Eugenio Maria Giuseppe Pacelli, who will become Pope under the name of Pius XII, was born in Rome on March 2, 1876, son of Virginia Graziosi and Filippo Pacelli. This is a family very much involved in the juridical offices of the Roman Curia, since the father was the dean of the consistorial lawyers and his brother, Francesco, was a jurisconsult of the Holy See and a member of the Vatican Commission that prepared the drafting of the Lateran Pacts.
Student at the Gregorian University and the Pontifical Athenaeum of the Roman Seminary of Apollinare, for health reasons he lived with his family and not in the Colleges. A graduate in theology and in utroque iure , ordained priest on 2 April 1899, was immediately taken as a minor by the Secretariat of State of the Holy See and used in the context of the Congregation of Extraordinary Ecclesiastical Affairs, of which he became undersecretary. 1911 and secretary in 1914, and where he was appreciated as a collaborator of Cardinal Pietro Gasparri in the preparation of the Code of Canon Law , promulgated in 1917 by Pope Benedict XV.
In the same year, while fighting the First World War, he was appointed titular Archbishop of the Sardi (Anatolia) and Apostolic Nuncio in Munich, where he undertook to assist the prisoners and the German population exhausted by the difficulties of the conflict and the defeat military.
In 1920 he was appointed Nuncio to the new Republic of Germany decreed by the Weimar Assembly, and in that office he worked to conclude agreements between the Holy See with Bavaria (1925) and with Prussia (1929).
Created a Cardinal on December 16, 1929 by Pope Pius XI and recalled in Rome, on 7 February 1930 he was appointed Secretary of State as successor to Cardinal Gasparri. On behalf of the Pope, who among other things appreciated in his collaborator the remarkable knowledge of numerous languages, Pacelli intervened as Pontifical Legate at the Eucharistic Congresses of Buenos Aires (1934) and of Budapest (1938), at the celebrations of Lourdes (1935) and of Lisieux (1937) and to various particular missions, among which it is worth recalling that of 1936 in the United States, where he had discussions with President Roosevelt. His profound knowledge of the German language committed him to the realization of the Concordat of the Holy See with Hitler’s Germany (1933), although he feared in the beginning the failure of the agreement. Which, however,
Following the death of Pope Pius XI, 10 February 1939, the following March opened the Conclave, which the next day elected the new Pope: Pius XII. This is the name chosen by Eugenio Pacelli, who thus began his long Pontificate (19 years, from 1939 to 1958), one of the most difficult and dramatic pontificates among the many that the Church recalls over two millennia.
A man of great diplomatic experience, he warns that one of the most troubled historical periods awaits him. Since his first speech, the radio gravitation Dum gravissimum of March 3, 1939 addressed to the whole world, he expresses his concern for what is feared: ” At these trembling hours, while so many difficulties seem to oppose the achievement of true peace, which is the the deepest aspiration of all, We raise, praying to God, a special prayer for all those who are responsible for the highest honor and the most serious burden of guiding peoples in the path of prosperity and civil progress “.
While for confidential diplomatic routes interested many political figures, including Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Benito Mussolini, to avoid the war, on 2 June before the Sacred College renews his plea to God so that in the hearts of the rulers and peoples operate the breath of peace.
Unfortunately, the danger of the bloody international conflict becomes more troubling, so much so that on August 24, 1939, Pope Pius XII addressed the radio message to the whole world. One serious hour , with which he once again invokes peace:
” It is with the force of reason, not with that of arms, that Justice makes its way … Politics emancipated from morality betrays those who so want it. Imminent is the danger, but it is still time. Nothing is lost with peace. Everything can be with the war “.
Also the Exhortation addressed to the Governments of England, France, Germany, Italy and Poland on August 31st to reduce the tension in progress will remain unheard. The next day, September 1, 1939, will begin the Second World War with the invasion of Poland by Nazi Germany. On 3 September, Britain and France declared war on Germany. In the following months the conflict will invest almost all the countries of Europe: Finland, Denmark, Norway, Holland, Belgium, Luxembourg, Albania, Greece, Bulgaria, Yugoslavia. On 10 June 1940 Italy, an ally of Germany, declared war on France and Great Britain. Four days later, the English and French fleets bombard Genoa from the sea. On 7 December 1941 the Japanese air force forces attack the American naval base of Pearl Harbor.
