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Allocution of Benedict XV to the Roman Patriciate and Nobility





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In the recent commemoration of the Birth of Jesus Christ, Our Faith resounded once again the celestial chant of the Angels, who praised God and Peace. From that felicitous day, the voices of congratulations and affection of Our distant sons didn't cease to resound next to Us like a harmonious concert and much more the close ones wanted to bring to the humble person of He in whom, in the same way as they acknowledge as perpetuated the mission of Christ, they also desire to continue his promises and benefits.

But just like, after the pleasure of a concert, one appreciates and tastes even more the voice of the one who repeats and develops alone the notes of the choir, thus, after the vows that made Us happy in the recent Christmas tide, the well known voice of the Roman Patriciate and Nobility turns to Us, always more grateful, modulated by Thee, lord Prince, with traditional marks of Faith and warmth in the noble Houses of Rome.

Thou qualifiest as sad and grave the years that closed and those to open; but, once that, exactly in face of this aspect of so much sadness, thou invokest the consolation and aid of Heaven for the afflicted course of Our Pontificate, We thank thee, lord Prince.  Likewise We thank all the Patriciates and Nobles of our Rome that came here to associate with thy congratulations or do so from afar because they are impeded to come to this Throne to which their elders remained faithful, just as the members of their stirps remained faithful.

In addition We thank thee for the words that thou (aprouve???) addressest Us as the High Priest, turning a retrospective gaze at the arduous, fought, unrecognized work of the Catholic Church during the most terrible of human cataclysms.  It makes Us happy to note that, while thy act of courtesy was addressed to the Chief]]] of the Catholic Priesthood]], thy eulogy, elevated to the category of a collective manifestation of this noble class, has been beautifully and opportunely addressed to the most direct and faithful interpreters of our sentiments amidst the multitude, We wish to say, to the members of the clergy.

The clergy, most cherished sons, is not an organization of war but of peace; it may only dedicate itself to pacific undertakings, and not works of war.  Nevertheless, its apostolate, even in the midst of the war's terrible blow, opens unto it multiple ways to work well and merit well.

Thus, thou couldest see them in the battle fields comforting the frightened, consoling the dying, accompanying the wounded.  Thou couldest see them receiving the last breaths in the hospitals, cleaning the stains on the souls, alleviating the afflictions of pain, comforting the long and dangerous convalescences, reviving the sense of duty, protecting from the crazy abuses brought by misfortune.  Thou couldest see them in the empty houses of the poor, in the neglected villages, in the midst of discouraged people, amongst multitudes of refugees, sustaining, many times alone and never calling attention, the spirits of those most beaten by necessity, the fate of the widows, the future of the hospitals, the resistance of the masses.  Thou couldest also see them being persecuted, calumniated, exiled, imprisoned, impoverished, killed, as an obscure hero of the great drama, a patient herald of the duty to each side in the conflict, an example of sacrifice, a victim of hatred, a target of envy, an image of the Good Pastor.

Thou couldest see them, oh most cherished sons!...

But, as by the dignified representative of the Roman Patriciate Thou recognizest that "the priest, at the cost of any sacrifice, gave himself up entirely for the good of his neighbor",  We also acknowledge the existence of another priesthood similar to the Church's priesthood: that of nobility.  At the side of Christ's "regale Sacerdotium", thou as well, oh nobles, elevatest thyselves as society's "genus electum"; and thy work was the one that, surpassing all others, assimilated and emulated the work of the clergy.  While the priest assisted, sustained, comforted with words, with examples, with courage, with the promises of Christ, the nobility accomplished also their duty in the scene of battle, in the ambulances, in the cities, in the fields; and fighting, assisting, contributing or dying -- old and young, men and women -- having faith in the traditions of ancestral glories and in the obligations that their condition imposes.

If, therefore, the eulogy made to the priests of the Church make Us pleased due to the labor accomplished in the sorrowful period of the war, it is just that We give due praise likewise to the priesthood of nobility.  One and the other priesthood representative of the Pope, because in a most sad hour they interpreted well His sentiments; however, while We associate to the eulogy that the Roman Patriciate wanted today to proffer to the priests of the Church, We dedicate a similar praise to the work of zeal and of charity accomplished in the same period of war by the most illustrious members of the Roman Patriciate and Nobility.

