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Open Access “Russia’s Misfortune Offers Humanitarians a Splendid Opportunity”*: Jesuits, Communism, and the Russian Famine

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“Russia’s Misfortune Offers Humanitarians a Splendid Opportunity”*: Jesuits, Communism, and the Russian Famine

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Using archival documentation, this article discusses the beginning of the first grand international aid mission of the Catholic Church (1922–23), undertaken to assist the starving children of Bolshevik Russia. Under the auspices of the American Relief Administration (ARA), the Papal Relief Mission to Russia fed approximately 158,000 persons a day. The pivotal figure between American Catholics and the Roman Curia, and subsequently between the Vatican and the Bolsheviks, was Edmund Aloysius Walsh, S.J., founder of the first US school of diplomacy, at Georgetown University. Walsh served as papal emissary in charge of this mission, which, among other duties, entailed liaising with the ARA, keeping the Vatican informed, and negotiating with the Bolsheviks regarding the church’s position within a communist society. Walsh’s experience provides a firsthand view of the “Bolshevik world” and insight into the manner in which the Bolshevik Revolution was understood by the Vatican. The actions of the protagonists (Włodzimierz Ledóchowski, Jesuit superior general; Pietro Cardinal Gasparri, Vatican secretary of state; Mgr. Giuseppe Pizzardo, Vatican substitute secretary of state; Col. William Haskell, director of the ARA’s Russian Relief Program; Mgr. Lorenzo Lauri, apostolic nuncio to Poland; and Walsh), are revealed through their own words, which show the difficulties encountered within both the Christian and Bolshevik spheres and clarify that common objectives were often shared only in appearance. Notwithstanding the good will that the mission’s success earned for the Vatican, the attempt to establish diplomatic relations was destined to fail, due in large part to the events narrated herein.

Affiliations: 1: Georgetown University mpt23@georgetown.edu

Using archival documentation, this article discusses the beginning of the first grand international aid mission of the Catholic Church (1922–23), undertaken to assist the starving children of Bolshevik Russia. Under the auspices of the American Relief Administration (ARA), the Papal Relief Mission to Russia fed approximately 158,000 persons a day. The pivotal figure between American Catholics and the Roman Curia, and subsequently between the Vatican and the Bolsheviks, was Edmund Aloysius Walsh, S.J., founder of the first US school of diplomacy, at Georgetown University. Walsh served as papal emissary in charge of this mission, which, among other duties, entailed liaising with the ARA, keeping the Vatican informed, and negotiating with the Bolsheviks regarding the church’s position within a communist society. Walsh’s experience provides a firsthand view of the “Bolshevik world” and insight into the manner in which the Bolshevik Revolution was understood by the Vatican. The actions of the protagonists (Włodzimierz Ledóchowski, Jesuit superior general; Pietro Cardinal Gasparri, Vatican secretary of state; Mgr. Giuseppe Pizzardo, Vatican substitute secretary of state; Col. William Haskell, director of the ARA’s Russian Relief Program; Mgr. Lorenzo Lauri, apostolic nuncio to Poland; and Walsh), are revealed through their own words, which show the difficulties encountered within both the Christian and Bolshevik spheres and clarify that common objectives were often shared only in appearance. Notwithstanding the good will that the mission’s success earned for the Vatican, the attempt to establish diplomatic relations was destined to fail, due in large part to the events narrated herein.

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/content/journals/10.1163/22141332-00501005
2018-12-21
2018-09-19

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