Thursday, 3 November 2016

Benedict XV in Search of Peace for Ukraine



Bologna, 3–5 November 2016.


This is not the time or the place to thoroughly examine in what manner the Vatican manifested sympathy for the idea of the Ukrainian state, and what was the motive behind this sympathy. This shall be done by the historian who, at the proper time, gains access to the sources which are certainly to be found in the Vatican and other places.
— Petro Karmansky, “Cardinal Gasparri and Ukraine,” (1934)

Born during Benedict XV’s Reign
There is no peace for Ukraine, not a hundred years after it fleetingly appeared on the world stage, nor twenty-five years after having finally achieved independence, following centuries of the oblivion of imperial subjugation. One hundred years ago, Benedict XV addressed to the world the words “nations do not die.” Sometimes, however, nations are born only with great difficulty, as in Ukraine, whose cause did not provoke any moralizing campaign of sympathy from the Western powers. During the pontificate of Benedict XV, Ukraine was born as a state but died as a nation that never enjoyed a day of peace. Nonetheless, Pope Della Chiesa took up the cause of Ukraine and strove, with significant gestures, to bring peace to “his dear Ukrainians.”

Rus – Ruthenia – Ukraine
 “Nation” is a modern concept. There is no strict necessity for any given nation to come into being. But the process of national awakening among certain ethnic groups is an historical fact. Ukrainian national consciousness emerged in the nineteenth century, based on various precedents. In the ninth century, The Norse Ruriks, who ruled over Slavic tribes surrounding the Dnipro river, formed a state called Rus’ with it capital in Kyiv. The people of Kyivan-Rus eventually constituted themselves into three nations: Ukraine, Belarus, and Russia. After the Mongol conquest in the thirteenth century, the political and cultural inheritance of Kyivan-Rus passed to Lithuania, Poland, and Muscovy. The people called themselves Rusyn or Ruski in the plural. Westerners began to refer to those in Poland-Lithuania as Rutheni.
Prince Volodymyr (or Vladimir) had accepted Byzantine Christianity in 988. After the Great Schism, the Orthodox Church of Rus continued to maintain some contact with the Roman Apostolic See. In 1253 Pope Innocent IV sent his legate with a kingly crown to Danylo prince of Halych, the last independent Rus principality. Most of south-western Rus passed to Lithuania but Halych was conquered in 1367 by the Polish King. North-Eastern Rus became Muscovy.
In 1439, Isidore, Metropolitan of Kyiv, signed the act of union of the Roman and Byzantine Churches at the Council of Florence, and was made a cardinal. But his efforts to make the union a reality were met with opposition at home. In 1595, the bishops of the Kyivan Metropolia signed another act of union with the Roman See. This “Union of Brest” only united portion of the Kyivan Church, while another portion remained in communion with the Orthodox world. The Kyivan Metropolitans received patriarchal-like powers from the Roman Pontiff. Yet, despite opposition from Roman Catholics and Orthodox, the Uniate Church flourished in Poland-Lithuania, and Pope Urban VIII told the Ruthenians that he hoped to convert the entire East through them.
As Muscovy, renamed Russia, encroached upon Poland-Lithuania, the Uniates were forcibly amalgamated to the Russian Orthodox Church. After the final partition in 1795, the Uniate Church was destined to survive only Austrian Galicia (named for the old Halych principality). Empress Maria Theresa abolished the term “Uniate” as pejorative, and replaced it with “Greek Catholic,” on par with her Roman Catholic subjects.
With the awakening of the nations after the French Revolution, the Ruthenians also began to assert national-ethnic consciousness. The Ukrainian risorgimento began in Austrian Galicia and was led by the Greek-Catholic clergy, in the absence of their secular nobility, which had adopted a Polish consciousness. As the popoli italici of various dialects and principalities, became the nazione italiana, so the Ruthenians of the Austrian and Russian Empires came to see themselves as a single nation. And as Italia was once only a geographical term, so the geographical designation Ukraïna was adopted as a national descriptive, to distinguish the nation from Russia.

