General and Miscellaneous -- Papal Diplomacy in the Modern Age Edited by Peter C. Kent and John F. Pollard

By Alvarez, David | The Catholic Historical Review, October 1995 | Go to article overview
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General and Miscellaneous -- Papal Diplomacy in the Modern Age Edited by Peter C. Kent and John F. Pollard


Alvarez, David, The Catholic Historical Review


Papal Diplomacy in the Modern Age. Edited by Peter C. Kent and John F. Pollard. (Westport, Connecticut: Praeger Publishers. 1994. Pp. xiv, 288. $59.95.)

The nineteen essays in this volume were originally presented at a symposium, "The Holy See in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries," held at the University of New Brunswick in 1991. In their introduction the editors assert that modern papal diplomacy is unique because the Holy See is unlike other international actors in its organization, objectives, and methods. While the subsequent essays vary in the degree to which they develop of even address this thesis, they provide a useful if necessarily episodic, survey of the Vatican's place in the diplomatic history of the first two centuries. The contributions range chronologically from the Congress of Vienna to the fall of the Berlin Wall and geographically from North America to Southeast Asia by way of Nicaragua, Ireland, Germany, Italy, Yugoslavia, Israel, and Lebanon. Some of the ground has been plowed before, but several essays explore new territory. In separate papers Roberto Perin and Phyllis Leblanc consider the way in which issues of language and ethnicity drew the Holy See into Canadian affairs at the turn of the century. John Conway offers several thoughtful insights into the contentious debate over the Vatican's response to Nazi Germany and the Holocaust. Describing Pope Paul VI's futile efforts to mediate the Vietnam War, Roy Palmer Domenico demonstrates that the war marked a significant reappraisal by the Vatican of its tacit alliance with the United States against communism. Finally, the late Peter Hebblethwaite provides an interesting appreciation of the Holy See's role in post-Ostpolitik Europe.

The scope of any collection such as this is necessarily Limited by the research interests of the contributors, and the editors certainly make no claim for comprehensive coverage of their subject. Still, given the title of the work a reader might be surprised by certain omissions. The twenty-five-year pontificate of Leo XIII is represented only by the above mentioned papers on ecclesiastical affairs in Canada. One might expect greater interest in a pontificate which sought to reclaim for the Papacy a significant role in international affairs and whose engagement in such areas as the Caroline Islands dispute, the Spanish-American War, the First Hague Peace Conference, and the French ralliement represented the Papacy's most ambitious diplomatic agenda in more than a century. The treatment of papal diplomacy during World War I as little more than an introduction to the diplomacy of the 1920's is curious, especially since historians have hardly begun to mine the riches of the wartime files of the Secretariat of State and the Congregation for Extraordinary Ecclesiastical Affairs which are now entirely open for study.

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