Benedict was known as the pope of missions as he urged bishops to work for the formation of a native clergy and to seek the welfare of the native people rather than the imperialist interests of their own countries. In 1920 he issued an encyclical on peace and reconciliation. He continued to give financially and over eighty million lire were used for peasants and victims of famine in Russia. It is the duty of every person to run to help another human being who is in danger of death, he said.
His ability to go beyond ideologies in the spirit of the Gospel stands as a living legacy to the good will and loving heart of this pope.
In St. Peter’s Basilica, in addition to the tomb of Benedict XV, there is an unusually moving monument. It depicts Benedict kneeling in front of a bronze relief of the Madonna and Child holding an olive branch in his hand over a world gone up in flames. Benedict wears only a short cape, the mazzetta, rather than the more formal pluvial; nor is it a tiara on his head but a simple zuchetto. He has sunk to his knees in prayer for suffering humanity. His features are careworn, but benevolent. He is kneeling over a casket of a fallen soldier. The sculptor’s aim was to express the pope’s indefatigable efforts to restore peace and provide humanitarian relief during the First World War. (The description of the monument is taken from St. Peter and the Vatican, The Legacy of the Popes
Benedict died of complications from pneumonia on January 22, 1922. He is the least remembered pope of the twentieth century.
In 2005, Benedict XVI recognized the significance of his long-ago predecessor’s commitment to peace by taking his name.
Items belonging to or associated with Pope Benedict XV are on Papal Artifacts/Benedict XV, and his biography, the monument to which we refer, his tomb in St. Peter’s Basilica, his coat of arms and a YouTube are featured on Papal History/Benedict XV.
Papal Artifacts remembers in gratitude the gift of his life to our Church. Requiescat in pace, Holy Father.