Pro and Contra Relations with Ukraine
            Until the First World War, the Russian Empire was the most powerful state in central-eastern Europe and represented the determining factor papal policy. Viewing the region’s political and religious futures in the Russian context, Leo XIII had inaugurated a diplomatic outreach to the Russia and, at the same time, supported religious “unionism,” as opposed to Latin missionary proselytism, as a means for eventual ecclesial reunion. The policy aimed to strengthen and support Eastern Catholicism, especially among the Ruthenians, so that they would become missionaries to nearby Orthodox countries.
The papacy’s relations with the stateless Ruthenian-Ukrainian people were mainly ecclesiastical and determined by a religious-political policy geared to each empire to which Ukrainians were subject. From the second half of the 19th century, as a distinct nation began to manifest itself, the Holy See had to factor Ukraine into its outlook. Religiously, Ukrainians were viewed within a unionistic framework: Greek-Catholics in Austria were looked upon as the protagonists of unionism, and Orthodox Christians in Russian Ukraine were viewed as the object of unionistic hopes. The Holy See had no political hopes for Ukrainians, either in Austria or in Russia.  Better relations with Russia aimed to secure increased freedom for Catholics in the Tsarist Empire. Since Austria-Hungary took Poland’s place as the Catholic state in central-Eastern Europe, the Holy See saw it as an antidote against the encroaching influence of Orthodox Russia. Consequently, Rome did not favor independence for any of Austria’s constituent nationalities. The First World War threw the status quo into chaos and necessitated a reconfiguration of the papal outlook for central-eastern Europe.

Open Diplomacy “Above the parties”
Benedict XV’s pontificate saw a return the grande politique of Leo XIII which he himself had helped Cardinal Rampolla implement, while serving in the Secretariat of State. The policy of patient, free-maneuver diplomacy, independent of political alliances and with diplomatic outreach to all states, was perfectly suited to new states like Ukraine. In his first encyclical letter, the Pope identified nationalistic hatred as one if he principal causes of the war. Nevertheless, as the conflict developed, so Vatican policy  evolved from favoring  a political status quo to one of reserved acceptance of national movements. With Catholics on all sides of conflict demanding papal support, Benedict XV moved from favoring a policy of disinterested neutrality to that of a peacemaker and mediator “above the parties.” His two main diplomatic objectives, general pacification and drawing separated Christians closer to Rome, spoke directly to the Ukrainian situation.

Ukraine between Russian and Austrian/Polish policies
At first, Benedict XV did not have a specific Ukrainian policy. The future of “Ruthenians,” was seen the contexts of the two empires to which they were subject. The Holy See supported the integrity of Austria-Hungary as the strongest Catholic state in central Europe. As to Russia, the Vatican was favorable to autonomy or independence of as many as possible of the nations, due to the Tsarist Empire’s consistent oppression of Catholicism. This was especially true for Poland, the largest portion of which had been partitioned to Russia. During the war, the Holy See took up Polish cause and the pope included it his 1917 Peace Note. When it became clear that the Austrian Empire could not be salvaged, the Vatican turned to Poland as a substitute Catholic power. Following Polish independence, Rome situated Ukrainians between its Polish and Russian policies.

The Turning Point of Revolution
The 1917 Revolutions in Russia marked a turned-point for Vatican policy. Since the Provisional Government granted religious freedom, the Roman Curia had to consider the best way of re-introducing, in those vast regions, the Catholic presence which had been suffocated under Tsarist rule. The revolutions strengthened the national movements of Russia’s subject peoples and facilitated their independence. A the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk, of February 1918, the Central Powers recognized the newly-proclaimed Ukrainian National Republic and immediately transformed it into a client state.
The euphoria that followed religious freedom in Russia gave rise to “mirages” of union between a number of national Orthodox Churches and Rome. In response to such hopes, Benedict XV established an autonomous department, the Sacred Congregation for the Eastern Church, to coordinate Eastern Catholic life and promote unionistic missions. The new office was given significant authority promote and defend the Eastern Catholic Churches. The Oriental Congregation, as it was often referred to, paid careful attention to religious and political affairs of the Ukrainian National Republic as well as those of the Ukrainian Greek-Catholics in Austria.

