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The Pope who Emptied the Vatican Treasury – 1922

The Pope who Emptied the Vatican Treasury – 1922

Pope Benedict XV gave humanitarian aid for victims of World War I. Doing that, he almost completely depleted the Vatican Treasury (upon his death, only $19,000 remained within).

Pope Benedict XV died on this day in 1922. Born in Genoa as Giacomo Paolo Giovanni Battista della Chiesa, he was a son of Marchese Giuseppe della Chiesa. His father did not allow him to study theology, so he had to finish law school. However, he later convinced his father to grant him permission to study theology and became a priest.

Interestingly, Benedict XV was a cardinal for only three months before he was elected Pope. The conclave took place in the first months of the World War I, so the new Pope was, from the start, engaged in stopping the war, which he termed “the suicide of Europe”. He was a peacemaker and wished the war to be over by Christmas in 1914. But the other statesmen ignored his actions. The Protestants ignored a peace initiative from a Pope, and among Catholic statesmen, the French politician Clemenceau saw his initiative as anti-French.

When his peace efforts failed, the Pope turned to providing humanitarian help for war victims. Doing that, he almost completely depleted the Vatican Treasury (upon his death, only $19,000 remained within). Pope Benedict XVI stated that he chose the name Benedict, among other things, after Benedict XV, because he admired his actions while attempting to achieve peace during wartime.

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