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Desiré-Félicien-François-Joseph Mercier was born in a château in Belgium on November 21, 1851. He had six siblings, three of his sisters becoming nuns.
He was ordained in 1874, aged 22. Much of his early career was in academia. In 1906 he was became the Archbishop of Mechelen, Belgium. he was created a cardinal priest in April 1907.
At the outbreak of WW I the Germans opened the Western Front by invading neutral Belgium and Luxembourg on their way to France. Brussels, the capital of Belgium, fell to the Germans on August 20, 1914. That was the day that Pius X (#258).
The 1914 conclave to elect Pius X’s successor began on August 31, 1914. 57 cardinals participated, 2 from Germany, Mercier from Belgium, 6 from France, 2 from England and one from Ireland.
Mercier, per the ballot for accommodation, was billeted one cell away from German Cardinal Felix von Hartmann [dob: December 15, 1851], Archbishop of Cologne, created a cardinal in May 1914.
As they were going to their cells for the first time, von Hartmann turned to Mercier and said: ‘Let’s not talk about war‘.
Mercier, without missing a beat, retorted with: ‘Let’s NOT talk about peace‘.