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Pope Pius XII

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The Venerable Pope Pius XII, Maria Giuseppe Giovanni Eugenio Pacelli (2 March 1876-9 October 1958 was Roman Catholic pope from March 2, 1939 to 1958).

Pius XII
He was one of very few popes to promulgate a novel dogma. He did that in 1950 in his encyclical Munificentissimus Deus, listed below.

Pacelli, who was of noble birth, was a grandson of Marcantonio Pacelli, founder of L'Osservatore Romano[?], a nephew of Ernesto Pacelli, a key financial advisor to Pope Leo XII, and a son of Filippo Pacelli, dean of the Vatican lawyers. His brother Francesco Pacelli became a highly regarded attorney, and was created a marchese by his brother Pius XII.

Pacelli became a Roman Catholic priest in April, 1899. From 1904 until 1916 Fr. Pacelli assisted Cardinal Gasparri in his codification of canon law. Fr. Pacelli was appointed Apostolic Nuncio in Bavaria by Pope Benedict XV in 1917, and Apostolic Nuncio to the German Weimar Republic in June, 1920. Pacelli was created a cardinal on 16 December 1929 by Pope Pius XI. Within a few months, on 7 February 1930 Pope Pius appointed papal Secretary of State. During the 1930s Cardinal Pacelli arranged concordats with Bavaria, Prussia, Austria and Germany. He also made many diplomatic visits throughout Europe and the Americas, including an extensive visit to the United State in 1936. On 2 March 1939, Pacelli became the first Secretary of State since 1667 to become pope; he took the name Pope Pius XII.

Pius XII's role during World War II has been a source of major controversy. To his defenders, Pius worked tirelessly for peace and to help Jews who were facing persecution by Nazi Germany. Through the Pontifical Aid Commission, Pius XII provided relief to the victims of the war on both sides, but especially to the Jewish people. When, following the collapse of the Italian Royal Government, the Nazis occupied Rome on 10 September 1943, Pope Pius XII opened the Holy See to Jewish refugees. Estimates have suggested that 1,500,000 refugees, including Jews were helped by Pope Pius, many through the granting of Vatican citizenship. It has also been alleged that Pius directly supported the network of priests who smuggled vast numbers of jews to safety. Israel Zolli[?], the Chief Rabbi of Rome, was so impressed by Pius's actions that following the war he became a Roman Catholic. Furthermore, Jewish relief agencies donated over a million dollars in gratitude to the Holy See after the end of World War II in Europe, while Pius XII was awarded the title "Righteous Gentile" by the state of Israel, and the Israeli Government announced its intention to plant 850,000 trees in his honor - one for each Jewish life he was credited with saving. Upon his death he was eulogized movingly and appreciatively by Golda Meir, at that time Israel's ambassador to the United Nations. (On the question of Pius XII's attitude toward the Nazi persecutions, see also the New York Times editorial page for Christmas Day of 1941 and 1942.)


Signature of Pope Pius XII

His critics, however, suggested that Pius failed to speak out publicly in strong enough terms against nazism, arguing that an explicit condemnation by the Pope would have seriously undermined Hitler and Nazism among Germany's many Catholics. Charges were made in the play "The Deputy", later refuted, that his wartime aid to Jewish refuges from fascism was motivated primarily by motives of financial gain. Adolf Hitler made the observation that "[Pius] is the only human being who has always contradicted me and who has never obeyed me." Historians in general differ as to whether or not Pope Pius XII did enough to prevent the Holocaust and save lives.

Pope Pius XII raised his predecessor, Pope Pius X, to sainthood in 1953.

Among his most prominent encyclicals were

  • Mystici Corporis Christi: On the Mystical Body, 29 June 1943
  • Communium Interpretes Doloraum: An Appeal for Prayers for Peace, 15 April 1945
  • Fulgens Radiatur: Encyclical on Saint Benedict, 21 March 1947
  • Mediator Dei: On the Sacred Liturgy, 20 November 1947
  • Auspicia Quaedam: On Public Prayers For World Peace And Solution Of The Problem Of Palestine, 1 May 1948
  • In Multiplicibus Curis: On Prayers for Peace in Palestine, 24 October 1948
  • Redemptoris Nostri Cruciatus: On the Holy Places in Palestine, 15 April 1949
  • Anni Sacri: On A Program For Combating Atheistic Propaganda Throughout The World, 12 March 1950
  • Humani Generis: Concerning Some False Opinions Threatening to Undermine the Foundations of Catholic Doctrine, 12 August 1950
  • Munificentissimus Deus, 1 November 1950 (on the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary into heaven) This particular encyclical is considered infallible. Perhaps contrary to popular conceptions, it is very rare for a pope to invoke papal infallibility. This was one of those rare occasions—the only one in the 20th century.
  • Ingruentium Malorum: On Reciting the Rosary: Encyclical promulgated on 15 September 1951
  • Fulgens Corona: Proclaiming a Marian year to Commemorate the Centenary of the Definition of the Dogma of the Immaculate Conception, 8 September 1953
  • Ad Caeli Reginam: On Proclaiming the Queenship of Mary, Encyclical promulgated on 11 October 1954
  • Datis Nuperrime: Lamenting the Sorrowful Events in Hungary, and Condemning the Ruthless Use of Force, 5 November 1956
  • Miranda Prorsus: On the Communications Field: Motion Pictures, Radio, Television, 8 September 1957

During his reign, Pius XII canonised eight saints and beautified five people. He consecrated the world to the Immaculate Heart of Mary[?] in 1942. In 1950, using Papal Infallibility he promulgated a new dogma, the Assumption[?] of the Blessed Virgin Mary into heaven (ie, that Mary, the mother of Jesus was taken into heaven body and soul, on account of her status as the Mother of the Son of God.


Coat of Arms of Pope Pius XII
Pius was dogged with ill-health later in life, largely due to a charlatan who posed as a medical doctor and won Pius's trust. His treatments for Pius gave the Holy Father chronic hiccups and rotting teeth. Though eventually dismissed from the Papal Household, this man gained admittance as the pope lay dying and took photographs of Pius which he tried, unsuccessfully, to sell to magazines. When Pius died, the charlatan turned embalmer. Rather then slow the process of decay, the doctor-mortician's self-made technique speeded it up, leading the Holy Father's corpse to disintergrate rapidly, turning purple, with the corpse's nose falling off. The farce over the Pope's health and treatment in death caused considerable embarrassment to the Vatican, but in the 1950s was not reported, though widely rumoured among those in Rome who had witnessed the body's decay as it lay in state, as well as being captured in photographs. (See Catholic website below.)

Pope Pius XII became a candidate for sainthood under Pope John Paul II in the 1990s. He has been raised to Venerable, an early step through the process of sainthood.

External links

Preceded by:
Pope Pius XI
List of popesSucceeded by:
Pope John XXIII



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