Pax Romana and the reconstruction of a United Europe along Christian lines.

Bernard Cook proposed by Kevin Ahern


In 1921, the International Secretariat of the Federations of Catholic Students was established at Fribourg, Switzerland. Its initial focus was war relief and especially material assistance to enable students to resume their studies after World War I. What was originally simply a secretariat developed into a federation, Pax Romana, linking Catholic student groups in different countries? One of the organization’s principal concerns was to foster understanding between Catholic students from different countries. During World War II the organization sought to provide aid for students who were refugees, internees, prisoners-of-war, or displaced persons, and other students who because of the war found themselves in need.


Shortly alter the end of the war in Europe a Pax Romana congress was held in London in August 1945. Dr Francis Aylward, president of the Newman Association of Great Britain, advocated the creation of « an international association of Catholic university graduates, devoted to the problem of international life »’. The congress stressed that, despite its complete loyalty to Catholic doctrine, Pax Romana was a lay organization concerned with contemporary secular affairs. The congress also considered how to deal with the results of the war whose crushing material conditions had produced « the moral distress of isolation and Intellectual disarray ».

Former student members of Pax Romana met at Fribourg in August 1946. They wished to continue their association with their confreres, who were no longer students but professionals, and to retain the name Pax Romana for their organization. A commission, headed by Hubert Aepli, the chancellor of the University of Fribourg, met in January 1947. lt chose Ramon Sugranyes de Franch, a professor of Spanish at the University of Fribourg, as its secretary and formulated the statutes of the new federation.

At Easter in 1947, two assemblies met simultaneously in Rome, the International Movement of Catholic Students (MIEC) and the international Movement of Catholic Intellectuals (MIIC) or, officially, the International Catholic Movement for Intellectual and Cultural Affairs. Though autonomous and linked only by a liaison committee, the groups shared not only similar ideas and ideals but the same name, Pax Romana. Initially twenty national organizations of Catholic intellectuals and professionals federated with MIIC. Within a year the number of affiliated organizations hart grown to thirty in twenty-six countries. By 1957 there were 62 associations in 41 countries. By that time the student movement (MIEC) had member movements in 65 countries.

The aspiration of both movements was to be worldwide without any geographical or cultural chauvinism. Sugranyes de Franch wrote that some national movements were prosperous while others had great need of material assistance. « This », he said, « was one of the reasons for our organization». Fraternal assistance, the exchange of ideas and experiences, the comparing of methods of work and reciprocal encouragement are among the goals – and not the least of those – of our movement » He expressed the particular « affectionate solicitudes » of Pax Romana for the Catholic intellectuals of’ Africa and Asia as their regions moved toward political autonomy « with all of the promises and all of the dangers which that entails »”. Marxism-Leninism was one of the dangers, understood though not specified.

The reconstruction of Europe in the opinion of the pioneers of Pax Romans required a spiritual base if the values of person and community were to prevail. There was concern that « paganism » and « neopaganism, » references to Soviet Marxism and American secularism and liberalism, were threats to spiritual (traditional Catholic) values. Pax Romana hoped that the concerted effort of Catholic intellectuals and professionals would insure that the reconstruction of Europe and the movement toward independence in the colonial world be permeated by the Christian values of the dignity of the individual, the sanctity and autonomy of the family, and the principle of subsidiarity, versus materialist ideologies and the tyranny and omnipotence of the state.

To address a profound concern over the triumphs of science and the absence of a spiritual perspective, Pax Romana called upon Catholic intellectuals to provide a spiritual perspective and a solid and coherent framework of values. Sugraynes de Franch wrote « the religions renovation of the world will not be accomplished without the work of Catholic thought »”. Christian wisdom was in his opinion indispensable if the immense problems facing humanity in the post-World War II era were to be solved. Pax Romana sought to provide the organization through which Catholic intellectuals could unite and project a commonly informed prospective and thus have a transformative impact that would surpass the isolated efforts of individuals. The year of the foundation of MIIC was significant. Monolithic Communist regimes were being created or consolidated in Romania, Bulgaria, Poland, and Hungary. In early 1946, Stalin and Churchill had « issued their declarations of Cold War ». In March 1947, American President presented his Truman Doctrine to the American Congress. Sugranyes de Franch wrote “the euphoria of rediscovered peace was no longer certain in 1947. In our days, as perhaps never before in human history, men are forced to recognize the fragility of their enterprise ».