Metropolitan Andrey Sheptytsky
Perhaps the most important Eastern-Catholic leader of the period was Metropolitan Andrey Sheptytsky, Archbishop of Lviv-Halych and primate of the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church. Of Ruthenian-Polish aristocratic lineage, Sheptytsky chose to return to his eastern roots by enlisting in Basilian Order, one of Leo XIII’s unionist experiments. In the eyes of the Poles who governed Austrian Galicia, his duel pedigree made Sheptytsky ideal for leading the Greek-Catholic Church along a subservient path, at the time when Ukrainian national consciousness was taking hold.
Sheptytsky’s ideals sprang from the Leo XIII’s unionism but matured due to his personal contacts among the Ukrainian, Polish, and Russian elites. In 1907, he obtained unprecedented powers from Pius X, kept secret even from the Secretary of State Cardinal Merry del Val, to begin rebuilding the foundations for Eastern Catholic Churches where they had been suppressed by Russia. Sheptytsky cautiously but also critically supported the Ukrainian national movement in Austrian Galicia.
Only days before the election of Benedict XV, Sheptytsky was arrested by Russian invaders, as a dangerous opponent to Tsarist assimilation plans. Cardinal Gasparri launched an energetic yet fruitless diplomatic campaign for his release. From Siberian captivity, Sheptytsky sent six letters to the new pontiff, outlining his unionist vision for Russia and Ukraine. As soon as he was freed, the metropolitan established a Russian Catholic Exarchate, using the secret faculties granted him by Pius X. Benedict XV tended to favor Sheptytsky’s proposal for a predominantly Byzantine-Rite as opposed to a Latin mission, in post-revolutionary Russia. This view was fiercely opposed by the Poles, who had long held the monopoly over Catholic activities in Russia.
As long as Italy and Austria were at war, Sheptytsky was barred from visiting Rome, to explain his plans to the Pope and prove the authenticity of his special faculties. His first meeting with Benedict XV occurred in February 1921, and it provoked a turning point in Vatican policy. Pope Benedict confirmed the faculties, recognized the bishop that Sheptytsky had consecrated using them, and confirmed the Russian exarch that he had nominated.