In the tragic and tragic situation that gradually came about, Pius XII uses the very noble – but insufficient – instruments available to him. On October 20, 1939 he addressed the first encyclicals to the bishops of the Church, the Summi Pontificatus , with which he expressed his anguish over the sufferings that are about to fall on people, families and society. In the ” hour of darkness ” descended on humanity, he invites us to pray for the storm to be sedated, and the spirits of discord that caused the bloody conflict to be banished.
The means available for social communication are few. The traditional ones, that is the writings used for the Encyclicals, the Epistles and the Bubbles, overcome with difficulty the censorships and the borders of the States, in war against each other. With a happy intuition the Pontiff, (following the example inaugurated by Pius XI on 12 February 1931 with the Radio Arconi here Arcano Deiaddressed through the Vatican Radio to all humanity), uses with laudable frequency the radio medium that the new technique has made available. Almost 200, including those Christmas, are the radio messages sent by him to the whole world in different languages: Latin, Spanish, French, Italian, English, German, Portuguese. If we consider that the difficult task of Pius XII, in addition to the aforementioned oral texts, contemplates the drafting of difficult written documents such as the Encyclicals (well 41!), The Epistles, the Briefs, the Motu proprio, the Bubbles, clearly imposing amount of activity that he has devoted himself to for so many years.
Faithful executor of the word of Christ, in the terrible storm that struck the whole world, Pope Pacelli works with all the means at his disposal to alleviate the misery of refugees, refugees, bombers, the hungry, the persecuted, the Jews, both in Italy, both abroad. As Bishop of Rome he goes in person in July and August 1943 in the populous neighborhoods of San Lorenzo and San Giovanni to bring comfort to the victims of the Anglo-American bombing.
But even the political-ideological problems are decisively involved. Against the despotic and violent Nazism, already harshly condemned by Pius XI on March 14, 1937 with the encyclical Mit brennender Sorge , Pius XII also intervened several times with different messages, in particular with the Christmas of 1942 (as he himself will remember on June 2 1945 talking to the Sacred College). On that occasion, he had described as inexplicable as in some regions « many dispositions cross the path to the message of the Christian faith, while granting a wide and free passage to a propaganda that fights it. They take youth away from the beneficial influence of the Christian family and estrange it from the Church; they educate her in a spirit contrary to Christ, instilling conceptions, maxims and anti-Christian practices; make the work of the Church difficult and troubled in the care of souls and in charitable actions; they deny and reject his moral influence on the individual and society “. The bitterness of the Pope grew worse, noting that such anguished provisions, far from being mitigated or abolished during the war, have sometimes been aggravated. Often he intervenes to denounce the infamy of the ongoing conflict. In the Allocation in Desolation of March 12, 1944 addressed to the refugees, raminghi and without hearth, he underlines the disastrous consequences of the war scourge that does not know ” neither laws nor brakes” . And in the Allocution It is now past June 2, 1944 he repeats his cry ” war on war ” against the terrible tragedy that ” has reached degrees and forms of atrocities that shake and horrify every Christian and human sense “. In favor of the Jews, struck by the insane hatred of a mad racist doctrine, he performs a precious work of charity, which will be witnessed by the eighty delegates of the German concentration camps who will thank «in the special audience at the Vatican on 29 November 1945« personally the Holy Father for the generosity he showed towards them, persecuted during the terrible period of Nazi-fascism ” .
Only peace and security imposed on justice can guarantee to the peoples a public order that conforms to the fundamental needs of the human and Christian conscience. These are the concepts that Pius XII will repeat on May 9, 1945 in the radio message Here at last with which, after the war, kneeling ” in inspiration in front of the tombs, the ravines overwhelmed and red with blood, where they rest the innumerable remains of those who have fallen victims of inhumane fighting or massacres, of hunger or of poverty, “he recommends everyone to Christ in their prayers. And he invites us to resume our journey: « Fugitating from the earth, from the sea, from the sky the death of the insidious, ensured by the offense of arms the life of men, creatures of God, and as far as they remain private and common possessions, men can now open the mind and the spirit for the building of peace “. But already on that fateful day he sees the path that Europe will have to face: gigantic problems and difficulties, “of which we must triumph if we want to pave the way for a true peace, the only one that can be lasting “. With an absolutely anticipatory vision, since 1940, in the Allocution Thank you, Venerable Brothers of 24 December, he said that after the end of the war Europe would no longer be the one before the conflict, and had indicated in detail the prerequisites necessary for the new system, based on the norms of morality. Evidently he had guessed what would happen then.
