Eighty years ago, a Pope is elected at lightning speed

Cardinal Pacelli was elected as Pope taking the title Pius XII. He was a well-entrenched Vatican bureaucrat from a family with a long tradition of serving the Catholic Church’s bureaucracy and enjoyed immense support in the College of Cardinals. His election was astonishingly rapid and involved only three ballots in the space of a single day. As former Papal Nuncio to Germany he was already familiar with the difficulty of dealing with Hitler. His performance as Pope during the second world war has attracted great criticism, much of which was unfounded and biased. He was certainly wedded to highly conservative theological doctrines, notably enthusiastic endorsement of Papal infallibility, but he was by no means a supporter of Nazism. The debate has died down but my well flare up again if the process of canonising Pius XII makes further progress.

There was to be one final twist to the story of the Spanish Republic before it vanished into oblivion. A group of politicians on the right wing of the Socialist PSOE and military officers deposed the prime minister Juan Negrin, who governed by the grace and largely under the influence of the Communist Party (PCE), which had suppressed the Republic’s anarchist trouble-makers. The putschists wanted to put an end to an increasingly futile resistance and to seek terms for surrender from Franco. Armed resistance by the PCE was defeated by the military in another outburst of the fratricidal violence that had blighted the Republic.

After five years break Gandhi once again began a fast or hunger strike. It was a small register of how the much-contested Government of India Act of 1935 had failed to meet the grievances of the Indian people. The cause was relatively trivial and did not directly target the British raj. Gandhi was protesting against the allegation by Thakor Saheb, the princely ruler of Rajkot, that he had broken a promise to restrict his visit to Rajkot to the investigation of supposed attrocities and to avoid direct political action. The Viceroy swung into action and defused the crisis with a promise that India’s chief justice would investigate which was enough for Gandhi to break his fast.

Long-standing readers of this blog may remember that three years ago it featured the government’s futile attempts to deal with the menace of bogus clubs operating to frustrate Britain’s constrictive laws on selling alcohol https://tinyurl.com/yyrdrwcy. They will be delighted to be informed that three years later the struggle continued and the Home Secretary Sir John Simon was no nearer to fulfilling his pledge in 1936 that legislation would be introduced "to deal with the evils of bogus clubs." A private member's bill had just been defeated in the House of Lords taking the reform movement almost back to square one. One part of the bill had come in for severe criticsm. The Archbishop of Canterbury no less had spoken of "the ignominy placed upon members of the police forces in being compelled to find means of entry to many of these most undesirable clubs." It was a view shared by the police themselves but with rather more practical than ethical considerations in mind.


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