Why was this triduum proclaimed?


In the course of some research as a (non-Catholic) independent scholar, I happened upon a report of a “triduum” proclaimed by the pope on Feb. 2-4, 1945. I’m trying to learn the reason for it. The news article, in the NY Times, didn’t say.

I looked up “triduum” online and the only material I find refers
to the Easter triduum, written as Triduum, as if it’s the only kind.
So I did a global search in a major newspaper archive and found numerous instances of what might be called “generic” triduums. Evidently one can be declared by a bishop for specific local reasons, such as the opening of a new church.

To compound the mystery, the one proclaimed by the pope in 1945 was reported only in the NY Times, not in any of the newspapers in the archive. Its date was 12 days before Ash Wednesday that year. So…what might have been the occasion?


See here for information on triduum:



Ash Wednesday was on February 14 that year. Twelve days before is Friday, February 2nd, which is The Presentation of Jesus at the Temple.


I wonder if in the old calendar Presentation of Jesus in the Temple/Candlemas might have had a triduum. I read Epiphany did and some other feasts.


Yes, I would be interested to know if this was a one-off or a regular observance. The news article said simply that it was proclaimed as a “triduum of penitence.” But it apparently was kind of a big deal. In St. Peter’s Square, 30,000 were present at the end, when the pope appeared at the balcony of his private library, which was not the regular place at which popes appear. The report also noted that it was unprecedented for the pope to appear so late – at twilight – and that it was an event of “startling informality.”


You seem to be skeptical, or even suspicious, about the use of the word triduum to refer to anything other than the Easter Triduum. While that certainly is the most common use of the word, it is not the only use of it, as the New Advent link another member posted explains. Sometimes the three feasts on the days immediately after Christmas (St. Stephen, St. John the Apostle, and Holy Innocents) have been referred to as the Christmas Triduum, because they are placed immediately after Our Lord’s Incarnation for specific reasons. Occasionally bishops call for triduums of prayer for a specific cause. But there certainly is nothing to be wary of when hearing the word used for other occasions of prayer.


Catholic Encyclopedia, Triduum

The three days usually precede some feast, and the feast then determines the choice of the pious exercises. In liturgical usage there is a triduum of ceremonies and prayers in Holy Week; the Rogation Days; the three days of litanies prior to the feast of the Ascension, and the feasts of Easter and Pentecost, with the first two days of their octaves. There is ecclesiastical authorization for a triduum in honour of the Holy Trinity, of the Holy Eucharist, and of St. Joseph. The first of these, instituted Pius IX, 8 August, 1847, may be made at any time of the year in public or private, and partial or plenary indulgences are attached to it on the usual conditions. The second, also indulgenced, was instituted by Pius X, 10 April, 1907, for the purpose of promoting frequent Communion. The time for it is Friday, Saturday, and Sunday after the feast of Corpus Christi, though the bishops may designate any other more convenient time of the year.

Wynne, J. (1912). Triduum. In The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/15041c.htm


My first thought is it probably had something to do with the war effort.

I see that the Yalta meeting between Roosevelt, Churchill, and Stalin began on Feb. 4th. Perhaps it was a period of prayer for that meeting, though I’m not sure whether the meeting was publicly known beforehand.

At any rate, I would suspect a timeline of WWII events would be fruitful in answering your question.


Well, this is interesting – and serendipitous. Yalta was indeed secret at the time based on two pieces of evidence: the absence of any news of FDR traveling and, in a story on possible German peace offers, mention of a conference “rumored” to be taking place “in the Black Sea area.” So this would be plausible cause for declaring a triduum without a publicly stated reason.

But in checking the NY Times for Yalta news I discovered another possible reason for the triduum that will seem off the wall and therefore begs for an authoritative (i.e. from a Catholic audience) assessment of the uniqueness (or not) of the triduum in question in its historical context.

The day before, the Times had a front-page report of a major conference of New York City Protestants. FDR sent greetings. John D. Rockefeller Jr. gave a speech (printed in full on an inside page) that amounted to a kickoff for a Christian (not specifically Protestant) revival. Now, revivals are a dime a dozen, but Rockefeller, of course, had a lot more than a dime.

What does this have to do with the triduum? I think the timing was not coincidental. And the fact that it wasn’t reported in the papers of two heavily Catholic cities – Baltimore and Boston – suggests that the Times – and by extension, New York’s elite – had a unique advance notice and interest in it.

For some years I’ve been accumulating evidence that there is a long-running secret ecumenical project of religious revival going on and that it was – and still is – centered in New York. This new evidence could be a breakthrough. So thanks, ELCore.


Something tells me that the Pope would not have been unaware of the upcoming conference in Yalta. There was more going on at the Holy See than met the eye at that time. The Pope had written to FDR in 1943


Good catch. :slight_smile:


So there’s been a religious revival underway in New York for 70 years? Is it working? Or is that the secret?


I agree with the posts that said that the Vatican probably knew in advance where and when the Yalta talks would take place.

As for my conjecture about an ongoing New York-based ecumenical effort, I think it’s mostly underground. I’ve concluded that it’s powered by influential people who prefer to work in the shadows. It’s not organized in a monolithic way, but consists of loosely coordinated initiatives whose instigators are linked by fraternal ties with origins in prep school, college or the military. The coordination becomes visible when there are multiple public events that are more or less simultaneous and which on cursory examination seem unrelated. Hence my need to understand the full context of the Times report about the triduum and my eureka moment when I saw the story about Rockefeller and the Protestants.

As for whether the conjectured effort, after decades, has produced results, ah yes, that is a worthy question. In fact, I think it reached some kind of crisis in the summer of 2016. Its leaders, who may be very old, may be in the process of abandoning the project. I could point to where this intelligence has been leaked in the NY Times.


Before Yalta, Churchill and FDR met at Malta. That practically guarantees the Pope knew about the diplomacy going on, and may have helped arrange it.


Nowadays, as you say, the word triduum is rarely encountered outside the specific context of Easter. Prior to Vatican 2, however, it was a term in fairly wide use in the Church, as you can see from this entry in the 1958 revised edition of Donald Attwater’s Catholic Dictionary:

Triduum (Lat., a space of three days). A series of special services or private devotions or a retreat over this period usually preparatory to a great feast, e.g., of St. Joseph, in honour of the Blessed Sacrament (octave of Corpus Christi) or of the Holy Trinity (any time), or in preparation for first communion, or to celebrate a beatification or canonization, etc. Triduum Sacrum is the liturgical name for the last three days of Holy Week.

It’s odd that the Times omitted any mention of the Pope’s intention, back in 1945. Perhaps if you were to look in a Catholic paper, such as l’Osservatore Romano, you might find the answer to your question.


This was my first thought as well, and I’m pretty sure the Pope knew when they were meeting, and might have even been involved in the planning.

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