Raptim transit… a gunslinger Pope

This is marvelous.  Biretta tip to FA   o{]:¬)

The blog on L’espresso by Sandro Magister has a great item, which I offer in my translation:

In the curriculum of Pius XI there is a certificate for being a first-rate shot

In L’Osservatore Romano for 20 November, … there stands out in the cultural page a bizarre headline: "the librarian with the pistol".

We are not dealing with just any librarian, but with Achille Ratti, who became Pope with the name Pius XI.

And the gun?

Here’s the explanation of this oddity.  When he was prefect of the Ambrosian Library in Milan, Ratti kept a a revolver close at had "as a deterent to keep off possible miscreants with gunshots in the air, or the like."

Once promoted to the Vatican Library, he brought his gun with him.  And when in 1918 Benedict XV sent him to Poland as an apostolic visitor, he sent to Warsaw via the diplomatic pouch, "a small revolver and ammunition".

As Pope, we don’t know.  But it occurs that he could have been a quick-draw, based on the motto he chose for his episcopal caot-of arms: "Raptim transit" , "it goes by swiftly", a citation of Job 6:15.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Tominellay says:

    What a great find!

  2. danphunter1 says:

    I also wonder if His Holiness Pope Pius XI carried his piece as Pontiff.
    Did he don a shoulder holster, ankle holster or kept it in his desk next to his brass knuckles.
    Does anyone know what make and caliber it was?
    Being the Pontiff did he need to get fingerprinted for a liscense or did he have special privileges to bypass all this.
    Did he have a private range, or did His Holiness just achilled Ratti’s in the wine cellar…sorry could not resist.

  3. Tim Ferguson says:

    Arma Papamque cano, Milano qui primus ab oris,
    Vaticanum fato profugus Libreriaque venit

  4. Angelo says:

    Fr Achille Ratti was an accomplished mountain climber, having
    scaled Mt Blanc. He is known for discovering the normal Italian
    route upon descent.

  5. peretti says:

    JPII was also a mountain climber. Maybe he kept heat in the desk to show some of his more obstinate bishops. This isn’t so far fetched. The Vatican did have the death penalty on its books until 1969, if memory serves.

  6. FR K says:

    “This is marvellous…”

    What is so ‘marvellous’ about the admiration to the point of glorification of the attitude to guns so prevalent among Americans? While no Michael Moore admirer, I like many other non-Americans look on in amazement at the acceptance and promotion of the gun culture in the USA. What ‘possible miscreants’ would one encounter in the Ambrosian library necessitating keeping a gun handy? Give us a break! I seem to recall that the only miscreants in places like the Columbine school library would have been gun slingers. He who lives by the sword will perish by the sword.

    Fr K

  7. Tim Ferguson says:

    and yet, Fr. K., had the librarian at Columbine had a gun – or had the evildoers been in doubt about whether he did or not, there is a good chance that the bloodshed would have been averted. When guns (which are not evil in themselves, but only tools) are criminalized, only criminals have guns.

  8. Romulus says:

    Ratti wrote a book about his exploits, called Climbs on Alpine Peaks. If I recall, he had a number of first summits and traverses to his credit. He produced several mountaineering articles for publication and maintained his alpine club memberships throughout most of his ecclesiastical career.

    JPII enjoyed mountain hiking, but to my knowledge his experience never approached Ratti’s technical accomplishments.

  9. danphunter1 says:

    My money is on a Walther PPK in a shoulder holster.
    9mm all the way.
    God bless the Papacy.

  10. Massachusetts Catholic says:

    A rootin’ tootin’ shootin’ pope… the comic possibilities are endless. Did he use silver bullets?

  11. Jon says:

    And would you expect any less from the man responsible for Mortalium Animos?

  12. FR K: attitude to guns so prevalent among Americans

    Your comment could be used as an example of how humorless liberals impose stereotypes.

    This piece was written by an Italian, on an Italian blog, about an Italian. An Italian Pope no less. If anything, this item reveals attitudes of Italians.

    Also, the piece is simply fun, as in amusing, interesting…. fun.

    Finally, don’t worry. That Pope is dead now. I’ve seen his tomb. He won’t shoot his bad gun anymore.

  13. Fabrizio says:

    Wow! Looks like we have a serious candidate to the Wet Blanket Award for November 2007!!

