During October of 1938, Rev. Joseph A. McDonald, my grand uncle, directed a month-long campaign of prayer for peace. This was in repsonse to a request made of all Catholics by Pope Pius XI. I included the front page headline to provide some context of what was happening in the world in the years preceding World War II. This edition of the Pottstown Mercury (Pottstown, Pennsylvani) dates from October 1, 1938.
I know hardly anything about Pius XI. I did a little research and came across this book review from the Washington Post:
“Peter Eisner, a former reporter and editor at The Washington Post, believes that Pius XI deserves better from history. He reminds us that during the 1930s this pontiff became an increasingly powerful — and often lonely — voice against the pretensions of Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini and the claims of their Nazi and fascist regimes. In a series of encyclicals, speeches, letters and audiences, Pius XI attacked racialism, militarism and the cults of the leader and the state as incompatible with Christian principles and dangerous to religion, human justice and world peace.
“The pope’s criticisms reached a crescendo in 1938 — the year of Anschluss, Kristallnacht, the Munich Agreement and Italy’s anti-Semitic ‘Manifesto on Race’ — when Pius planned two major initiatives. The first was an encyclical against racism in general and anti-Semitism in particular. The second was an address to a convocation of Italian bishops planned for Feb. 11, 1939, the 10th anniversary of the Lateran Accords, which regularized relations between the Italian state and the Catholic Church. Pius intended to use his speech to accuse Mussolini’s regime of systematically violating its commitments and responsibilities under the accords.”
From a review of “The Pope’s Last Crusade: How an American Jesuit Helped Pope Pius XI’s Campaign to Stop Hitler” by Peter Eisner. Reviewed by David Alvarez. The Washington Post, May 31, 2013.