on the training of native clergy in these "mission territories". He ordered every religious order to devote some of its personnel and resources to missionary work.
Pius XI continued the approach of Benedict XV on the issue of how to deal with the threat of modernism in Catholic theology. The Pope was thoroughly orthodox theologically and had no sympathy with modernist ideas that relativised fundamental Catholic teachings. He condemned modernism in his writings and addresses. However, his opposition to modernist theology was by no means a rejection of new scholarship within the Church, as long as it was developed within the framework of orthodoxy and compatible with the Church's teachings. Pius XI was interested in supporting serious scientific study within the Church, establishing the Pontifical Academy for the Sciences in 1936.
Pius XI strongly encouraged devotion to the Sacred Heart in his encyclical Miserentissimus Redemptor (1928). He canonised some important saints: Bernadette Soubirous, Therese of Lisieux, John Vianney, John Fisher, Thomas More, and John Bosco. He also named several new Doctors of the Church: John of the Cross, Albert the Great, Peter Canisius and Robert Bellarmine.
Pius XI was the first Pope to directly address the Christian ecumenical movement. Like Benedict XV he was interested in achieving reunion with the Eastern Orthodox (failing that, he determined to give special attention the Eastern Catholic churches). He also allowed the dialogue between Roman Catholics and Anglicans which had been planned during Benedict XV's pontificate to take place at Mechelen. However, these enterprises were firmly aimed at actually reuniting with the Roman Catholic Church other Christians who basically agreed with Catholic doctrine, bringing them back under Papal authority. To the broad pan-Protestant ecumenical movement he took a more negative attitude.
He condemned, in his 1928 encyclical, Mortalium Animos, the idea that Christian unity could be attained by establishing a broad federation of many bodies holding varying doctrines (the widespread view among Protestant ecumenists); rather, the Catholic Church was the one true Church, all her teachings were objectively true, and Christian unity could only be by achieved by non-Catholic Christian denominations rejoining the Catholic Church and accepting the doctrines they had rejected.
Pius XI's reign was one of busy diplomatic activity for the Vatican. The Church made advances on several fronts in the 1920s, improving relations with France and, most spectacularly, settling the Roman question with Italy and gaining recognition of an independent Vatican state.
In 1926 Pius XI condemned Action Française, the monarchist movement which had until this time operated with the support of a great many French Catholics. The Pope judged that it was folly for the French Church to continue to tie its fortunes to the unlikely dream of a monarchist restoration, and found the movement's tendency to defend the Catholic religion in merely utilitarian and nationalistic terms, as a vital contributing factor to the greatness and stability of France, unorthodox. Although the condemnation caused great heartache for many French Catholics, most obeyed and Action Française never really recovered.
Pius XI aimed to end the long breach between the papacy and the Italian government and to gain recognition once more of the sovereign independence of the Holy See. This goal led to one of his signature achievements, the signing in 1929 of the Lateran Treaty with the Italian government and the establishment of an independent Vatican City State.
Most of the Papal States had been seized by the forces of King Victor Emmanuel II of Italy (1861 – 1878) in 1860 at the foundation of the modern unified Italian state, and the rest, including Rome, in 1870. The Papacy and the Italian Government had been at loggerheads ever since: the Popes had refused to recognise the Italian state's seizure of the Papal States, instead withdrawing to become prisoners in the Vatican, and the Italian government's policies had always been anti-clerical. Now Pius XI thought a compromise would be the best solution.
To bolster his own new regime, Mussolini was also eager for an agreement. After years of negotiation, in 1929, the Pope supervised the signing of the Lateran Treaties with the Italian government. According to the terms of the first treaty, Vatican City was given sovereignty as an enclave of the city of Rome in return for the Vatican relinquishing its claim to the former territories of the Papal States. Pius XI thus became a head of state (albeit the smallest state in the world), the first Pope who could be termed as such since the Papal States fell after the unification of Italy in the 19th century. A second treaty, the concordat with Italy, recognised Roman Catholicism as the official state religion of Italy, gave the Church power over marriage law in Italy (ensuring the illegality of divorce), and restored Catholic religious teaching in all schools. In return, the clergy would not take part in politics. A third treaty provided financial compensation to the Vatican for the loss of the Papal States. During the reign of Pius XI this money was used for investments in the stock markets and real estate. To manage these investments, the Pope appointed the lay-person Bernadino Nogara, who through shrewd investing in stocks, gold, and futures markets, significantly increased the Catholic Church's financial holdings. However contrary to myth it did not create enormous Vatican wealth. The compensation was relatively modest, and most of the money from investments simply paid for the upkeep of the expensive-to-maintain stock of historic buildings in the Vatican which previously had been maintained through funds raised from the Papal States up until 1870.