    While no Michael Moore admirer…

    Excusatio non petita accusatio manifesta est

    I like many other non-Americans look on in amazement at the acceptance and promotion of the gun culture in the USA..

    Yes, it is a common disease also called “ignorance of American history, culture and Constitution, and compulsive disregard of facts in general”. It is easy to cure, but much depends on the good will of the patient. The haling process can be greatly helped by basic notions of Italian history and culture too. Especially of the times of Achille Ratti’s youth, when there were tens of bishops and priests in jail and storming religious buildings was a common practice of those liberals who’d fiercely oppose the right to bear arms Italians had enjoyed for the 25 centuries of their glorious history before being turned into an insignificant semi-socialist republic. The very term “pistol” comes from “Pistoia” the Italian town so famous for gunsmithing in 15-16th century.

    the only miscreants in places like the Columbine school library would have been gun slingers

    see? Your initial disclaimer was just an excusatio non petita, and thanks for comparing a successor of Peter and the author of Mit brennender Sorge, Divini Redemptoris and Quadragesimo anno to sociopaths.

    loquuntur pacem cum proximo suo,
    mala autem in cordibus eorum

  14. Jon: Not to mention Mit brennender Sorge!

  15. Rob in Maine says:

    Cue the Ennio Morricone music.

    “I’m gonna Bless ya sheriff…but I’m gonna Bless ya slow….”

  16. Henry Edwards says:

    Looks like we have a serious candidate to the Wet Blanket Award for November 2007!!

    Really, Fabrizio, if he insists on blaming the gun culture among clerics in early 20th century Italy on the USA, then maybe more substantial corrective action is warranted. Unless perhaps he seriously promises — “cross my heart and hope to die” — to lighten up pronto.

  17. Vincenzo says:

    A good rule: don’t trust a government that doesn’t trust an armed citizenry.

  18. Timothy James says:

    It is said that G. K. Chesterton always carried a revolver in his coat. He bought it the day before his wedding “To protect my Bride,” he said. He never did end up using it except the odd occasion when someone commented that they wish they were dead, Chesterton would pull it out and offer to shoot them. This is written about in “G.K. Chesteron – The Apostle of Common Sense.”

    No doubt Pius XI carried his gun for the same reason, “to protect his bride!”

  19. chris says:

    A shame he was too early for Spaghetti Western. I can see it now… For a Few Prayers to St Thomas More, etc

  20. Thank you Father Z.
    What a great post. Pius XI. Of all people.

    I agree with Tim Ferguson on this one.

    Any man who can lead off with an adaptation of Virgil’s Aeneid, followed by a useful critique of firearm legislation, is worth listening to.

    It is a fact that here in England only criminals carry guns.

    It is also a fact, I am sorry to say, that the liberals tend to be humourless.
    And these days we need a bit of humour.

  21. Maureen says:

    It’s fairly obvious, Father Z, that your correspondent has never been a librarian. While libraries are _usually_ frequented by the peaceful, sober, and nonviolent, this is not always true.

    Indeed, when lawbreakers come to a library, they are more dangerous _because_ of this perception of safety. The only time my purse was ever stolen was in a library. Many women have been raped in libraries. Moreover, the Ambrosian Library is full of rare and valuable books, and library staff who might be threatened in order to gain access to them.

    In short, I think that Fr. Ratti was very wise and farseeing to think of arming himself to protect his library, even if his gun were loaded only with blanks.

  22. techno_aesthete says:

    I don’t know if it is still the case, but at one point the standard issue pistol for some branches of the U. S. military was made by Beretta.

    Defending America for Over 20 Years

  23. Srabeldnah Yram Rs. says:

    This is something ALL shooters can be proud of. But don’t the
    handgunners already have a patron in the making?


  24. Ragin' Daved says:

    techno – You are correct, the current service pistol for the US military is the Beretta M9 9mm pistol. I believe the civilian version of it is the Model 92. However according to the contract, the M9 can now be made in America as well as Italy.

    Furthermore, a gun is only a tool, much like a hammer, a knife, or any other inanimate object. A knife can be used to chop vegetables, skin an animal, or murder your neighbor. A crowbar can be used to open crates, pull nails, act as a lever, or beat a stranger to death. A gun can be used to hunt for food, prevent a rape, stop a burglar, or commit murder. The difference in the use lays in the hands of the object’s wielder, not in the object itself. Guns do not leap out of their cases and go on shooting sprees all on their own. Being inanimate, they have no self-will, no way to move around, and do nothing but lay there until someone picks them up and uses them. Perhaps those who are afraid of guns would do better to ask what conditions exist in their neighbors that would make such a fear come to life?

