Archive for the ‘Pope Pius XII’ Category

America’s Pius XII article

December 18, 2008

There’s an article on Pope Pius XII, “A Pope in Wartime,”  in the new issue of the Jesuit journal America.  Written by church historian Gerald Fogarty, SJ, I’d say it’s more significant for the publication it’s in than for anything particularly new in the article. 

The article is generally positive toward Pacelli.  It doesn’t present him as particularly heroic in his criticism of the Nazis or defense of the Jews during WWII, but it does present some sound evidence that Pacelli had strong anti-Nazi sentiments (probably more because of their treatment of the Church than their treatment of the Jews) and that his “silence” was not out of cowardice or approval of Nazi persecution of the Jews.

In other words, Fogarty concludes he was anti-Nazi and acted on it, not especially heroic, but not evil or anti-Semitic either.


Pope Pius XII saw the “miracle of the sun”

November 11, 2008


This information is confirmed by a handwritten, unpublished note from Pope Pius XII, which is part of the “Pius XII: The Man and the Pontificate” display. The display opened in the Vatican to the public today and will run through Jan. 6.

A commissioner of the display and a Vatican reporter for the Italian daily Il Giornale, Andrea Tornielli, explained to ZENIT that the note was found in the Pacelli family archives.


Pius XII’s note says that he saw the miracle in the year he was to proclaim the dogma of the Assumption, 1950, while he walked in the Vatican Gardens.

He said he saw the phenomenon various times, considering it a confirmation of his plan to declare the dogma.

The papal note says that at 4 p.m. on Oct. 30, 1950, during his “habitual walk in the Vatican Gardens, reading and studying,” having arrived to the statue of Our Lady of Lourdes, “toward the top of the hill […] I was awestruck by a phenomenon that before now I had never seen.”

“The sun, which was still quite high, looked like a pale, opaque sphere, entirely surrounded by a luminous circle,” he recounted. And one could look at the sun, “without the slightest bother. There was a very light little cloud in front of it.”

The Holy Father’s note goes on to describe “the opaque sphere” that “moved outward slightly, either spinning, or moving from left to right and vice versa. But within the sphere, you could see marked movements with total clarity and without interruption.”

Pius XII said he saw the same phenomenon “the 31st of October and Nov. 1, the day of the definition of the dogma of the Assumption, and then again Nov. 8, and after that, no more.”

Full Zenit article here.

World War II heroes … and future saints?

November 6, 2008

There is an extraordinary column in Tuesday’s Jerusalem Post which offers a beautiful list of Catholic heroes from the World War II era — courageous men and women who risked their lives in order to protect Jews during the War and defend human dignity.  Significantly, it’s written Mordecai Paldiel, the fomer director of the Righteous Among the Nations department at Yad Vashem, Israel’s memorial to the Jewish victims of the Holocaust. 

Note from the start that the author’s intention is to point out that there are plenty of better World War II era candidates for sainthood than Pope Pius XII.  Though Pius is often defended, Paldiel notes, by saying his supposed public silence was a matter of prudence, and that he was doing what he believed was the best he could do for the Jews, there were many brave clerics who found another way. 

Agree or disagree with that context, it’s an inspiring thing to read Paldiel’s column.  His “litany of World War II saints” includes 7 priests, 2 nuns, and 2 bishops.  For example:

 IN BELGIUM, Hubert Célis, a priest in the village of Halmaal, near St. Trond, sheltered the children of a Jewish family whose parents had entrusted them to him. He promised them that whatever the outcome, he would return them to the Jewish fold. Suspected of harboring these children, Célis was arrested. Confronting his interrogator, Célis raised his voice. “You are a Catholic, and have forgotten that the Virgin was a Jewess, that Christ was Jewish, that He commanded us to love and help one another… That He told us: ‘I have given you an example so that you do as I have done’… You are a Catholic, and you do not understand what a priest is! You do not understand that a priest does not betray!” These words had a tantalizing effect on the interrogator and Célis was released.

Certainly, as Pope, Pius XII was in a different role.  But it does cause one to wonder, “what if…”

B16 on P12 again

November 2, 2008

From the New York Times on Thursday:

Group Says Pope Will Weigh Delay of Pius’s Beatification 

Published: October 30, 2008

VATICAN CITYPope Benedict XVI told Jewish leaders on Thursday that he was “seriously considering” delaying the beatification of Pius XII, the pope during World War II, until the archives of his papacy had been opened, a participant at the meeting said.

But the pope’s spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, said Benedict’s response was not a “public commitment,” according to The Associated Press.

“You shouldn’t read this response for beyond what it is,” Father Lombardi said. “It is a polite, serious response. He always takes seriously what he is told.”

Full story here.