The Holy See’s Relations with Ukraine
Until the First World War, Ukrainian representation at the Papal Court was exclusively religious in character. Since the Union of Brest, the Metropolitans of Kyiv maintained a procurator to the Holy See. At the outbreak of the War, Ukrainians began a campaign to bring their still-stateless nation to the attention of the international community. They also entered into direct contact with the Roman Curia and papal diplomatic representatives abroad. Catholic aristocrats from Russian Ukraine, who were friends of Metropolitan Sheptytsky, were among Ukraine’s most ardent promoters.
The most important of these amateur diplomats was Count Michael Tyshkevych. With his vast financial resources and social connections, Tyshkevych moved to Switzerland to promote the Ukrainian cause and was largely responsible for brining it to the attention of the western press. Several qualities also made him an ideal representative to the Vatican: he had a western European education, he was a papal knight, and founder of Catholic associations in Russia. As both the Holy See and Ukraine were seeking international recognition, Tyshkevych sought to promote Ukraine by collaborating with Benedict XV’s ideals: peace and humanitarian diplomacy.
Tyshkevych had already obtained Pius X’s encouragement in founding the Kyiv Peace Association. On 27 December 1914, he approached the papal Secretariat of State for a blessing from the new pontiff, not omitting to ask for support for the suffering Ukrainian nation. On 9 January 1915, Monsignor Pacelli communicated the apostolic blessing with the qualification “(for you and your work),” likely in order to avoid any inference of support for any Ukrainian political cause. On 1 June 1916, Tyshkevych approached Pacelli again, touching on another of Pope Benedict’s key policies: church unity. He told Pacelli that both Catholic and Orthodox Ukrainians of Austria and Russia had asked him to approach him to the their “protector and intermediary” by delivering a confidential memorandum on Ukraine to His Holiness. On 9 June, Pacelli wrote to assure him that he had delivered the document personally.
 In 1917, Count Tyshkevych began to write directly to Cardinal Gasparri. Pope Benedict had launched a collection for the Poles and Lithuanians devastated by the war. On 17 February, Tyshkevych sent a petition asking for a such collection to be initiated for the Ukrainians. In March 1918, he brought greetings to the pontiff from the Association of Romans Catholics in Ukraine, as newly-elected head of their association. He also presented a memorandum in support of the Treaty of Brest-Litowsk’s controversial award of the disputed Kholm region to the nascent Ukrainian Republic.
The Ukrainian State was slow to make use of the Catholic notables that had promoted its cause abroad.  Only on 1 September 1918 did Tyshkevych ask the Holy See to accept an official Ukrainian representative. However, after the signing of the Brest Treaty, the Germans occupied Ukraine and turned it into a satellite state, recognized only by the Central Powers. Given the uncertainly of the war’s outcome, Cardinal Gasparri preferred to “defer this project, for a time.”
Michael Tyshkevych having failed, another Catholic aristocrat took up the cause. In October 1918, Jan Tokarzewski-Karaszewicz, who was serving as attach├ę to the Ukrainian consulate in Vienna, approached the Apostolic Visitor to Poland, Achille Ratti, on the matter of Vatican-Ukrainian relations. With the fall of Austria-Hungary, 8 November 1918 Benedict XV gave orders for his representatives to establish relations with the nationalities. In March 1919 Tokarzewski went to see the Nuncio in Vienna and informed him that his government had decided to send a three-man diplomatic mission to the Holy See, headed by Count Tyshkevych. Tokarzewski suggested that diplomatic relations were necessary due to the possibilities for Catholicism in predominantly Orthodox Ukraine. On 12 March 1919, the Ukrainian consul in Berne asked Monsignor Maglione to transmit an official request for a diplomatic mission to be accredited to the Holy See. 
Cardinal Gasparri responded to Maglione on 26 March 1919, that the Holy See would be particularly happy to enter into diplomatic relations with Ukraine, especially in view of its promised freedom for Catholicism. However, it did not accord full relations to new countries that had not been recognized by the Great Powers (meaning the Entente). In the meantime, only Tyshkevych, deemed “acceptable, being already in relations with the Papal Court,” was to be received in the role of semi-official envoy. The UNR regarded the  acceptance of Tyshkevych’s mission as recognition by the Holy See of the Ukrainian State. In reality, it merely represented a de facto recognition of the UNR Government and a gesture of good will, in the hope that, if the state would survive, the Church would be accorded the promised religious freedom.
Michael Tyshkevych spent virtually two years educating the Holy See about the Ukrainian national cause, promising a bright future for Catholicism in Ukraine, and reporting on the political and humanitarian challenges faced by the nascent republic. He was received several times by curial officials and, on 26 May 1919, by Benedict XV himself. The pontiff assured him that he supported “the autonomy of Ukraine” and had asked his representative at the Peace Conference to defend the Ukrainian cause. From August 1919, Tyshkevych took charge of the UNR delegation at the Paris Peace Conference, during which time he did not neglecting his Vatican contacts. He pursued a fruitless quest for full diplomatic recognition through 1920. The Pope’s promise to support Ukraine at the Paris Conference was confirmed by Cardinal Gasparri on 20 July 1920.

