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  • Aux Frontières de la Paix: Bons Offices, Médiations, Arbitrages du Saint-Siège (1878–1922)
  • John Pollard
Aux Frontières de la Paix: Bons Offices, Médiations, Arbitrages du Saint-Siège (1878–1922). By Jean-Marc Ticchi. [Collection de l’École Française de Rome, 294.] (Rome: École Française de Rome. 2002. Pp. ix, 483. Paperback.)

This is a study of the development of the papacy's role as arbitrator, mediator, and 'honest broker' in international disputes, in the reigns of Leo XIII (1878-1903), Pius X (1903-1914), and Benedict XV (1914-1922). Most of the disputes in which Vatican diplomacy involved itself were between Latin American nations, but some involved the large and small European powers, and the United States of America.

The study is original because relatively little attention has been focused on this important aspect of the diplomacy of the modern papacy, and it has been carried out with meticulous scholarship, providing the reader with an exhaustive [End Page 332] historiographical contextualization and an elaborate scholarly apparatus, including a complete list of all the disputes in which the papal diplomacy was involved and a full itemization of the archival sources consulted. In this regard it's a pity that there is not a subject as well as a name index.

Ticchi presents Leo XIII's 'active' diplomacy within the context of the ongoing struggle with the Kingdom of Italy over the "Roman Question." A high diplomatic profile certainly was a very effective way of asserting the pope's continued claim to the status of "sovereign pontiff" despite the loss of the Papal States in 1870, and of re-establishing the moral authority of the papacy in the world. He gives us a very detailed examination of Leo's most famous diplomatic intervention, the Spanish-German dispute over the Caroline Islands, mediation in other disputes between Latin American states, and also the Vatican's failed attempts to prevent war between Spain and the United States over Cuba in 1898.

Leo also had his diplomatic failures, and the most notable was the exclusion of the Holy See from the Hague Peace of 1899. Ticchi explores the complex diplomatic negotiations surrounding the organization of the conference, including the extremely duplicitous diplomacy of the Russians when faced by the intransigent refusal of Italy to allow the papacy to participate in a major international gathering for fear that its representative would exploit the occasion to raise the "Roman Question." Ironically, it was the poor Dutch, hosts of the conference, who got the blame for papal exclusion. The Holy See was also to be excluded from the Hague Conference of 1907. In his analysis of the pontificate of Pius X, Ticchi demonstrates that though the diplomacy of Papa Sarto and his secretary of state, Cardinal Rafael Merry del Val, in many ways demonstrates a break with Leonine diplomacy, they continued to regard a peace-making role as normal to the Holy See.

This is a good book, but there is one disappointment. The title defines the period under study very clearly, "1878-1922." Consequently, the reader not unnaturally expects a full examination of papal peace diplomacy during World War I, whereas in fact the important pontificate of Benedict XV is effectively subsumed into the Conclusion. Thus the really crucial mediatory role that Benedict and his secretary of state, Cardinal Pietro Gasparri, both pupils of Rampolla and Leo XIII, sought to play to bring the belligerents to the negotiating table is dealt with in exactly six pages. One understands the author's dilemma; a full examination of wartime papal diplomacy would have required a very much longer work: Would it not have made more sense to restrict the book to the study of the reigns of Leo XIII and Pius X, and then add some remarks about the pontificate of Benedict XV as a postcript?

John Pollard
Trinity Hall, Cambridge


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