Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

The Holy See and the Emergence of the Modern Middle East: Benedict XV's Diplomacy in Greater Syria (1914-1922)

Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

The Holy See and the Emergence of the Modern Middle East: Benedict XV's Diplomacy in Greater Syria (1914-1922)

Article excerpt

LATE MODERN EUROPEAN

The Holy See and the Emergence of the Modern Middle East: Benedict XT's Diplomacy in Greater Syria (1914-1922). By Agnes de Dreuzy. (Washington, D.C.: The Catholic University of America Press. 2016. Pp. xiv, 303. $69.95. ISBN 970-0-8132-2849-5.)

The pontificate of Benedict XV has been often studied through the lenses of Vatican diplomacy deployed throughout the years of World War I with a particular focus on Europe. Agnes de Dreuzy has shifted the attention to the Middle East, presenting a work on a topic rarely discussed and proposing a positive view of Pope Benedict XV, but, more importantly, showing the agency of Catholic institutions in the Middle East. The Holy See and the Emergence of the Modern Middle East is organized in two main parts and divided into eight chapters. De Dreuzy has relied on a large body of material coming from the Vatican Archives and other Vatican institutions; if on the one hand this is indeed the real strength of this work, on the other hand the absence of non-Vatican material raises a number of questions about the analytical solidity of the author's arguments.

Geographically confined with the borders of Greater Syria-today's Lebanon, Syria, Palestine-Israel, and Jordan-the first part of the book deals with the Vatican and Catholic interests in the prewar and war times. The first two chapters set the context, discussing Pope Benedict XV and his attempt to stop the war, and Catholics in the Ottoman Empire. In the long chapter dedicated to wartime foreign policy, De Dreuzy suggests that Benedict XV was promoting a stronger union with the local Catholic churches in order to protect Catholic interests in the region. Though this is indeed well proven by the sources used by the author, questions remain unanswered in relation to the reaction of the local churches. While discussing the protection of clergy and properties, the narrative does not offer any hint of the conditions of the local population-a few pages are dedicated to humanitarian assistance, but for the most part this is a debate about the competition between Catholic and Protestant institutions. …

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