  25. Broadsword says:

    Fr K, Since I cannot possibly imagine what use you are making of your common sense, can I please have it? As none of the recently murdered students in the various schools had either gun or sword, they died by neither, by by their defenseless in the face of unimagined miscreants>
    I can easily enouch imagine someone outfitted in turban, beard and murder in his heart bursting into my church just after the credo. I have also imagined what I might do about it. The readiness is all.

  26. Paul Stokell says:

    Daved, word on the street has it that American forces are returning to the .45. The source is here. (Please take it with the same spirit as the Italian piece Fr. Z. mentioned!)

  27. Sue says:

    Well, at least he is intelligent with common street smarts.

  28. Guy Power says:


    “Age, catamite — fac mihi hunc diem felicissimum!”

  29. Tommaso says:

    Good one Yram! I had forgotten about St. Gabriel Possenti.

    I wonder what the USCCB would think of the NRA invoking a saint!

  30. Pablo says:

    To the gun haters:

    After the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, they did not continue and land on American soil, because they knew American housholds were outfitted with guns and ammunition.
    I am glad you cannot get your hands on Saint Michael’s sword. You would make a sissy out of him.

  31. Pablo says:

    Sadly, someone has mentioned the Virginia Tech shootings that resulted in many dead. The problem was not a lack of guns, it was a lack of guts. The intestinal fortitude needed to deal with miscreants is lacking in America. Not one single man stood up against the shooter because they were too busy having their testicles cut off by a bunch of femminists commie liberals. Even the police were hiding behind trees. The same thing at Columbine Colorado.
    Once an idiot entered the Church and disrupted the Mass; I was there with my wife and eight children. The punk was eating the sidewalk outside before he knew what hit him. And unfortunately, he never came back. As I was rubbing his nose in the ground, I did invite him. It was the Christian thing to do.

  32. Tommaso says:

    Oh no! I thought Srabeldnah was an Indian name. But, it looks like HANDLEBARS spelt backwards. Go away! Shooo!

  33. Greg says:

    Let’s hope Peter the Roman has a Beretta as well as a Biretta. He may need it.

  34. r says:

    These are perilous times in history. Defense is proper in Catholic teaching, and should be taught always. Too many innocents lose their spirit for living after killing someone,especially Catholic soldiers at war defending their country because of the guilt of death by their hands. Proper defense of life must be taught, and very early in Catholic life to free them from this guilt after all is said and done. Modern teaching is so wrong on this important issue. Too many gutless prelates out their in Catholic land not doing their Catholic duty to protect against evil-Lucifer and is minions. St. John Capristany-St. Joan of Arc-Pray for us!

  35. Mi-cha-El! says:

    Bravo r!

    Every Catholic has a duty before God to protect his and other people’s lives if he is able, even at the cost of loss of aggressor’s life when it cannot be avoided.

    Death penalty has always been defended by The Catholic Church as fitting means to deter possible murderers and other most vicious criminals from their most vicious crimes and thus protect the whole society from atrocious evils.

    Sadly, many ignorant Catholics don’t know the basic moral teachings about the 5th Commandment of God (nor about the other Commandments also) and support exactly the same what the enemies of The Catholic Church support. And thus all kinds of the worst evils abound.
    Many Catholic priests are going to render an account to God for that. Woe to them.

  36. michael says:

    Maybe it was to convince recalcitrant altar boys who didn’t want to “serve”?

  37. steve says:

    CCC 2263-2265 informs us Catholics, worldwide, what our attitude should be regarding the legitimate use of lethal force. I am under grave duty to defend my domestic Church up to and including the use of lethal force to protect my wife and to preserve my own wife. A pistol or shotgun assists me greatly to carry out my Catholic duty as husband and protector.

  38. steve says:

    CCC 2263-2265 informs us Catholics, worldwide, what our attitude should be regarding the legitimate use of lethal force. I am under grave duty to defend my domestic Church up to and including the use of lethal force to protect my wife and to preserve my own life. A pistol or shotgun assists me greatly to carry out my Catholic duty as husband and protector.

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