The Vatican's relationship with Mussolini's government deteriorated drastically in the following years as Mussolini's totalitarian ambitions began to impinge more and more on the autonomy of the Church. For example, the Church's youth groups were dissolved in 1931 to allow Mussolini's fascist youth groups complete dominance. As a consequence Pius issued the encyclical Non Abbiamo Bisogno in 1931, in which he criticized the idea of a totalitarian state and Mussolini's treatment of the Church. Relations with Mussolini continued to worsen throughout the remainder of Pius XI's pontificate.
Pius XI was eager to negotiate concordats with any country that was willing to do so, thinking that written treaties were the best way to protect the Church's rights against governments increasingly inclined to interfere in such matters. Twelve concordats were signed during his reign with various types of governments, including some German state governments, and with Austria. When Adolf Hitler became Chancellor of Germany on January 30 1933 and asked for a concordat, Pius XI accepted. Negotiations were conducted on his behalf by Cardinal Eugenio Pacelli, who later became Pope Pius XII (1939 – 1958). The Reichskonkordat was signed by Pacelli and by the German government in June 1933, and included guarantees of liberty for the Church, independence for Catholic organisations and youth groups, and religious teaching in schools.
This encyclical condemned particularly the paganism of the national-socialism ideology, the myth of race and blood, and the fallacy of their conception of God.
While numerous German Catholics, who participated in the secret printing and distribution of the encylical, went to jail and concentration camps, the reaction in the Western democracies remained silence, which Pope Pius XI labeled bitterly as a conspiracy of silence. As the extreme nature of Nazi racial antisemitism became obvious, and as Mussolini in the late 1930s began imitating Hitler's anti-Jewish race laws in Italy, Pius XI continued to make his position clear, both in Mit brennender Sorge and in a public address in the Vatican to Belgian pilgrims in 1938: "Mark well that in the Catholic Mass, Abraham is our Patriarch and forefather. Anti-Semitism is incompatible with the lofty thought which that fact expresses. It is a movement with which we Christians can have nothing to do. No, no, I say to you it is impossible for a Christian to take part in anti-Semitism. It is inadmissible. Through Christ and in Christ we are the spiritual progeny of Abraham. Spiritually, we [Christians] are all Semites" These comments were subsequently published worldwide but had little resonence at the time in the secular media.The Conspiracy of Silence included not only the silence of secular powers against the horrors of National socialism but also their silence on the persecution of the Church in the Terrible Triangle.Mexico and Spain and with the persecution of all Christians especially the Eastern Catholic Churches in the Soviet Union. He called this the Terrible Triangle
Pius XI was horrified by Communist persecution of Christians in the Soviet Union. but he mandated Berlin, Nuncio Eugenio Pacelli to work secretly on diplomatic arrangements between the Vatican and the Soviet Union. Pacelli in the name of the pope, negotiated food shipments for Russia, where the Church was persecuted. He met with Soviet representatives including Foreign Minister Georgi Chicherin, who rejected any kind of religious education, the ordination of priests and bishops, but offered agreements without the points vital to the Vatican. Despite Vatican pessimism and a lack of visible progress, Pacelli continued the secret negotiations, until Pius XI ordered them to be discontinued in 1927, because they generated no results an were dangerous to the Church, if made public.
The " harsh persecution short of total annihilation of the clergy, monks, and nuns and other people associated with the Church,, continued well into the Thirties. In addition to executing and exiling many clerics, monks and laymen, the confiscating of Church implements "for victims of famine" and the closing of churches were common. Yet according to an official report based on the Census of 1936, some 55% of Soviet citizens identified themselves openly as religious, while others possibly concealed their belief. In 1937 the Pope issued the encyclical Divini Redemptoris, which was a condemnation of Communism and the Soviet regime." He did name a French Jesuit to go to the USSR and consecreate in secret Roman Catholic bishops. It was a failure, as most of them ended up in gulags or were otherwise killed by the communist regime.