As I said the other day, I tend to think this would be wise.

Prudent to wait?

October 22, 2008

Today: Scholars ask pope to put Pius XII’s sainthood cause on hold


WASHINGTON (CNS) — A group of Christian and Jewish scholars is calling for the sainthood cause of Pope Pius XII to be put on hold.The American, Canadian and European scholars said they believe more extensive study is still needed to look into claims that Pope Pius, who headed the church from 1939 to 1958, did not do enough during World War II to protect Jews from the Holocaust.

“The Vatican will not achieve credibility on the question of Pius XII’s wartime record by relying solely on the work of defenders of Pius XII,” the statement said. “We therefore respectfully urge Catholic authorities to continue a hold on a consideration of Pius XII’s beatification/canonization until all relevant archival material is made available and scrutinized.”

The scholars made their plea to the Vatican in a statement issued Oct. 21 by Servite Father John T. Pawlikowski of the Catholic Theological Union in Chicago and Edward Kessler, director of the Center for the Study of Jewish-Christian Relations at the Woolf Institute of Abrahamic Faiths in Cambridge, England; it was signed by seven other academics.




Bishop Sergio Pagano, prefect of the Vatican archives, recently told the Jerusalem Post that the Vatican’s five archivists would need another five or six years to catalog documents from Pope Pius’ pontificate.”Regarding Pius XII’s beatification, as a historian, I would think it prudent to wait a few years after the opening of the archives,” Bishop Pagano said.

“Allowing further research and waiting can only strengthen his case. Certainly nothing negative will be found,” he said.



I tend to agree.  We have nothing to fear of the truth.  If he was truly worthy, not just of respect because held the office of pope, and not just of admiration because he meant well, but of veneration as a saint, further research can only confirm this.  If this research, on the other hand, refutes it, we’ll be glad we waited.

Pius XII document is on B16’s desk (since May)

October 20, 2008

Speaking of beatifications, the possibility of Pope Pius XII’s continues to get big coverage in the media, following Pope Benedict’s positive comments about it last week.  Though most of it repeats the same old material, I did spot one interesting detail this weekend about the potential beatification of Pope Pius XII that I had not seen before.

An article by Agence France-Presse cites the well-known postulator of Pius’s cause, Fr. Peter Gumpel, saying that the decree attesting to Pius XII’s heroic virtues is complete and “has been on [Pope Benedict’s] desk since May 8,” awaiting his signature.  Fr. Gumpel says that the Pope has not yet signed it because “he wants good relations with the Jews.”

The Pope’s signature on this decree would be a major step toward Pius XII’s beatification / canonization, giving him the title “Servant of God.”  The only thing left for beatification would be the verification of a miracle, followed by another for canonization.  (Sounds odd to use that word only there — we only need a few dramatic cures that are inexplicabale by modern science!  No problem at all!)

But if Benedict is concerned about offending the Jews of the world (and I think it’s worthy concern), given the current state of opinion of most Jewish leaders and media outlets, it may be a long time before it happens.

Pope Pius XII anniversary

October 9, 2008

As I’ve noted on this blog earlier, today is the 50th anniversary of the death of Pope Pius XII.  One could say that in many ways, this event marked the beginning of the end of a certain era in the history of the Church in modern times.  (Some would say that’s a positive thing, some negative.  Always one to straddle a fence, I’d say it’s a mix.)

My cover story in the September/October ’08 issue of The Catholic Answer marks the occasion and considers Pope Pius’s impressive and controversial legacy.  I see that Our Sunday Visitor, publisher of TCA, now has it available online as well.

Pope Pius XII anniversary

September 1, 2008

The Church will mark the 50th anniversary of the death of Pope Pius XII this October 9.  I used the occasion to take a look at the man and his ministry in an article that is the cover story of the latest issue (September/October ’08) of The Catholic Answer.

Pope Pius was a remarkable Pope with many interesting and dramatic aspects to his ministry.  Today, of course, the context in which he’s most often mentioned is the question of how much or how little he did and said to protect the Jewish people during the Holocaust.  That issue has been ably addressed by people like Rabbi David DalinPierre Blet, and Margherita Marchione.

It’s a shame, though, if all that we know about Pius is whether or not we think he did enough for the Jews. 

Pope Pius XII worked very hard in his effort to seek peace during World War II.  (The Nazi invasion of Poland, which initiated World War II, happened 6 months after his election as Pope.)  The central image on his coat of arms, a dove with an olive branch in its beak, was an apt symbol of his pontificate, despite the fact that his efforts were largely ignored by the warring nations.

The other important aspect of his pontificate was his teaching ministry.  Pope Pius published a total of 41 encyclical letters during his 15 years as Pope, several of them of lasting significance.