By Jeremy Morris
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FROM IMPERIAL WARS TO WARS OF IDEOLOGY 3 The Second World War and its eﬀects When war came the Christian churches were not well prepared for it. The more astute had recognized the dangers back in the mid-930s. But the desire for peace, memories of the horror of the Great War, the international contacts between Protestant churches rebuilt carefully after the Great War by the ﬂedgling ecumenical movement, and above all the experienced fact of Soviet persecution of religion, all persuaded Christians that the German regime would perhaps not turn out as badly as everyone feared.
In these circumstances, nothing church leaders could say or do would have had much eﬀect on events. Even the Vatican was divided over the war, with a strong proGerman and Austrian faction counterbalanced by Italian nationalist suspicions of Austria. Even so the religious eﬀects of the war were considerable. The catastrophe of defeat and social disintegration in Russia led to the collapse of the Tsarist regime in early 97 and then the Bolshevik Revolution in October of that year. This was to pitch the Russian Orthodox Church into a situation of 6 THE CHURCH IN THE MODERN AGE prolonged and savage persecution.
Benedict’s apostolic letter of 99, Maximum Illud, had called for a native priesthood and episcopate in the mission ﬁeld. In 925 Pius celebrated a missionary exhibition in Rome which attracted nearly three-quarters of a million visitors. The following year his encyclical on missions, Rerum Ecclesiae, repeated Benedict’s appeal for a native clergy. The proposal faced formidable obstacles, including the inﬂexibility of the largely Latinate culture of the Catholic Church and hostility among some (especially African) cultures to the practice of celibacy.
The Church in the Modern Age by Jeremy Morris