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INDEPTH: THE POPE
Popes of the 20th century
CBC News Online | April 2005


Leo XIII. (CP Photo)
Leo XIII
Feb. 20, 1878-July 20, 1903

Gioacchino Pecci was born in 1810 and ordained in 1837. He succeeded Pius IX and quickly moved to bring the Roman Catholic Church into modern times. He was the first pope to criticize both capitalism and socialism as contrary to Christianity. He also opened the Vatican's secret archives to all scholars


Pius X. (CP Photo)
Pius X
Aug. 4, 1903-Aug. 20, 1914

Giuseppe Sarto was born in 1835 and ordained in 1858. As pope, Pius X condemned modernism – a movement that tried to reconcile historical Christianity with modern science and philosophy. He called modernism the synthesis of all heresies. Pius X was venerated for his work with the poor. He was canonized in 1954 by Pius XII.


Benedict XV
Benedict XV
Sept. 3, 1914-Jan. 22, 1922

Giacomo della Chiesa was named cardinal two months before his election as pope. During the First World War his policy was to remain neutral, earning him the respect of all sides. He founded the Vatican service for prisoners of war.


Pius XI. (CP Photo)
Pius XI
Feb. 6, 1922-Feb. 10, 1939

Achille Ratti was ordained in 1879. He was named Archbishop of Milan and cardinal in 1921. As Pope, he clashed with Italian dictator Benito Mussolini by decreeing that it was not possible to be a fascist and a Catholic.

He spoke out continually against nationalism, racism and totalitarianism, and their menace to human dignity. He denounced anti-Semitism. Pius XI also established Vatican Radio.


Pius XII. (CP Photo)
Pius XII
March 2, 1939-Oct. 9, 1958

Eugenio Pacelli was ordained a priest in 1899 and went to work in the Vatican Secretariat of State. He had a long career as a Vatican diplomat before he was elected Pope in the months before the beginning of the Second World War. During the war, he argued the Vatican could help achieve peace by maintaining formal relations with all sides. Later, he was heavily criticized for not speaking out against the Nazi persecution of Jews. He was also accused of not doing enough to protect Italy's Jewish population.

After the war, Pius XII responded to the persecution of the church in communist countries by excommunicating the political leaders of Yugoslavia, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Romania and Poland. He also excommunicated Italians who joined the Communist party.

In 1999, Pope John Paul II named Pius XII "venerable," a major step on the way to sainthood.


John XXIII. (CP Photo)
John XXIII
Oct. 28, 1958-June 3, 1963

Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli was ordained a priest in 1904. In 1953, he was named a cardinal and Archbishop of Venice. As Pope, he actively promoted social reforms for workers, the poor and orphans. He also forbade Roman Catholics from voting for parties that supported communism. John XXIII pushed for co-operation with other religions. He met with several Protestant leaders as well as the head of the Greek Orthodox Church and a Shinto high priest.

He convened the Second Vatican Council on Oct. 11, 1962. It was designed to spiritually renew the church and examine its position in the modern world. The council lasted three years.


Paul VI. (CP Photo)
Paul VI
June 21, 1963-Aug. 6, 1978

Giovanni Battista Montini was ordained in 1920 and entered the Vatican Secretariat of State two years later. He worked there for 32 years before being named a cardinal and Archbishop of Milan.

Shortly after he was elected Pope, he reconvened the Second Vatican Council and supervised the carrying out of many reforms. In 1964, Paul VI became the first Pope in 150 years to leave Italy when he made a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. He made several other trips including to India, the United States, Africa and Southeast Asia.

Under his papacy, relations between the Vatican and the communist world improved as he met with the leaders of several communist countries in Rome.


John Paul I. (CP Photo)
John Paul I
Aug. 26-Sept. 28, 1978

Albino Luciani was born into a poor, working-class family in 1912. He was patriarch of Venice between 1969 and 1978, and was made a cardinal in 1973. His papacy is the shortest on record. He died of a heart attack 33 days after his election. He eliminated the traditional, elaborate papal coronation and opted for a simpler ceremony.


John Paul II. (CP Photo)
John Paul II
Oct. 16, 1978-April 2, 2005

Karol Jozef Wojtyla was the first non-Italian pope in more than 450 years and the first Slav elected to lead the Roman Catholic Church.

No other pope travelled to so many countries and preached to so many people.




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