Pius XII: Allocution of January 14, 1945

January 14, 2013

Once again, beloved Sons and Daughters, amid the devastation, the mourning, the anxieties of every sort presently tormenting the human family, you have come to offer Us your devout best wishes, which your illustrious representative has presented Us with nobility of sentiment and delicacy of expression. We thank you for this with all Our heart, and for the prayers with which, in so troubled a time, you help us to carry out the formidable duties that weigh heavy on our feeble shoulders.

Just as after all wars and great calamities there are always wounds to heal and ruins to rebuild; so after great national crises a whole process of adjustment must be effected to put the troubled and damaged country back in general order…This time the work of restoration is incomparably more immense, more delicate, and more complex. One can say that the entire world must be rebuilt
View of Dresden, the ruins of the Holy Cross Church, seen from the east by Bernardo Bellotto

Just as after all wars and great calamities there are always wounds to heal and ruins to rebuild; so after great national crises a whole process of adjustment must be effected to put the troubled and damaged country back in general order, to make it win back the position to which it is entitled and resume the journey toward the progress and well-being allotted to it by its standing and history, its material wealth and spiritual faculties.

That tranquil order that is peace, that is the only true peace, cannot be reborn and endure except by building human society upon Christ, so as to gather, recapitulate, reunite everything in Him: Instaurare omnia in Christo (Eph. 1:10)
Enthroned God the Father by Jan van Eyck

This time the work of restoration is incomparably more immense, more delicate, and more complex. It is not a question of bringing one sole nation back to normalcy. One can say that the entire world must be rebuilt; the universal order must be re-established. The material order, the intellectual order, the social order, the international order—all must be remade and set back in a regular, constant motion. That tranquil order that is peace, that is the only true peace, cannot be reborn and endure except by building human society upon Christ, so as to gather, recapitulate, reunite everything in Him: Instaurare omnia in Christo (Eph. 1:10)—with the harmonious union of the members and their incorporation in the sole Head which is Christ (Eph. 4:15).

By now, everyone generally admits that this reorganization cannot be conceived as a pure and simple return to the past. Such a step backward is not possible. The world, despite its often disorderly, disconnected, fragmented, and incoherent movements, has continued to move ahead; history does not stop, it cannot stop; it is forever advancing, following its course, whether straight and orderly or twisted and confused, toward progress or toward an illusion of progress. Nevertheless, it moves ahead, races on, and to wish simply to “go into reverse”—not for the purpose of reducing the world to immobility on ancient positions, but to bring it back to a point of departure unfortunately abandoned because of deviations and confusions—would be a useless, fruitless undertaking. Not there—as we saw last year on this same occasion—does true tradition lie. Just as one could not conceive of reconstructing a building required to serve modern-day needs in the same manner as one would conceive of an archaeological reconstruction, likewise such rebuilding would not be possible following arbitrary designs, even if these were theoretically the best and most desirable. One must always bear in mind inescapable reality, the entire sweep and scope of reality.

By this We do not mean to say that one must be content with watching the stream flow by, much less with following it, drifting along according to its whims, at the risk of having the boat collide with the rocks or plunge into the deep. The force of torrents and waterfalls has been rendered not only harmless but useful, fruitful and beneficent by those who, instead of reacting against it or giving into it, knew how to harness it by means of sluices, dams, canals, and diversions. Such is the task of the leaders, who, with gazes fixed on the immutable principles of human functioning, must and will know how to apply these enduring laws to the contingencies of the present.

The force of torrents and waterfalls has been rendered not only harmless but useful, fruitful and beneficent by those who, instead of reacting against it or giving into it, knew how to harness it by means of sluices, dams, canals, and diversions. Such is the task of the leaders
Iguazu Falls in Argentina

In an advanced society like our own, which will have to be restored and reordered after the great cataclysm, the responsibilities of the leaders are rather diverse: the leader is the man of State, of government, the politician; the leader is the worker, who, without resorting to violence, threats, or insidious propaganda, but through his own worth, is able to gain authority and standing among his peers; the leaders are all those in their respective fields, the engineer, the jurist, the diplomat, the economist, without whom the material, social, and international world would go adrift; the leaders are the university professor, the orator, the writer, all of whom aim at molding and guiding spirits; the leader is the military officer who infuses the hearts of his soldiers with a sense of duty, service, and sacrifice; the leader is the doctor carrying out his mission of restoring health; the leader is the priest who directs souls onto the path of light and salvation, providing them assistance for advancing safely along that road.

Prince Luis of Orleans-Braganza, Prince Imperial of Brazil—At the outbreak of World War I he enlisted as an officer with the British Armed Forces and saw action at Flanders where he contracted the virulent form of rheumatism that would go on to cause his death at the age of 42. His efforts on behalf of the Allied Forces saw him decorated by Belgium, France and Great Britain.
Luis Felipe de Orleans-Braganza, Prince Imperial of Brazil, 1909

And what, in this multitude of leaderships, is your place, your function, your duty? It presents itself in dual form: the personal function and duty of every one of you individually, and the function and duty of the class to which you belong.

