LETTER OF HIS HOLINESS PIUS XII
TO THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, FRANKLIN DELANO ROOSEVELT
ON THE OCCASION OF THE NOMINATION
OF AN EXTRAORDINARY AMBASSADOR TO THE HOLY SEE *
The memorable message that Your Excellency was pleased to have forwarded to Us on the eve of the Holy Feast of Christmas has brightened with a ray of consolation, of hope and confidence, the suffering, the heart-rending fear and the bitterness of the peoples caught up in the vortex of war. For this all right-minded men have paid you the spontaneous tribute of their sincere gratitude.
We have been deeply moved by the noble thought contained in your note, in which the spirit of Christmas and the desire to see it applied to the great human problems have found such eloquent expression; and fully persuaded of its extraordinary importance We lost no time in communicating it to the distinguished gathering present that very morning in the Consistorial Hall of this Apostolic Vatican Palace, solemnly expressing before the world, Catholic and non-Catholic alike, Our appreciation of this courageous document, inspired by a far-seeing statesmanship and a profound human sympathy.
We have been particularly impressed by one characteristic feature of Your Excellency’s message: the vital, spiritual contact with the thoughts and the feelings, the hopes and the aspirations of the masses of the people, of those classes, namely, on whom more than others, and in a measure never felt before, weighs the burden of sorrow and sacrifice imposed by the present restless and tempestuous hour. Also for this reason none perhaps better than We can understand the meaning, the revealing power and the warmth of feeling manifest in this act of Your Excellency. In fact Our own daily experience tells Us of the deep-seated yearning for peace that fills the hearts of the common people. In the measure that the war with its direct and indirect repercussions spreads; and the more economic, social and family life is forcibly wrenched from its normal bases by the continuation of the war, and is forced along the way of sacrifice and every kind of privation, the bitter need of which is not always plain to all; so much the more intense is the longing for peace that pervades the hearts of men and their determination to find and to apply the means that lead to peace.
When that day dawns – and We would like to hope that it is not too far distant – on which the roar of battle will lapse into silence and there will arise the possibility of establishing a true and sound peace dictated by the principles of justice and equity, only he will be able to discern the path that should be followed who unites with high political power a clear understanding of the voice of humanity along with a sincere reverence for the divine precepts of life as found in the Gospel of Christ. Only men of such moral stature will be able to create the peace, that will compensate for the incalculable sacrifices of this war and clear the way for a comity of nations, fair to all, efficacious and sustained by mutual confidence.
We are fully aware of how stubborn the obstacles are that stand in the way of attaining this goal, and how they become daily more difficult to surmount. And if the friends of peace do not wish their labors to be in vain, they should visualize distinctly the seriousness of these obstacles, and the consequently slight probability of immediate success so long as the present state of the opposing forces remains essentially unchanged.
As Vicar on earth of the Prince of Peace, from the first days of Our Pontificate We have dedicated Our efforts and Our solicitude to the purpose of maintaining peace, and afterwards of re-establishing it. Heedless of momentary lack of success and of the difficulties involved, We are continuing to follow along the path marked out for Us by Our Apostolic mission. As We walk this path, often rough and thorny, the echo which reaches Us from countless souls, both within and outside the Church together with the consciousness of duty done, is for Us abundant and consoling reward.
And now that in this hour of world-wide pain and misgiving the Chief Magistrate of the great North American Federation, under the spell of the Holy Night of Christmas, should have taken such a prominent place in the vanguard of those who would promote peace and generously succor the victims of the war, bespeaks a providential help, which We acknowledge with grateful joy and increased confidence. It is an exemplary act of fraternal and hearty solidarity between the New and the Old World in defence against the chilling breath of aggressive and deadly godless and anti-Christian tendencies, that threaten to dry up the fountain head, whence civilization has come and drawn its strength.
In such circumstances We shall find a special satisfaction, as We have already informed Your Excellency, in receiving with all the honor due to his well-known qualifications and to the dignity of his important mission, the representative who is to be sent to Us as the faithful interpreter of your mind regarding the procuring of peace and the alleviation of sufferings consequent upon the war.
Recalling with keen joy the pleasant memories left Us after Our unforgettable visit to your great nation, and living over again the sincere pleasure that personal acquaintance with Your Excellency brought Us, We express in turn Our hearty good wishes, with a most fervent prayer for the prosperity of Your Excellency and of all the people of the United States.
*Actes et Documents du Saint-Siège relatifs à la seconde guerre mondiale, vol. 1 p.365-367.
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