During the pontificate of Pius XI, the Catholic Church was subjected to extreme persecutions in Mexico, which resulted in the death of over 5000 priests, bishops and religious. In the state of Tabasco the Church was in effect outlawed altogether. In his encyclical Iniquis Afflictisque from November 18, 1926, Pope Pius protested against the slaughter and persecution. The United States of America intervened in 1929 and moderated an agreement. The persecutions resumed in 1931. Pius XI condemned the Mexican government again in his 1932 encyclical Acerba Animi. Problems continued with reduced hostilities until 1940, when in the new pontificate of Pope Pius XII President Manuel Ávila Camacho returned the Mexican churches to the Catholic Church.
There were 4 500 Mexican priests serving the Mexican people before the rebellion, in 1934, over 90% of them suffered persecution as only 334 priests were licensed by the government to serve fifteen million people. Excluding foreign Religious, over 4100 Mexican priests were eliminated by emigration, expulsion and assassination. The persecution was such that by 1935, 17 states were left with no priests at all.
One symbol of the massive Church persecution was Miguel Agustín Pro Juárez, S.J. (January 13 1891 – November 23 1927), a Mexican Roman Catholic Jesuit priest. He was executed during the persecution of the Catholic Church under the presidency of Plutarco Elías Calles after trumped up charges of involvement in an assassination attempt against former President Álvaro Obregón. Fr. Pro was beatified by John Paul II as a martyr on September 25, 1988.On May 21, 2000, Pope John Paul II canonized a group of 25 saints and martyrs arising from the Mexican Cristero War. The vast majority are Roman Catholic priests who were executed for carrying out their ministry despite the suppression under the anti-clerical laws of Plutarco Elías Calles. Priests who took up arms, however, were excluded from the process. The group of saints share the feast day May 25
The churches were not spared in the expropriation. Numerous churches and temples were destroyed by burning, after they were nationalized. Jesuits were prohibited from teaching. Private Catholic schools from Religious Orders and Congregations were expropriated, without regard to the free will of founders and benefactors. The purpose was to create solely secular schools there instead.
The Civil War in Spain started in 1936, during which thousands of churches were destroyed, thirteen bishops and some 7000 clergy and religious Spaniards were assassinated. After that, Catholics largely supported Franco and the Nationalist forces in the Spanish Civil War of 1936 – 1939. It is estimated that in the course of the Red Terror, 6,832 members of the Catholic clergy were killed. Another source breaks down the figures as follows: Some 283 religious women were killed. Some of them were badly tortured. 13 bishops were killed from the dioceses of Siguenza Lleida, Cuenca, Barbastro Segorbe,Jaen Ciudad Real Almeria Guadix Barcelona Teruel and the auxiliary of Tarragona. Aware of the dangers, they all decided to remain in their cities. I cannot go, only here is my responsibility, whatever may happen, said the Bishop of Cuenca In addition 4172 diocesan priests, 2364 monks and friars, among them 259 Clarentians, 226 Franciscans, 204 Piarists, 176 Brothers of Mary, 165 Christian Brothers, 155 Augustinians, 132 Dominicans, and 114 Jesuits were killed. In some dioceses, the number of secular priests killed are overwhelming:
The fascist government in Italy had long abstained from copying the racial and anti-Semitic laws and regulations, which existed in Germany. This changed dramatically in 1938, the last year of the pontificate of Pius XI, when Italy introduced anti-Semitic legislation. The Pope asked Italy publicly to abstain from demeaning racist legislation, stating, that the term “race” is divisive but may be appropriate to differentiate animals. The Catholic view would refer to the unity of human society, which includes as many differences as music includes intonations. Italy, a civilized country, should not ape the barbarian German legislation. In the same speech, he counter-attacked again the Italian government for attacking Catholic Action and even the papacy itself. Qui mange du Pape, en meurt - who eats from the pope, is dead!
The text of a possible encyclical Humani Generis Unitas, The Unity of the Human Society, that Pius XI commissioned to denounce racism in the USA, Europe and elsewhere, colonialism and the violent German nationalism was published by Georges Passelecq and Berard Suchecky under the title L'Encyclique Cachee De Pie XI Following Vatican custom, His successor Pope Pius XII, who according to the authors, was not aware of the text before the death of his predecessor, choose not to publish this encyclical. However, his first encyclical Summi Pontificatus (October 12, 1939), published after the beginning of WWII, has the identical title On the Unity of Human Society and uses many of the arguments of the text, avoiding all of the negative characterisation of the Jewish people and religion contained in the proposed text of the encyclical.
