“The Betrothed”, Alessandro Manzoni and Pope Pius XI

After recently discovering some previously-unknown-to-me, trustworthy reports about the generous diplomatic and priestly sacramental presence of the future Pope Pius XI (Monsignor Achille Ratti) in Poland towards the end of World War I and during the gravely consequential Battle of Warsaw in the summer of 1920 against the invading Bolsheviks from the east, I also then gratefully discovered a 1937 book entitled Pius the Eleventh, written by an English scholar who was also a Catholic priest, named Philip Hughes.

Father Hughes’ book on the Pope (who was elected on 6 February of 1922) also covers Pius XI’s earlier formative influences, as well as his major Papal Letters and Encyclicals, but only up to Divini Redemptoris (promulgated 19 March 1937 — during and concerning, in part, the Spanish Civil War, which had begun on 17 July 1936). Pius XI was to die on 10 February 1939, when General Franco’s forces were near winning and thus shortly before the formal end of the Spanish Civil War which is usually dated to be on 1 April 1939. Thus, as we may see, Father Hughes’ book, which was especially concentrated on “the fundamental policy of Pius XI,” was published while the Pope himself was still living, and yet almost two years before the September 1939 outbreak of World War II with the German and Soviet attacks on Poland. In other words, the World War commenced only shortly after the already ruinous 1936-1939 “Spanish Rehearsal” (in the perceptive words of Sir Arnold Lunn).

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