September 22, 1917 - Germany and Austria Respond Differently to Papal Peace Note
Pictured - A papal nuncio delivers packages from Pope Benedict XV to Italian POWs. But beyond acts of charity the Vatican did not affect the Great War.
Pope Benedict XV had written a letter to the warring powers in August asking them again to consider peace negotiations. Like Woodrow Wilson and the European pacifist movement, the Pope’s attempt to stop the war did not get far.
It, did, however, reveal the growing rift between Austria-Hungary and Germany in their enthusiasm for the war. The two principal Central Powers sent their replies to the Vatican on September 22, with starkly different wording. The Dual Monarchy’s young and devout new emperor, Karl I, responded thoughtfully: “Guided by a spirit of moderation and consideration, we see in the proposals of your Holiness a suitable basis for initiating negotiations with a view to preparing a peace, just to all and lasting, and we earnestly hope our present enemies may be animated by the same ideals.”
The Germans rejected any negotiations outright, on the other hand. Many Germans were not in the mood to negotiate, and there were even calls for harsher demands on the Entente powers. No Allied power supported the peace negotiations either. Both British and French leaders had affirmed their commitment to fighting until Germany was defeated, and even Wilson now believed Germany had to be beaten, to “deliver the free peoples of the world from the menace and the actual
power of a vast military establishment controlled by an irresponsible