The Popes and the Cold War: Examining Encyclical Evidence and the Evolution of their Ostpolitik, 1945–1990

Robert H. Dennis


This discussion identifies the changing nature of the Vatican’s ostpolitik—its attempt to assuage tension between the Roman Catholic Church and the governments of the USSR and its satellites in Eastern Europe—by sampling how these approaches were articulated within the discourse of particular encyclicals promulgated during pontificates from the onset of the Cold War through to its conclusion. It is divided into four short sections, one allotted to each pope, starting mid-way through the pontificate of Pope Pius XII (1939–1958) in 1945, and ending in the midst of Pope John Paul II’s (1978–2005) in 1990. Encyclical evidence provides an effective and accessible primary-source window into understanding the contemporary Vatican’s intellectual history vis-à-vis its position on the Cold War.


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University of Victoria
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ISSN (Print): 1705-2947
ISSN (Online): 1712-5634