At its sixth plenary assembly, held in Toronto in 1952, Pax Romana reaffirmed as a fundamental goal « to assure by organized activity the radiating presence of Catholic thought in the world of culture. »`

Accordingly Pax Romana had sought liaison with the United Nations and its specialized agencies such as the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the International Refugee Organization, and the International Labour Organization. An article in the October 1947 issue of Pax Romana expressed reasons for Pax Romana’s interest in achieving consultative status with UNESCO. It argued “Catholics; obviously, cannot afford to […] assume the attitude that because UNESCO is not permeated with a spiritual viewpoint, it ought to be chucked lock, stock and barrel »”. The secularist manifesto of Julien Huxley, the director general of UNESCO, “The Philosophy of UNESCO”, was eliminated from the organization’s 1948 program; and its original program stressed issues of great importance to Catholic intellectuals: the exchange of ideas, freedom of ideas, social betterment, including the raising of standards of living, and the combating of ignorance. Catholics, Pax Romana argued, should […] take advantage of every chance to be present at the meetings and deliberations of any or all of its [the United Nations] subsidiary organs and exert pressure in the light of Catholic ideas whenever possible ». The article continual pointedly since it was published in the official journal of Pax Romana « Catholic international groups have a place of the first importance in pushing this necessary and indispensable defense of the interests of the Church everywhere and always.

Abbé Gremaud, the Pax Romans secretary-general from 1923 up to 1947, wrote that despite the despair and disillusion which followed the war « a new world was in the process of being constructed. Christian intellectuals were called upon to engage a world that was no longer Christian in order to exercise influence and have an impact upon its development. He pointed out key areas where Catholics could have an impact through the promotion of mutual knowledge and understanding, specifically the areas of international security, peace, and living conditions. According to Gremaud it was up to Catholics whether that world would be Christian or not or, at least, influenced by Christianity. « We are, » he wrote, « conscious of the responsibility that all men have with regard to one another, of human solidarity […] The Christian cannot really think of saving his own soul in individualistic and egotistic isolation ». He added that Christians must work together with others collaborating with organizations addressing pressing human concerns. Solidarity and action were especially crucial in the light of the threat of Communism. He wrote « We have to mount, in the face of a compact anti-Christian bloc, an active effort of coordination and unity » , Grimaud agreed with Jacques Maritain that although a search for a common ideology is a chimera and essential compromises are impossible, with great resources of good will practical and concrete goals can be pursued in common. Gremaud continued,

One can come to the possible conclusion that a competent and organized Catholic influence can at least partially change the spirit of an organization, the goals of which to us seem desirable and more easily attainable if influenced by Catholic thought. He warned however that certain organizations seek the presence of Catholic elements solely to mask, under the façade of neutrality, consciously anti-Christian activities.

In November 1947, the two Pax Romana associations made separate applications for consultative status with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations. In May 1948 Lyman C. White, the UN’s chief of the Non-Governmental Organizations, called for the clarification of a number of questions. The UN wished to know why the headquarters of the organizations for Catholic intellectuals of Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, and Ukraine were located in countries different from those indicated by their names. It also asked about the program and activities of the Pax Romana affiliate in Spain”.

The two Pax Romana movements responded separately, in May, that certain organizations had their seats in countries other than that indicated by their name, simply due to the fact that in a certain number of countries all corporate activity is forbidden to Catholics as such »'”. In a questionnaire submitted by Pax Romana to UNESCO in 1952, it indicated that among national federations of MIIC those for Byelorussia, Czechoslovakia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Slovenia and Ukraine were functioning in exile’.

The representatives of the Soviet Union and France raised reservations concerning the granting of consultative status to Pax Romana. In reply, Bernard de Houg, the Secretary-General of MIEC, and Sugranyes de Franch wrote that the national federations of Pax Romana were essentially of a non-political character. » The organizations, they added “were formally prohibited from taking positions of a political nature. Its members did not represent states, but national or cultural groups and, as such, individual members of one of Pax Romana’s constituent organizations could live in any country without ceasing to be a member of a particular cultural group. It was possible for groups affiliated with Pax Romana to set up their central headquarters in any place which the group believed to be most convenient.

