Sunday, June 28, 2015

ADSS 1.51 Godfrey to Maglione: prayers for peace at Walsingham

Volume and Document Number: 1.51 William Godfrey, Ap Del UK to Luigi Maglione, Sec State.

Reference: Report 95/29 (AES 3462/39)

Location and date: London, 25.05.1939

Summary statement: Details of a pilgrimage to Walsingham and prayers for peace.  The Archbishop of Canterbury states that the Pope could not call a Conference but could order prayers for peace.

Language: Italian


I hasten to send to your Eminence some details regarding the participation of Great Britain in the crusade of prayers for peace called by the Holy Father. (1)

According to the instructions received from your Eminence this Apostolic Delegation wrote to all Bishops and Superiors of Religious Orders to call all the faithful to prayers according to the Holy Father’s wish.  The Bishops explained with noble words the initiative of the Pope who, as Representative of the Prince of Peace, has no other wish than that peace should reign amongst the nations.

In all churches during this beautiful month of May great multitudes have gathered around the altars to invoke the gift of peace.  The children, especially, have take a prominent place in the prayers as the Bishops have told them that the Pope trusted more in them than in men’s ability.

Pilgrimage to Walsingham.

The volume of prayers for peace rose to its greatest height with the pilgrimage on Sunday (2) to Our Lady of Walsingham.

This is the most famous sanctuary in England dedicated to the glory of Mary, Mother of God, it symbolises, one can say, the history of the Church.  Built with the fervent piety of past generations, the kings of England vied with their humblest subjects to increase its splendour, and its fame spread over all Europe.  The fury of the Reformation diminished but did not extinguish the flame.  After regaining its freedom, the Church re-established the Walsingham Sanctuary, and there, near the ruins of its past splendour the cult of Mary sprang to new life.  Now more than forty thousand pilgrims a year visit the shrine.

Interpreting the Holy Father’s intentions, the Catholic newspaper Catholic Herald launched the idea of a national pilgrimage.  Last Sunday the small town of Walsingham was invaded by thousands of pilgrims brought there by all means of transport from all over the kingdom.

An enormous procession was formed and proceeded, chanting hymns to the glory of Mary, to the Slipper Chapel, two kilometres outside the town.

The Rev. Scott James, who explained with impassioned words the significance of that national gathering at Mary’s feet to invoke peace, brought the Holy Father’s benediction to the pilgrims.  The pilgrims prayer for a long tine in the sanctuary and the Eucharistic benediction closed a manifestation which will remain memorable.

Statement of the Archbishop of Canterbury.

In the Upper House (of the Convocation of Canterbury) yesterday, the Archbishop of Canterbury made a few statements regarding the call to prayers. (3)

He repeated the difficulties, which arise when a common action of the Christian Churches is promoted.  Regarding the Pope’s proposal for a Christian Conference to be held he said: “It would not be courteous or useful to invite the Pope to call such a conference, when one is sure that it would be impossible for him to accept.”  He concluded buy saying that the only ground upon which it was possible to obtain unity was that of prayer, the importance of which he exalted.

A discordant note was introduced buy the Bishop of Birmingham, Dr Barnes (4), who again voiced the usual criticism of the Holy See’s attitude during the Ethiopian and Spanish wars, and during the occupation of Albania.  He ended by protesting even against the use of the title of “His Holiness” in addressing the Pope. (5)

The Archbishop of Canterbury, with great good sense, reacted against his Birmingham colleague, although adding that a difference must be made between prayer and politics.

All of this I have felt it my duty to communicate to your Eminence.

(1) See ADSS 1.15.
(2) Sunday 21.05.1939.  Walsingham was the premier English Marian pilgrimage site prior to the destruction of the sanctuary during the 1530s.  Pilgrimages were restored in 1897.  See also The Tablet, 27.05.1939, p28.  This was last major pilgrimage before the war.  Walsingham lay in a restricted zone during the war years.  American servicemen organised the first Catholic Mass since the Reformation in the grounds of the former Augustinian Priory on 17,05,1945.
(3) William Cosmo Lang (1864-1945), Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury 1929-42.  The Archbishop’s statement was enclosed.  It was a cutting from The Times of 24.05.1939 “Dangerous Drift. Primate on tension in Europe.”
(4) Ernest Barnes (1874-1953), Anglican bishop of Birmingham 1924-53.

(5) Cuttings from The Daily Telegraph and Morning Post, Monday 25.05.1939, contained a report of the speech of the Bishop of Birmingham in the Upper House of the Convocation of Canterbury.  The bishop criticised Pius XI and Pius XII for not having protested against the war Ethiopia and against the attack in Albania.  The Bishop also criticised the title of His Holiness used by the Archbishop of Canterbury: “No man is holy although some men may be gracious”.

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