Achille Ratti and the Polish-Ukrainian War
Six month before the First World War’s end, Benedict XV sent Vatican Librarian Achille Ratti to Warsaw as Apostolic Visitor, to resuscitate the Polish Church, devastated from over a century of Russian rule. Ratti’s mission was soon extended to include Russia and formerly Austrian Galicia. By November 1918, his visitation technically included all the lands which the Ukrainians declared to be part of their national state.
In the conflict between Poles and Ukrainians, Benedict XV’s predictions about nationalistic hatred came true, and his stance as mediator “above the parties” was put to the test. Following the collapse of the Habsburg Monarchy, the two nations fought over the sovereignty of Eastern Galicia. A national conflict became a religious feud between Roman-Catholic Poles and the Greek-Catholic Ukrainians. Each side was supported in their political aspirations by their respective hierarchies and clergies, and each called the Holy See to support the rightness of their cause. Ratti declared that the Pope supported both peoples but left political judgments to the politicians. He intervened with authorities from both sides on behalf of those who had been harshly treated. Although publically combatting ingrained prejudice against the Eastern Churches, privately and to his superiors he expressed relief at the Polish victory in Galicia. 
In the end, the Polish-Ukrainian War had affected Achille Ratti’s idealistic perceptions. By the time of his appointment as Apostolic Nuncio to Poland, in July 1919, his attitude toward Polish Catholicism had become more critical, especially regarding its attitude toward national minorities and strong aversion to the Eastern Rites. Any correctives that Ratti offered the Poles went largely unnoticed to the vanquished Ukrainians, who were forced to endure harsh repression. Complaints about the persecution of Greek-Catholics prompted the Roman Curia to rethink its position regarding an envoy for Ukrainian affairs.

Apostolic Visitation to Ukraine
In consultation with the Roman Catholic hierarchy, Ukrainian diplomats had first asked for an apostolic visitation on 14 September 1918. Achille Ratti encouraged Jan Tokarzewski-Karaszewicz to petition Holy See and even declared himself willing to perform the visitation personally. He also signaled his approval for Tyshkevych to be appointed envoy to the Holy See. Despite this, Tyshkevych voiced Ukrainian dissatisfaction with Ratti’s alleged bias toward the Poles. From May through October 1919, Tyshkevych and Tokarzewski did not cease to petition for the appointment of an apostolic visitor to Ukraine and Eastern Galicia, and the exclusion of Ratti from this charge.
The internal situation in the Ukrainian Republic was only one factor impeding an apostolic visitation. Reports continued to arrive at the Vatican of persecution of Ukrainians in Galicia, at the hands of the victorious Poles. In one such report, of April 1919, Achille Ratti expressed his own fears that the Poles intended to eliminate the Greek-Catholic Church altogether. In September, the Government threatened to recall its ambassador if the Holy See “ruled in favor of the Ukrainians.”
A summary of the Galician situation was brought to Benedict XV on 28 January 1920. The Oriental Congregation concluded that an unbiased inspection was necessary, in order to verify the reports and provide humanitarian aid. A purely religious mission was proposed without political connotations, which would show interest in Ukrainians affairs without provoking diplomatic rupture with the Poles. On 13 February, Benedict XV appointed Giovanni Genocchi as apostolic visitor to Ukraine. His shrewd judgment and diplomatic finesse were esteemed by the diplomats of Rampolla school, including his old classmate, Pope Benedict.
Genocchi’s instructions outlined three main aspects of his mission. The first was public: the visitation was a benevolent gesture, especially in the form of medical aid to devastated Ukrainian people. The second was not public: to prepare terrain for the Catholic Church in Ukraine. And the third was secret: to verify the persecution and help the Greek-Catholic Church in Polish-administered Eastern Galicia. Genocchi was told that “the Holy See has no reason to be opposed to the Ukrainians demands for statehood, if they are able to practically maintain their independence and if it is recognized by the international community, and looks benevolently on their efforts, which it hopes will be advantageous for Catholicism.” The visitor was told to emphasize the equality of the Latin and Byzantine Catholic Rites, to establish the facts in Galicia and relay them to Holy See, which would bring them to attention of Poland at an opportune time. On his way from Rome, Genocchi met with Ukrainian representatives in Paris, Vienna, and Warsaw. He spoke Metropolitan Sheptytsky six times in Vienna and was impressed by his integrity and holiness.  