We want, moreover, to open even more Our dispositions, oh most cherished sons.  The global conflagration seems finally to be in its last flares; and so, the clergy now dedicates itself to works of peace but in accordance with the nature of her mission in the world.  On the contrary, the work of illuminated zeal and effective charity that the nobles wisely undertook during the period of the war will not terminate, not even after the signing of any peace protocol.

And We should say that the priesthood of the nobility, pursuing its benefactions in the time of peace as well, will because of this be looked upon by Us with particular benevolence!  Ah! from the zealous ardor expended in tragic days, it pleases Us to educe the constancy of resolutions which the Roman Patricians and Nobles will continue to fulfill in happier times, the holy undertakings of which the priesthood of nobility nourishes itself.

The Apostle St. Paul admonished the nobles of his time, so that they would be, or would become as their condition required.  Consequently, not satisfied with having told them also that they should show themselves like models in good action, in doctrine, in purity of customs, in gravity, "in omnibus te ipsum praebe exemplum bonorum operum in doctrina, in integritate, in gravitate" (Tim. 2:7), St. Paul considered the nobles more directly when he wrote to his disciple Timothy to admonish the rich "divitibus huius saeculi praecipe", so as to do good and become rich in good works "bene agere, divites fieri in boni operibus" (I Tim. 6:17).

With good reason, one could say in this respect that the Apostle's admonishments befit admirably the nobles of this epoch as well.  Thou also, most cherished sons, hast the obligation to walk before the others with the light of good example "in omnibus te ipsum praebe exemplum bonorum operum."

In all ages the nobles were pressed with the duty to facilitate the teaching of the truth and "in doctrina"; but today, when the confusion of ideas, companion of peoples' revolutions, have lost, in so many places and by so many people, the true notions of Law, Justice and Charity, Religion and Fatherland, the obligation of the noble to strive to return to these peoples' intellectual patrimony these holy notions which should lead us in our daily activity grew even more.  In all ages the nobles were pressed with the duty not to allow any indecent act or word, so that his licentiousness would not be an incentive to vice for his subordinates, "in integritate, in gravitate"; but this duty also, oh! how it became stronger and graver due to the bad customs of our epoch!  Due to this, not only the gentlemen but the ladies as well are obliged to unite themselves in a holy league against the exaggerations and the fashion's lack of composure, repelling and not tolerating in others that which is not admitted by the laws of Christian modesty.

And to attain the application of that which We said St. Paul had recommended, more directly to the nobles of his time, "divitibus huius saeculi, praecipe... bene agere, divites fieri in boni operibus", it is enough for Us that Rome's Patricians and Nobles continue, in the time of peace, to conform themselves to that spirit of charity which they gave good proofs of in the time of war.  The needs of the time in which it carries out its action and the particular conditions of the places can determine several and different forms of charity; but if thou, oh most cherished sons, forgetest not that charity is due also to yesterday's enemy if today it languishes in misery, thou wilt have demonstrated having done thy "bene agere" of St. Paul, thou wilt enrich thyselves of the riches desired by the same Apostle "divites fieri in boni operibus", the sublimity of that which We call "priesthood of the nobility" will continue to be appreciated.

Oh! how it is sweet, how it is suave for Us to contemplate the admirable effects of this well augured continuity.  Thy nobility, then, will not be considered as a useless survival of past times but as yeast reserved for the resurrection of corrupt society: it will be a lighthouse, preserving salt, guide of the erring; it will be immortal not only on this earth, where everything, even the glory of the most illustrious dynasties, withers and decays; but it will be immortal in Heaven where everything lives and is deified with the Author of everything noble and beautiful.

The Apostle St. Paul closes the admonishments to the nobles of his time saying that the treasures acquired through good works would have opened unto them the gates of the Celestial Mansion where one enjoys true life "ut apprehendant veram vitam".  And We, in Our turn, to requite the vows that the Patriciate and Nobility of Rome made Us at the start of the New Year, ask the Lord that he have his blessings descend not only on the members of the illustrious class here present but also on the distant members or on their families so that each one cooperates with the priesthood proper to their class for the elevation, purification, pacification of the world and, doing good for others, secures also for himself access to the kingdom of eternal life: "ut apprehendant veram vitam!" ("L'Osservatore Romano", January 5-6, 1920).


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