Vatican Radio: Propagation by the Airwaves

By Marilyn J. Matelski | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 3
The Institutional Message: c. 1550-c. 1939

When Monsignor Achille Ratti, the papal nuncio in Poland, assumed the bishop's miter to succeed Pope Benedict XV in 1922, he took the new name, Pius XI. He also inherited an embattled Church that was amidst one of its most dramatic transitions (both spiritually and in secular matters) since the Counter-Reformation. The Holy See, having been stripped of its papal lands in 1870, was facing even further loss in church membership and clerical loyalty, as well as in overall world respect. The new pontiff would encounter political, social, religious, and technological challenges unknown to his predecessors. Pius XI would, indeed, lead his Church into a very turbulent second millennium.

As discussed in Chapter 1, the Catholic Church in its first millennium had evolved from a small, weak religious cult into an enormous sociopolitical elite. After deeming Emperor Constantine as pontifex maximus in A.D. 325, the papacy became a major legal, political, and economic power in Western society. By the turn of the fifteenth century, papal leaders were among the most influential in the known world, having received "embassies of obedience"1 from many politically authoritative states. These "embassies of obedience" signified more than simple verbal allegiance. Through them, the Church was able to initiate crusades against the Moslems and other heretics, to excommunicate monarchs from such countries as France and England, and to sit in judgment over Spanish and Portuguese jurisdictional disputes in the New World. In fact, Mark Aarons and John Loftus note: "After the bloody Crusades of the Middle Ages, the Popes assumed many of the characteristics of kings. Entire Italian provinces were politically incorporated into the Papal States. Citizens owed allegiance and paid taxes to the Bishop of Rome." 2

However, the temporal powers of the Holy See rapidly declined after Mar

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