Glossary of Important Terms and Individuals


Sketch of the National Catholic Welfare Conference's War Relief Services logo, drawn during an NCWC executive meeting in the early 1940s


Apostolic Delegate:The Vatican’s official representative and liaison with the local hierarchy in a nation which does not have official diplomatic relations with the Holy See, such as the United States throughout much of the twentieth century. The United States did not establish official diplomatic relations with the Vatican until 1984.

Burke, John: Born in New York City in 1875, Father John Burke was ordained a Paulist in 1899 and edited their newspaper, the Catholic World, from 1904-1922. He was co-founder of the National Catholic War Council and the Welfare Council, and General Secretary of the Welfare Council until his death on October 30, 1936.

Cicognani, Amleto Giovanni: Apostolic Delegate to the United States and titular Archbishop of Laodicea. Cicognani was born in 1883 in Brisighella, Italy, ordained in 1905, and held various high positions at the Vatican before being appointed Apostolic Delegate in 1933. After he was recalled to Rome in 1958, he was created a Cardinal by John XXIII, and later served as Vatican Secretary of State from 1961-1969, and as Dean of the College of Cardinals from 1972 until his death on December 17, 1973.[1]

Coughlin, Father Charles Edward: Father Coughlin is one of the most controversial figures in the history of American Catholicism. He was born in Hamilton, Ontario, in 1891, and ordained in 1916. In 1926 he was assigned to the parish of St. Theresa of the Little Flower in Royal Oak, Michigan, and began his popular radio broadcasts the same year. Initially his radio talks were religiously-themed, but grew more political throughout the Depression, as he opposed both Communism and the excesses of capitalism, and criticized President Roosevelt’s policies. His broadcasts reached millions, particularly working-class listeners. During the late 1930s, he began to express sympathy for Fascism and grew increasingly anti-Semitic in his broadcasts. The US bishops distanced themselves from him and looked for a way to silence him, until he was finally forced from the air by new broadcasting regulations in 1940. Bishop Edward Mooney also ordered him to stop his political activities or be defrocked as a priest in 1942. Coughlin died in Birmingham, Michigan, on October 27, 1979.

Displaced Person: A term originally invented and popularized toward the end of World War II, used to describe Eastern Europeans who had been liberated from the forced labor camps where they had been transported by the Nazis.[2]


Polish NCWC stamp.jpg

Stamp issued specifically for Polish citizens in Italian refugee camps to use for inter-camp letters. Used with permission of Ben Nieborg and Stamp Encyclopaedia Poland.

Donovan, John: Donovan was born in Chatham, Ontario, in 1911. He studied at the North American College in Rome and was ordained in 1935. He served as the secretary for Archbishop Edward Mooney of Detroit during the 1930s and 1940s, and was chosen as Auxiliary of the Archdiocese of Detroit in 1954 before his appointment as Bishop of Toledo in 1967. He retired in 1980 and died on September 18, 1991, in a suburb of Toledo.

International Refugee Organization: A United Nations organization which took over the task of refugee aid from the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration. The United Nations officially created the IRO on December 15, 1946.

Iron Curtain: A term popularized by Winston Churchill in a speech given on March 5, 1946, which symbolically described the division between the Communist- dominated nations of Eastern Europe and the democratic nations of Western Europe.

LaFarge, John: John LaFarge was born in Newport, Rhode Island, in 1880, and was ordained a priest and entered the Jesuit order in 1905. From 1926 until his death on November 24, 1963, he was the associate editor of the Jesuits’ journal America, and made racial tolerance and equality a focus of his work.

League of Nations: The UN’s predecessor organization, founded in 1919 at the end of World War I, and committed to similar ideals of justice, international cooperation, and human rights. In the aftermath of World War I, Fridtjof Nansen, the head of the League’s Commission for Refugees, did extensive work for those displaced by war. The League was dissolved in 1946 and replaced by the UN.

McNicholas, John Timothy: Born in County Mayo, Ireland, in 1877, McNicholas’ family moved to Pennsylvania in 1881, and he was ordained a Dominican priest in Rome in 1901. He taught in Rome at the Angelicum University from 1916-18, and then was made bishop of Duluth. He was made bishop of Cincinnati in 1925 and served as chairman of the NCWC’s Department of Education and its Motion Picture Committee in the 1930s and 1940s. He also served as the NCWC’s Chairman of the Board from 1946 until his death on April 22, 1950.

Montavon, William: Montavon was born in Scioto City, Ohio, in 1874, and served as the US Commercial Attaché in Lima, Peru from 1915-1918. He held the position of Executive Representative of the International Petroleum Company in Lima from 1918-1925 before his appointment as director of the NCWC’s Legal Department from 1925-1951. Montavon died on February 15, 1959, in Washington, D.C.

Noll, John Francis: Born 1875 in Fort Wayne, Indiana, Noll was ordained in 1898 and founded the Catholic periodical Our Sunday Visitor in 1912. He was named bishop of Fort Wayne in 1925, and became a personal archbishop in 1953. Noll died on July 31, 1956.

“non-Aryan”: A term invented by the Nazis that was used to designate people who had at least one Jewish grandparent and were therefore of mixed ancestry, but not purely Jewish, under the arbitrary Nazi racial categories. Non-Aryans did not enjoy full legal freedom in German society under the Nazis.