Personal duty requires that you, with your virtue and diligence, endeavor to become leaders in your professions. Indeed, we all know well that today the youth of your noble class, aware of the dark present and the even more uncertain future, are fully convinced that work is not only a social duty, but also a personal guarantee of livelihood. And We use the word professions in its broadest, most comprehensive sense, as We had occasion to point out last year—that is, technical or humanistic professions, but also political and social activities, intellectual occupations, works of every sort: the prudent, vigilant, hard-working administration of your property, your lands, following the most modern and tested methods of cultivation, for the material, moral, social, and spiritual good of the peasants or other populations who live on them. In every one of these situations you must make every effort to succeed as leaders, whether because of the trust placed in you by those who have remained faithful to the wise and still living traditions, or because of the mistrust of so many others, which you shall have to overcome by winning their esteem and respect, by dint of excelling in everything in the positions in which you find yourselves, in the activities you pursue, regardless of the nature of the position or the form of the activity.

In what, then, should this excellence of life and action consist, and what are its principle characteristics?

It manifests itself above all in the perfection of your work, whether it be technical, scientific, artistic, or anything else. The work of your hands and your spirits must bear that imprint of distinction and perfection that cannot be acquired from one day to the next, but rather reflects a refinement of thought, of feeling, of soul, and of conscience, inherited from your forebears and ceaselessly nurtured by the Christian ideal.

It also shows itself in what can be called humanism, that is, the presence, the intervention of the complete man in all the manifestations of his activities, even if specialized, in such a way that the specialization of his ability should never hypertrophy, should never atrophy, never becloud the general culture, just as in a musical phrase the dominant should never break the harmony nor burden the melody.

It is also made manifest in the dignity of one’s entire bearing and conduct—a dignity that is not imperious, however, and that, far from emphasizing distances, only lets them appear when necessary to inspire in others a higher nobility of soul, mind, and heart.

It is also made manifest in the dignity of one’s entire bearing and conduct—a dignity that is not imperious, however, and that, far from emphasizing distances, only lets them appear when necessary to inspire in others a higher nobility of soul, mind, and heart.
Philip II, King of Spain

Lastly, it manifests itself above all in the sense of lofty morality, or righteousness, honesty, and probity that must inform every word and every deed. An immoral or amoral society that no longer distinguishes between right and wrong in its conscience or in its outward actions, that no longer feels horror at the sight of corruption but rather makes excuses for it, adapts to it indifferently, woos it with favors, practices it with no misgivings or remorse, indeed parades it without blushing, thereby degrading itself and making a mockery of virtue, is on the road to ruin.

The French high society of the eighteenth century was one tragic example of this, among so many others. Never was a society more refined, more elegant, more brilliant, more fascinating. The most varied pleasures of the mind, an intense intellectual culture, a very refined art of pleasure, and an exquisite delicacy of manners and language predominated in that outwardly so courtly and gracious society, and yet everything in it—books, stories, images, furniture, clothing, hair-styles—encouraged a sensuality that penetrated one’s veins and one’s heart, and even marital infidelity scarcely surprised or scandalized anyone anymore. Thus did that society work toward its own downfall, rushing headlong toward the abyss it had dug out with its own hands.

True nobility is another matter altogether: In social relations it lets shine a humility filled with greatness, a charity untouched by any egotism or concern for one’s own interest. We are not unaware of the tremendous goodness, gentleness, devotion, and self-abnegation with which many, and many among your number, have in these times of endless suffering and anguish bent down to aid the unfortunate and have been able to radiate about themselves the light of their charitable love, in all its most progressive and efficacious forms. And this is another aspect of your mission.

For it is true that, despite the blind and slanderous prejudices, nothing is so contrary to Christian sentiment and to the true meaning and purpose of your class, in all countries but especially here in Rome, mother of faith and of civilized living, as the narrow spirit of caste. Caste divides human society into sections or compartments separated by impenetrable walls. Chivalry and courtesy are, above all, Christian in inspiration; they are the bond that unites, without confusion or disorder, all the classes. Far from forcing you into a proud isolation, your origins should incline you rather to penetrate all levels of society, to communicate to them a love of perfection, of spiritual cultivation, of dignity, that feeling of compassionate solidarity that is the flower of Christian civilization.

At the present hour of division and hatred, what a noble task has been assigned you by the will of Divine Providence! Carry it out with all your faith and all your love! With these wishes and as a token of Our paternal offerings for the New Year already begun, We give you and your families, with all Our heart, Our Apostolic blessing.

Signature of Pope Pius XII

Discorsi e Radiomessaggi di Sua Santità Pio XII (Tipografia Poliglotta Vaticana, January 14, 1945), pp. 273-277.

 


 

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  • Mary Lou Dela Cruz

    The standard of moraily in its truest form really remains STANDARD. It doesn't change in its pure form. What was applicable then when this allocution was written, is vibrant and alive in todays morality. God's standard will remain despite all influences and malicious efforts to thwart it.

    The challenge is to us Christians to accept and believe all truths and teachings God has handed down through Jesus and through His Holy Church. AND TO LIVE IT OUT.

  • Clara Schoppe

    St Jose Maria Escriva founded the movement Opus Dei during this same terrible time. I was born 2 years after this allocution, and Pope Pius XII was my pope throughout my early childhood. When I was older, I learned about Opus Dei and (now Saint) Jose-Maria Escriva. This allocution seems to fit the Opus Dei spirituality very closely.

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