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This chapter offers a basic survey of the role of the popes and their administrations in the early twentieth century. We start by outlining the pontificate of Pius X; next we consider the evolution of the papacy in an era marked by the two World Wars, the global economic recession, the rise of secularism, and the threat of totalitarian regimes in the decades before Vatican II. Our emphasis throughout is on the central and universal leadership of Catholicism in its capacity as the doctrinal, pastoral, juridical, and diplomatic center of the Roman church.