Pacelli, Eugenio (Pius XII): Pacelli was born in Rome to a family of lawyers in 1876, ordained a priest in 1899, and became Secretary of the Congregation for Extraordinary Ecclesiastical Affairs in 1914. He was Papal Nuncio to Munich, Germany, from 1917-1929, and Vatican Secretary of State from 1930-1939. In 1933, he negotiated a controversial concordat with Hitler’s Third Reich which ensured the freedom of the Church there, but he also helped draft Pius XI’s encyclical condemning Nazism. He was elected pope in 1939 and took the name Pius XII. During World War II, while he did not openly condemn the Nazis’ anti-Semitic atrocities, he did quietly instruct priests and bishops to help Jewish people hide and escape. In the postwar years, Pacelli vehemently opposed the expansion of Communism in Eastern Europe and called the Church to aid refugees from Communist-dominated countries. Pacelli died on October 9, 1958.

Papal Nuncio (or Apostolic Nuncio): An official diplomatic representative of the Vatican to another country or international organization such as the United Nations equivalent to an ambassador.

Ratti, Achille (Pius XI): Born in 1857 in the Austrian Empire (present-day Italy), Ratti was ordained in 1879 and appointed Papal Nuncio to Poland from 1919-1921. He was made Cardinal and Archbishop of Milan in 1921, and elected Pope in 1922. Pius XI signed a concordat with the rising Fascist government of Benito Mussolini which ensured that the Church would remain predominant in Italian culture, but subsequently criticized both Fascist Italy, Nazi Germany, and Communist Russia in different encyclicals. He died in Rome on February 10, 1939.

Refugee: According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees website, “someone who has been forced to flee his or her country because of persecution, war, or violence. A refugee has a well-founded fear of persecution for reasons of race, religion, nationality, political opinion or membership in a particular social group. Most likely, they cannot return home or are afraid to do so.”[3]


Repatriation: The return of a refugee or Displaced Person to their original homeland.

Rummel, Joseph Francis: Rummel was born in Steinmauern, Germany, in 1876, and immigrated to the United States with his family at the age of six. He was ordained in 1902, named Bishop of Omaha in 1928, and transferred to New Orleans in 1935. He retired in 1962, and died in New Orleans on November 8, 1964.

Soviet Union: Formally known as the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR), the Soviet Union was a state formed from the old Russian Empire and several surrounding republics, which had its origins in the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917. The Soviet Union was ruled by the Communist Party, and although it fought on the Allies’ side during World War II, the democratic nations of the West subsequently viewed it as their main enemy during the Cold War. The Soviet Union was dissolved in 1991.

Spellman, Francis: Born in 1889 in Massachusetts, Spellman studied at the North American College in Rome and was ordained in 1916. He joined the staff of the Vatican Secretariat of State in 1925, was named Auxiliary Bishop of Boston in 1932, and Archbishop of New York, as well as Military Vicar, in 1939. In 1936, along with Vatican Secretary of State Eugenio Pacelli, he travelled to different US cities in support of President Roosevelt’s bid for reelection. Created a Cardinal in 1946, he was one of the most vocal anti-Communists in the US hierarchy at the start of the Cold War, to the point of supporting Senator Joseph McCarthy’s aggressive campaign against Communism. He died in New York on December 2, 1967.

Stritch, Samuel Alphonsus: Born in 1887 in Nashville, Tennessee, Stritch was ordained in 1910, named Bishop of Toledo in 1921, transferred to the Archdiocese of Milwaukee in 1930, and made Archbishop of Chicago in 1939. He was made a cardinal in 1946, and died on May 27, 1958, in Rome.

Totalitarianism: General term used to describe a state which recognizes no limits to its authority and disregards the Enlightenment-era freedoms, such as freedom of speech and freedom of religion, which are generally respected in democratic states. A totalitarian state seeks to penetrate and control every aspect of the individual’s life. The term Totalitarianism can be applied to either Nazism or Communism, and was frequently used to stir up public opposition to Communism in America during the Cold War.

Vatican Secretariat of State: An office in the Vatican bureaucracy, normally presided over by a Cardinal, which oversees the political activity of the Vatican and its diplomatic relations with other nations.

United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees: The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees was created in 1950 as the successor organization to the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration and the International Refugee Organization. The High Commissioner for Refugees was initially intended to be a temporary office which would deal with the remaining post-World War II refugees in Europe, but the UN soon faced new refugee crises, such as the Soviet suppression of the Hungarian Revolution in 1956, and continued to use this office to extend aid to those displaced by violence. The UNHCR is still active today.[4]

United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration: Commonly referred to as the UNRRA, this organization was founded in 1943 for refugee relief in Europe. The United Nations itself was not officially established until 1945, at which time the UNRRA became affiliated with it. Although 44 different nations participated in the UNRRA, it depended heavily on US funding for its activities. These included both providing food, clothing, and shelter for refugees in the short-term, and assisting in the work of finding new permanent homes for them. The UNRRA was shut down in 1947, and its duties transferred to the International Refugee Organization.

[1]Earl Boyea, The National Catholic Welfare Conference: An Experience in Episcopal Leadership, 1935-1945 (Catholic University of America: Ph.D. dissertation, 1987), 4. All biographies of US bishops and important Church figures in this glossary derive their information from Boyea’s dissertation.

[2]David J. Whittaker, Asylum Seekers and Refugees in the Contemporary World (New York: Routledge, 2006), 19.

 [3]UNHCR website, “Convention and Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees”,, accessed August 1, 2012, 5-6.

 [4]“History of UNHCR” on the UNHCR website,, accessed August 29, 2012.