De Hooge and Sugranyes de Franch responded to the accusation of the delegate of the Soviet Union that the two Pax Romana organizations had “ties to Francist Spain”, by asserting that their relations with Spain conformed completely with the 28 March 1947 resolution of the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations, which allowed cultural and non-political ties with Spain. The French representative had also called attention to the attitudes of certain Spanish prelates, highly placed in the hierarchy and had asked whether this would affect Pax Romana. De Hooge and Sugranyes de Franch asserted that the two Pax Romana movements should not be identified with the Church as such and that their positions and actions followed from decisions made by their organs as defined by their statutes.

In response to the Soviet chargé that Pax Romans had actively collaborated with the Germans during the course of the Second World War, the Pax Romana representatives replied that not only had all the affiliates of Pax Romana ceased their activity in Germany and Austria during the Nazi period but that they were dissolved by the Nazi regime. They added « the fact of having belonged to one of these organizations or to have had contact with Pax Romana was considered by the Nazis as an aggraving circumstance in the course of a number of trials against Catholic leaders”. The Soviet delegate had reproached Pax Roman, for the activity of Professor Nello Palmieri during the war. According to the Soviets, Palmieri was an ardent collaborationist known for his submission to the Germans. Palmieri has especially aroused the ire of the Soviets by participating in the commission which investigated the Katyn Massacre, in the words of the, Soviet representative, “ to confirm the German insinuations”. According to the Soviet delegate, Palmieri signed all of the documents presented to him by the Germans concerning the pretended atrocities perpetrated by the Allies. Moreover, on his return to Italy, he made to the press and in public meetings, declarations which contained displeasing lies and calumnies against the Soviet Union.

The Soviet representative continued, « The United Nations was not founded to accord consultative status to non-governmental organizations which participate in fascist activities ». Palmieri had been the president of Pax Romana in 1924 but had resigned in 1925. De Hoogc and Sugranyes de Franch replied that the organization could not be held responsible for the political attitudes of former officers of the organization, once they no longer held positions of leadership”. The French representative, Albert Lamarle, supported Pax Romana on this point, stating that the objections of the representative of the Soviet Union were without any foundation.

De Hoog and Sugranyes de Franch also took issue with the Council’s reservation that Pax Romana should be accorded consultative status in so far as it was a purely humanitarian » organization. They reiterated that the organization was, as its application indicated, involved in intellectual, religious, and moral activities, but argued this was within the scope of the Economic and Social Council which by definition was engaged in economic social, cultural, educational, and health issues as well as other issues related to international order”.

Sugranyes de Franch was informed that the two Pax Romana organizations would be recommended for consultative status with the Economic and Social Council if they agreed to share the status with a single representative. He replied that « given the way in which you presented the recommendation of the UN Committee to us, we have no other choice but to accept the proposed solution ». He, however, requested that experts of one or the other movement sometimes be allowed to accompany the permanent representative. Following this agreement, Pax Romana was informed that it would be granted consultative status by UNESCO at its July 1948 executive session. On February 16, 1949, the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations also accorded consultative status to Pax Romana, and the Polish historian Oscar Halecki was appointed Pax Romana’s permanent consultant. The relationship of Pax Romana with the United Nations was emphasized in 1950 at the Amsterdam Congress of Pax Romana Trygve Lie, the Secretary-General of the United Nations, sent a Personal representative to address the opening session of the congress.

Among the issues under consideration by the United Nations which particularly concerned Pax Romana were those related to human rights. Before Pax Romana had been accorded consultative status, a plenary assembly of MIIC at St. Edward’s College, Ware, England in August 1948 studied the draft resolution of the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights and sent a memorandum, « Mémoire sur le projet de déclaration des droits de l’homme », to the Economic and Social Council. Pax Romana focused especially on the ramifications of fraternity, family rights, and economic justice. Pax Romana recommended the right of free choice of one’s work, and the right to form and join trade unions be added to the enunciation of the right of equal pay for equal work and the right to just and favorable remuneration. This suggestion was accepted and incorporated into in the Article 23.

Pax Romana expressed its strong support for Article 16 of the Universal Declaration of the human rights which recognized the family as a natural and fundamental element of society, the rights of which should be protected by society and the state. However, since familial rights constitute fundamental rights of the human person, Pax Romana stated that this should be part of the fundamental statement of human rights at the beginning of the pact. Pax Romana also called upon commission to add to familial rights and explicit statement of the rights of parents to choose the type of education of their children. With regard to Article 21 concerning political rights, Pax Romana argued for the safeguard of the human rights that each citizen ought to have the right to participate in the designation and control of the direction of the State. Its advice continued, « a minimum of supra-national juridical guarantee of political Liberty ought to be recueilli, given the intolerable oppression which is inflicted upon the person in states with totalitarian régimes ».

