Tuesday, August 30, 2016

ADSS 1.202 Pius XII to Nieuwenhuys: Belgian Ambassador's Presentation of Credentials

ADSS 1.202 Pope Pius XII to Adrien Nieuwenhuys, Ambassador of Belgium to the Holy See

Reference: AAS 31 (1939), pp367-69; Discorsi e radiomessagi I, pp311-13.

Location and date: Castel Gandolfo, 14.09.1939

Summary statement: Nieuwenhuys presented his credentials as Amb Belgium. Pope expresses his sorrow at the outbreak of war; recalls efforts for peace made by Leopold III; Pope will continue to work for peace; recalls Allied declaration on respect for the laws of nations.

Language: French


Your Excellency,
It is a great satisfaction for us to receive from your hands the Letters whereby His Majesty the King of the Belgians accredits Your Excellency to the Holy See as his Ambassador Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary. (1) We find in these Letters a renewed expression of the special interest, which your August Sovereign attaches to the maintenance of the close, and trusting relations which happily unite the Belgian Nation to this Apostolic See and which redound to the advantage of both Church and State.  The words with which Your Excellency has accompanied this solemn act are a guarantee to Us (We fully expected it, but are nevertheless moved by it) that the lofty intentions of His Majesty will find in you the fullest and most faithful reflection.  In return, Your Excellency may be assured that We, who for many years now have had the opportunity of knowing and appreciating your fine qualities of mind and heart, shall willingly give you all Our support in the accomplishment of the high task entrusted to you.

The beginning of this mission coincides with a time of tragic tension which fills Our heart with profound sadness.  The anguish and terror felt by the rank and file of nations ever since the last world war are once again a reality – the reality of unparalleled catastrophe!  For this new war, which is already shaking the foundations of Europe and particularly those of a Catholic Nation, makes it impossible to estimate the carnage it portends or what will be its extent and subsequent complications.  Your Excellency has good reason to recall the efforts made by your Sovereign up to the last minute, to save the peace and to preserve the peoples of Europe from the gravest of calamities.  But who could be more ardently predisposed to assist these generous attempts than the common Father of Christendom?  Placed by the duties of Our apostolic ministry above individual conflicts, and concerned, in Our paternal solicitude, for the true welfare of all peoples. We see with deep sorrow the disaster daily approaching which, as an ineluctable consequence, would follow the abandonment of the principle of negotiations for a resort to military force.  Needless to say, We have foreseen such a calamity right form the first day of Our Pontificate; right up until the supreme moment preceding the outbreak of hostilities, We omitted nothing within Our power – either by prayers and public exhortations, or by confidential, reiterated and definite steps – to enlighten people’s minds on the gravity of the danger and to induce them to rust in peaceful negotiations, fro the starting-points of justice and love – justice rendered to the weakest no less than to the strongest; and love free from selfishness so that the safeguard of individual rights should not degenerate in forgetfulness, negation or positive violation of other peoples’ rights.

Today, unfortunately, the roar of guns, the tumult of the fighting forces and the rapid extension of the war are about to drown all other sounds.  The hostilities which have already begun in some places with terrifying effects, seem at present to be barring the way to the champions of peace who, only yesterday, might still have shown mutual good will.  In the present state of things, We raise our prayers to God, who holds in His hand the hearts of men, in order that He many shorten the days of trial and open to the peoples, threaten with unspeakable sufferings, new roads towards peace, before the fire now raging turns into a universal conflagration.

As Vicar, however unworthy, of one who came on earth as the Prince of Peace, sustained meanwhile by the prayers of the faithful and comforted by the deep-seated conviction of having with Us countless persons of good will, We shall not cease to avail Ourself of any opportunity which may arise to forward them with all Our power.  Above all, Our task will be to lead the peoples, now divided against each other, to the conclusion of a peace honourable for all concerned, in accordance with human and Christian conscience, a peace which will protect the vital rights of the individual and safeguard the security and tranquillity of the Nations.  We shall also strive, while it is still possible, at least to heal the terrible wounds, which have already been inflicted, or those that will be inflicted in the future.

In this connection, We would recall certain declarations made by the belligerent Powers at the outbreak of the hostilities, whereby they publically affirmed their desire to observe laws of humanity in the conduct of the war and to conform to the stipulations of international agreements.  We therefore hope in a special way that the civilian populations will be preserved from any direct military operation; that, in the occupied territories, the life, property, honour and religious sentiments of the inhabitants will be respected; that prisoners of war will be treated humanely and be able to receive without obstacles the comforts of religion; and that the use of toxic and asphyxiating gases will be banned.

In a people which has given to the Church such admirable heroes of Christian charity, We feel sure that Our appeal for the peace of Christ, for justice and charity in international relations, will always find ready support.  Prompted by this consoling confidence, we invoke God’s almighty protection on His Majesty the King and on all the Royal Family; on the Government and on the Belgian Nation; as We implore in particular the divine blessings on Your Excellency, that they may be with you in the course of your mission.


(1) Adrien Nieuwenhys (1877-1952), Ambassador of Belgium to the Holy See 1939-46. In his address to the Pope, Nieuwenhuys recalled King Leopold’s efforts for peace. L’Osservatore Romano 15.09.1939.

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