Pope Pius XII


Pope Pius XII Famous memorial

Original Name Eugenio Pacelli
Rome, Città Metropolitana di Roma Capitale, Lazio, Italy
Death 9 Oct 1958 (aged 82)
Castel Gandolfo, Città Metropolitana di Roma Capitale, Lazio, Italy
Burial Vatican City
Memorial ID 8420 View Source

Roman Catholic Pope. His strong beliefs in the power of the church let him to the Vatican appointment as papal nuncio in Munich and Berlin in the 1920s where the future pope employed Sister Mary Pascalina as his housekeeper giving a woman extraordinary powers in the affairs of the Vatican. He dealt directly with Germany and in 1933 and negotiated the 'Reichskonkordat' with Adolf Hitler. This provided that Church law be imposed on German Catholics. In exchange, the church agreed to stay out of political and social affairs in Germany. After the signing, the church would not participate or even comment on German political and social action. The Concordat allowed Germany to initiate its programs of Jewish annihilation. There was no one left to speak out. The tone of the future Pope Pius XII pontificate had been created. He was born Eugenio Maria Giuseppe Giovanni Pacelli in Rome to Filippo and Virginia Pacelli their second son and third of their four children. Eugenio attended an elementary school conducted by the Sisters of Divine Providence located in easy walking distance from the families apartment and then continued his studies at the Ennio Quirino Visconti Lyceum. The family had a tradition of working for the Vatican. He was a grandson of Marcantonio Pacelli, founder of the Vatican's newspaper, L'Osservatore Romano, a nephew of Ernesto Pacelli, a key financial advisor to Pope Leo XII and his father Filippo was dean of the Vatican lawyers. At the age of 18, he entered the Capranica Seminary followed by enrolment at the Gregorian University. After ordination, Father Pacelli's first assignment was as a curate at Chiesa Nuova, the church where he served as an altar boy while continuing studies for a doctorate in Cannon Law and Civil Law which culminated in an appointment by Pope Benedict XV as Apostolic Nuncio to Bavaria where he was consecrated a bishop. A new appointment made him Apostolic Nuncio to the German Weimar Republic and Pacelli received the red hat of a Cardinal. A year later Pacelli was Cardinal Secretary of State arranging concordats with Bavaria, Prussia, Austria and Germany. He made many diplomatic visits throughout Europe and the Americas, including an extensive visit to the United States. Following the death of Pius XI, Cardinal Pacelli was elected Pope on his 63rd birthday and took the name Pius XII and his pontificate began on the eve of the Second World War. The Vatican would ultimately be ringed by Nazi troops but were allowed to conduct business as usual. During his reign, Pius canonized eight saints, beatifying five people. Only twice in his pontificate did he hold a consistory to create new cardinals. Pius XII established diplomatic relations with the Japanese Empire in 1942. The Vatican with only Swiss guards for protection, Pius preserved neutrality for the small state surmising it was a better way for the Church to continue to function where possible in occupied Europe and Nazi-allied states while secretly saving lives of Jews and other minorities throughout the occupied continent. He concentrated on practical measures, such as hiding Jews in convents and monasteries while operating an "underground railroad" of secret escape routes set up by prominent Catholic clerics and ordinary citizens. With the war approaching its end in 1945, Pius advocated a lenient policy by the Allied leaders for the vanquished. He attempted to negotiate an early German and Japanese surrender, but his initiatives failed. The Vatican added muscle to its words by providing the means for many Nazis to escape to South America. The members of the puppet Croatian Ustashe government escaped in mass to the U.S. and Spain using Vatican passports while wearing church garb. The Pope was dogged with ill health in the last years of his life exasperated by a fake medical doctor who won Pius's trust. His treatments kept the Pontiff on a downward trend with chronic hiccups and rotting teeth before dying from circulatory phenomenon at the Papal retreat at Castel Gandolfo, located fifteen miles from the Vatican. Though dismissed from the Papal household, he gained admittance as the pope lay dying and took pictures which he tried to sell. The charlatan doctor then turned embalmer which caused the body of Pius to disintegrate rapidly causing the Vatican considerable embarrassment during the elaborate funeral rites for the Pope. Post Papal era Sister Mary Pascalina returned to a life of an ordinary nun but worked tirelessly for the canonization of Pope Pius XII which bore fruit during the reign of Pope John Paul II when he raised Pius to Venerable, the first step through the process of sainthood. Pius's actions or inactions during World War II have become a matter of major dispute which has halted the Sainthood process. Only five popes in the past thousand years have been declared saints by the Vatican. Many books have been written that exposes the Vatican's complicity with Hitler during the Holocaust. John Cornwell, a Catholic who taught at Jesus College in Cambridge, England, authored "Hitler's Pope," the most damming. Then the most provocative accusation of the Pope's neutrality is by Rolf Hochhuth, who wrote the play based on historical evidence "The Deputy" addressing the question of why the Pope never spoke out in defence of the Jews, Catholics themselves were being persecuted during the Holocaust, and thus, the prevention of further persecution of the Catholics was another reason why Pope Pius did not denounce Hitler. The fear of Communism was a greater threat to religion than Nazism and the Vatican chose not to divide against the Nazis.

Bio by: Donald Greyfield

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  • Maintained by: Find a Grave
  • Added: 9 Feb 2000
  • Find a Grave Memorial 8420
  • Find a Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for Pope Pius XII (2 Mar 1876–9 Oct 1958), Find a Grave Memorial ID 8420, citing Saint Peter's Basilica, Vatican City ; Maintained by Find a Grave .