In a subsequent letter the secretary generals of Pax Romana expressed their concerns to the president of the UN’s Commission on the Rights Sub-Commission for the Struggle against Discrimination. They repeated earlier Pax Romana concerns about the right of parents to choose the type or education for their children. In addition to the right to choose between public and private schools, Pax Romana asserted the right of the family to choose moral and religious education for its children and the right of families to the equal distribution of public aids for education regardless of the type of school chosen by parents. This final point would provide the necessary material means for parents to give their children the education of their choice and was regarded as especially important in the area of higher education. The establishment of private universities ought to be facilitated by granting them the same right to conduct examinations and grant degrees without prejudicing the right of the state to require private universities to meet specified scientific and pedagogical standards.

Pax Romana’s emphasis upon the right of families to choose the form of education suited to their children, including religious education, and its condemnation discrimination against private universities were subsequently underlined by complaints against aspects of two UN reports: Study of Discrimination in Education (1957) and Study of Discrimination in the Matter of Religious Rights and Practices (1959)’`. Pax Romana particularly objected to the fact that the reports clouded the difference between legal statements and actual practice in Communist states.

The significance of Pax Romana and the role it played in UNESCO was attested to by Luther Evans, director general of UNESCO. when he asked the 24’th World Congress of Pax Romana in 1958 to organize the 1960 Manille dialogue between Western and Eastern religious traditions.

Evans said that Pax Romana had (…) federations in more than sixty five countries scattered throughout every continent and that all of their members are university-trained. Consequently you are in a privileged position to associate yourself with one of the major UNESCO projects: to improve mutual appreciation of East-West cultural values. [… ] The growth of understanding between East and West is one of the fields where the help of non-governmental organizations, so valuable for, UNESCO, is irreplaceable. Among all of those bodies UNESCO follows with very special attention the work and projects of Pax Romana.

The significance of Pax Romana is also manifested by the fact that individuals from Pax Romana were chosen to play leadership roles in UNESCO. Vittorino Veronese, who served as a vice-president of Pax Romana from 1947 to 1955, became Director General of UNESCO; Rudolph Salat a member of the Pax Romana secretariat from 1930 to 1946, became director of the Department of Cultural Activities of UNESCO; and Tadeusz Szmitkowski, a representative of Pax Romana with the agencies of ECOSOC, was elected vice-president of the Conference of Consultative Non-Governmental Organizations in 1960 and then became its acting president.

If Pax Romana saw Catholic intellectuals engaged in a contest for the intellectual soul of the future, it was not sponsoring an uncritical conservative agenda. It rejected a statist and materialist Marxism-Leninism, but it also advocated critical analysis of social and economic problems and encouraged active solidarity with workers and the poor. The message of Pax Romana was that […1 Christian intellectuals have a grave responsibility for the re-Christianization of cultural life. It is not enough for Catholic intellectual leaders to disavow materialism and condemn the false solutions the Marxist gives to social problems: he must by ready to face these problems in all their concrete reality, to examine loyally all claims made in the name of justice and to seek real solutions, even at the risk of conflict with individual interests [… l he will assume to the full his responsibility of applying the techniques of the Encyclicals to the concrete situation which a Godless social policy may have allowed to develop.

Pax Romans called upon its members to work for a « [..] world where Christian teaching is made `incarnate’ in economic and social structures which would allow man a truly human existence »”‘. In 1947 the Institut International d’études économiques et sociales de Fribourg sponsored by Pax Romana, decried the inequality of the distribution of wealth [and] the condition of inferiority in which a great part of humanity is forced to live, which part, nevertheless, makes an important contribution to the production of goods and to the delivery of services. [It quoted] the inability of the mechanism of competition to assure an economic order responsive to the need of                 developing the human person.

In 1950 the journal Pax Romans advocated « [,..] the planning of production on a world-wide scale; to bring to bear on the problem of distributing surplus production expert knowledge in the field of economic science, but also in the light of Christian principles […]. Pax Romana asserted [..] the primacy of ethics over economic order and rejected as contrary to Christian teaching, both individualistic liberalism and totalitarian economy. It declared itself in favor of a corporative organization of society and stressed the necessity of making man the center of economic life.