Hitherto the Warsaw Nunciature had been responsible for Ukrainian affairs. As the visitor had to travel through Poland, the Secretariat of State asked Ratti to take Genocchi’s mission under his wing. But unbeknown to the Vatican, Genocchi was arriving at the worst possible moment. Before he could reach Lviv, the Poles took control of his mission. Marshall Pilsudski had concluded an alliance with UNR and was in the midst of liberating it from Bolshevik rule. En route to Lviv, Genocchi was summoned to Warsaw where he was told that Pilsudski had decided that he should wait until military victories made it safe for him to go to Kyiv. Ratti promised to personally accompany him in June, Pilsudski promised to pay the journey, and Bishop Dubowski of Lutsk promised them hospitality, along the way.
Polish hopes came to naught. By the end of June, the Bolsheviks had begun  a counter-attack that would lead them to the very gates of Warsaw. As the government abandoned the capital, Ratti sent Genocchi to Vienna where, on 14 September 1920, the visitor submitted a full report to Pope Benedict. One of Genocchi’s conclusions was that “many Ukrainians feel abandoned by the Holy See because it does not [intervene to] stop the Polish persecutions.” Due to his forthright evaluations, future primate of Poland, Father August Hlond, told Genocchi that he would not be welcomed back to Poland anytime soon. The most concrete result of the apostolic visitation was the aide provided: 150,000 Italian Lire via the Red Cross for Ukrainian children, 131 cases of medicine worth 100,000 Lire, 50,000 Lire to the destitute Greek-Catholic clergy in Galicia. From Vienna, he also sent 220,000 Marks for the Latin Bishops in Ukraine, and for Greek-Catholic bishops and religious in Eastern Galicia.
Perhaps as significant as humanitarian diplomacy were the reports which the visitor sent to Rome. Genocchi’s judgments, and those of others, led Benedict XV to make more than one clamorous gestures in support of Ukrainians. On 24 February 1921, the pontiff addressed a public letter to Metropolitan Sheptytsky, ostensibly upon the re-opening of the Ruthenian College in Rome. The letter was actually a solemn act of solidary with the Ukrainian people and contained allusions to religious persecution under Polish mandate. Even Genocchi was shocked by the strength of the protest and by the fact that his mission had been cited publically. Against counsels of prudence from the Secretariat of State, Pope Benedict insisted that this letter be published in the June 1921 fascicle of the Acta Apostolicae Sedis. As a result, Poland made good on its promise and recalled its ambassador to the Holy See. Then, on 16 July 1921, the pope lectured the Polish Episcopate in another public letter, admonishing them to manifest universal charity for their fellow clergy of different nationalities and rites. By the end of the year, the Polish press was reporting that Cardinal Gasparri had advised the new Polish ambassador not to upset the Holy Father by saying anything against “his beloved Ukrainians.”
The Bolshevik takeover of Ukraine precluded the possibility that Father Genocchi would be able to carry out his mission. In December 1921, he asked to be recalled on condition that the Visitation to Ukraine continue, at least on paper, as a gesture of solidarity. Upon his arrival in Rome, in January 1922, Benedict XV insisted on receiving him immediately, despite the fact that the pontiff was in his last illness and died a few days after the audience. Elected to the papacy as Pius XI, Achille Ratti retained Genocchi as his official Ukrainian advisor and sent him back to Eastern Galicia for one more visitation. In gratitude for Genocchi’s efforts, the UNR government-in-exile sent a delegation to his funeral, in 1926.

Friends and Failed Dreams
The Entente’s politics of “might makes right” prevailed over Wilson’s principals of national self-determination and over Benedict XV’s ethics which opposed a peace dictated to the vanquished by the victors. Ukraine arose from the ashes of the War, but it’s foes were too powerful and its allies to few. Nonetheless, it was destined to remain nominally on the map as “the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic,” a concession to the national movement that even Lenin was hard-pressed to refuse.

Benedict XV made a place for Ukraine in his Pax Romana, his ethical peace with the Papacy as mediator and magister. Througout the long history of its travails, Ukraine never forgot that he was one of the few leaders who showed it any kindness. When Giaccomo della Chiesa died, in January 1922, condolences arrived at the Holy See declaring that: “Ukrainians have lost a friend and magnanimous protector,” and a “special benefactor.” Indeed, the same understanding and support for Ukraine was never again to be seen in the Vatican corridors, up to the present day.


Non omnia praetera vulgata hac de re sunt: multa tabulariis sunt, quae cum proferentur, nimium quantum Benedicti sapientiam, iustitiam, constantiam, caritetem illustrabunt.  
—Laudatio Benedicti XV P.M. habita in Aede Xystina (February 1922)