Summi Pontificatus sees Christianity being universalized and opposed to racial hostility and superiority. There are no real racial differences, because the human race forms a unity, because "one ancestor [God] made all nations to inhabit the whole earth".
Pope Benedict XVI has decreed that from September 18 2006, all documents related to the pontificate of Pope Pius XI be made available to researchers. According to the prefect of the Historical Archives of the Secretariat of State, and the prefect of the Vatican Secret Archives, this makes available to historical research, within the limits of the regulations, all documentary sources up to February 1939 conserved in the various series of archives of the Holy See, and principally in the Vatican Secret Archives and in the Archives of the Second Section of the Secretariat of State (formerly the Congregation for Extraordinary Ecclesiastical Affairs).
Pope Pius had been ailing for a while, when, on November 25, 1938, he suffered two heart attacks within several hours. He had serious breathing problems and had to stay in his apartment. There he developed the idea, of labelling two of his best bottles of wine to “my successor in the year 2000”. It is not known, if Pope John Paul II ever received them. He gave his last address to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, which he had founded. He spoke without prepared text on the relation between science and the Catholic religion. This is considered to have been his last major pontifical address. A young priest tried to influence him to take his medicine, reminding him of the old Roman saying Principiis obsta (Resist the beginnings) but the pope smiled and said, you forgot the second part, sero medicina paratur, it’s too late for medicine. In February 1939, the situation of the pontiff visibly degenerated. Pius had major pain and difficulties walking. When he tried to raise from his bed, he was unable to do so, because of increased breathing problems. On February 7, the team of doctors announced to the papal staff, that the pontiff would soon depart from them. He was now aided by a team of several doctors, the professors Milani, Rocchi, Bonamone, Gemelli and Bianchi, specialists from all over Italy. They informed Cardinal Eugenio Pacelli and Monsignore Giovanni Battista Montini that heart insufficiency combined with bronchial attacks had hopelessly complicated the already poor outlook. The Pope himself made plans for continued audiences with Domenico Tardini, as if he would regenerate within short time, although, unable to breathe normally, he lost his ability to move and even to turn in his bed. His last words to those near him were spoken with clarity and firmness: My soul parts from you all in peace Pope Pius XI died at 5:31 A.M. (Rome Time) on February 10 1939, aged 81. He was buried in the crypt at St. Peter's Basilica, in the main chapel, close to the Tomb of St. Peter.
Pius XI will be remembered as the pope who reigned between the two great wars of the 20th century. He was a mountain climber and many peaks in the Alps were named after him, he having been the first to scale them. The onetime librarian also reorganized the Vatican archives. Nevertheless, Pius XI was hardly a withdrawn and bookish figure.
Pius XI fought the two ascendant ideologies of communism and fascism. His success in fighting them was limited and there is much controversy over the concordats he entered with European regimes to improve the situation of the Catholic Church. At the outset, it was clear that he found communism to be the greater of the two evils but in his later years, there is no doubt that he was repelled by the momentum of Nazi Germany, not only in its opposition to the Catholic Church but also in the ferocity of its attacks on the Jewish people.
Whatever the results of his activism, Pius XI did not sit by idly and was fully engaged until the end. A theological conservative, he strove to improve the condition of the Church, through the negotiation of the concordats (treaties) in Europe and to increase its strength worldwide through vigorous missionary work. He also reiterated the social teachings of Leo XIII in his encyclical Quadregesimo Anno, issued in 1931.
This pope was determined to increase the profile of the papacy from the time of his Urbi et Orbi blessing following his election, the first of its kind since Pius IX became a prisoner of the Vatican. After the Vatican had regained its status as a state in 1929, he flexed its muscles through the treaties he negotiated and by raising his voice in protest when the terms were violated, albeit to little avail.
A man of stature, he possessed an iron will and did not hesitate to assert his position. The strong-willed pontiff was succeeded by his charismatic Secretary of State, Cardinal Eugenio Pacelli (Pius XII), a diplomat who would continue Pius XI's struggle against fascism as a prisoner of the Vatican during World War II.
A Chilean glacier bears Pius XI's name.
The Achille Ratti Climbing Club, based in the United Kingdom, was founded by Bishop T. B. Pearson in 1940 and was named after Monsignor Achille Ratti.