In a 1951 article on the role of the university in preparing Catholics for their mission in the world, Gilbert Mathieu called upon Catholic students to « […] study the present, then study the goals which the Church proposes to us. Finally how can the university prepare us to get from the present to the future. » Students « faced with the misery of the laboring masses, `economic weaknesses’, and the chaos of capitalist structures ». needed to develop their analytical skills and to develop an understanding of social and economic structures and problems, » and then participate in reform ». Students should get [..,] to know personally the milieu of work, getting to know the preoccupations, interests, ways of thinking of the working mass. [… 1 This discovery of a different world from that of our generally bourgeois one will help us to understand the worker’s need of love. The insufficiency of material aid will come apparent; the student will develop a spirit of solidarity with a general revolt against injustice and will demand improvement [ …] The student will try to utilize his knowledge to improve the world of work, teaching economic mechanisms and juridical tools to militant workers […]



The ultimate hope of the movement both among students and intellectuals was « to establish contact between theoreticians and people engaged in implementation of policy » so as to effect the construction of a new social order in conformity with Christian principles. This was clearly an anti-Communist project, but it was equally antipathetic to laissez-faire capitalism.

If in its economic outlook Pax Romana rejected both totalitarian collectivism and individualistic liberalism, its political outlook was supra-nationalist and federalist. Pax Romana argued that centralization and concentration of power easily led to totalitarianism and threatened the rights of the person. As an alternative to the concentration of state power and also to antagonistic nationalism, which Pax Romana decried as pagan, it advocated supranationalism and decentralization”‘. Pax Romana advocated both federalism within states, « decentralized local `self-government’ of a people », rooted in the principle of subsidiarity, and a larger federation of European states. In 1947 the Institut international d’études économiques et sociales recommended that « the European states should unite soon to resolve the grave political, social, economic, and social problems which afflict them and again menace peace. It proposed that

[…] through effective collaboration, the conditions necessary for the political union of Europe will be developed. Functional federalism should lead as soon as possible to an integral federalism with a central political institution. The form of the union could be a federation of States with equal rights in which each national unit would acquire by its participation in common decisions more influence than any loss suffered in the area of sovereignty.

Two Pax Romana congresses held in the spring of 1948 at Ratisbon and The Hague elaborated a project for a federation of European states. Pax Romana’s advocacy of cooperation and planning placed it firmly in accord with the Organization for European Economic Cooperation (OEEC) connected with the implementation of the Marshall Plan, and looked forward to the 1952 European Coal and Steel Community and the future development of the Common Market and the European Union. According to Pax Romana,

confronted as we are by the manifestations of social economy, common sense on the one hand, and on the other, the best traditions, as well as the dire experiences of the past few decades, have convinced us that neither a liberal individualistic economy, nor the constrained economy of collectivism can be reconciled with the nature of man and that of human society.

The journal continued

[..,J the reconstruction of the countries of Europe cannot be assured without the creation of a political and economic federation. Such a federation is the fundamental condition of a widespread and fruitful collaboration with the other continents. One should aim particularly, at the sharing out of European sources in raw materials. even if private national interests have to be sacrificed in accomplishing the main task This leads the member states to a policy of directed economy, to the exclusion of all state control which would bring about a system of totalitarian economy. In any case, political federation implies also economic federation. This, in its turn, demands first and foremost an appropriate system of credit and currency. The economic organization of Europe would make possible the solution of many problems which cannot, in present circumstances, be solved on a national level, or, in another sphere, a more effective safeguarding of the rights of man.

Par Romana made the very specific recommendation that the cooperative committees of the OEEC be transformed into supra-national or federal ministries with competence over transportation, energy, raw materials, monetary policy, indeed a single currency, commercial regulation, migration, the labor market, and development.

Pax Romana approved of the call of the British MP Hugh Delargy: «European unity in the face of Russian materialist mechanism, which to him and Pax Romana was the negation of European ideals and in the face of a comparable materialist mechanism coming from the United States. In a theme common to Pax Romana, he called for Europe to progress beyond its twenty separate nationalism and return to a Christian perspective as a common shared basis for judgment and action. By giving a podium to Delargy and similar voices in its journal and at its conferences, Pax Romana can be seen as contributing to the intellectual and promotional ground-work for the development of both the European Coal and Steel Community and the 1957 Treaties of Rome and the idea of a social market economy.