The conclusion of the 1939-1945 war, which sees the Soviet Union as the victorious powers, opens the spread of communism among the Central and Eastern European nations and in China, as well as in other countries including France and Italy . Already in the Address In accepting the June 5, 1945 the Pope denounces the brutal violence exercised on small and medium-sized nations to which we want to impose a new political or cultural system that the great majority of their populations recklessly rejects: ” Unfortunately we had to deplore in more than one region killing of priests, deportations of civilians, citizens without trial or private revenge; no less sad are the news received from Slovenia and Croatia ». The passage of time does not improve the situation, so much so that on December 24, 1946, speaking to the Sacred College , Pius XII notes that, instead of heading towards a real pacification, in large regions, especially in Europe, the peoples are in a state of constant agitation, ” from which in a more or less near time the flames of new conflicts could arise” .
In fact, Europe appears to be divided in two: the ” cold war ” that Pope Pacelli describes so effectively in the Ecce ego declinabo Message of December 24, 1954: ” It is a common impression that the main foundation on which the present state rests. of relative calm, both fear. Each of the groups, in which the human family is divided, tolerates the existence of the other, because he does not want to perish himself. In this way avoiding the fatal risk, both groups do not cohabit, but coexist. It was not war, but neither is peace: it is a cold calm ” . It is a tacit understanding in which even communism has precise responsibilities, as the Pope explicitly states in the Christmas radio message With the heart open of 1955: ” We reject communism as a social system by virtue of Christian doctrine, and we must affirm particularly the foundations of natural law” . Nor, the Pope continues, can we consider communism as a necessary step in the course of history, and therefore accept it almost as decreed by Providence.
In the meantime, a dramatic case that has struck the whole world has grown in Hungary. The Primate of the Catholic Church, Cardinal Giuseppe Mindszenty (already imprisoned for several months by the Nazis in the autumn 1944 for his autonomous and anti-racist attitude), on December 27, 1948, was arrested by the Hungarian Communists under the charge of treason and conspiracy against the Republic. On 8 February 1949 he was sentenced to life imprisonment. Pius XII protests energetically on several occasions. In particular, he addresses the Hungarian Episcopate on 2 January 1949 ; to the Diplomatic Corps meeting in plenary session on 16 February 1949after the judgment of the Court of Budapest; to a multitude of Catholics gathered in St. Peter’s Square on February 20, 1949. He did not give up. With the decree of the Holy Office dated July 1, 1949, atheistic communism was excommunicated, and on 29 June 1956 addressed to the Catholic Hierarchy of Eastern Europe the Apostolic Epistle Dum maerenti animo , with which he once again denounces the painful conditions in which find the Catholic world in those regions: concuped rights, suppressed and dispersed associations, bishops and priests imprisoned, exiled or impeded, incitements to the schism. The accusation of the Pope against the mournful events from which Hungary is struck is incessant, so much so that on October 28, 1956 he even addressed an Encyclical to the Episcopate of the whole world so that public prayers may be held so that ” the dear Hungarian people, afflicted by so many pains and soaked with so much blood, as well as the other peoples of Eastern Europe deprived of their liberty, can happily and peacefully give a right order to their public affairs » . The invocation of the Pontiff, entrusted to a document of great international value, led the Hungarian authorities to grant freedom, on 31 October 1956, to Cardinal Mindszenty, who served eight years in prison. The Pope exults, and expresses his great joy by sending a telegram to the Porporato returned to his mission.
Although he was involved in the thousand spiritual, political and organizational needs of his ministry, Pius XII also closely followed the scientific events of his time. In the radio message In the dawn and light of December 24, 1941, during the war, he exalts progress as a ” gift of God ” and remembers that the Church, mother of many European universities, still exalts and convokes the most learned masters of the sciences . Likewise, in the Allocution In finding ourselves on 8 February 1948 he warmly praises the efforts of scientists who, overcoming a thousand difficulties and a thousand obstacles, have come to a deeper knowledge of the laws concerning the formation and disintegration of the atom, giving life to the so-called « it was atomic ». And in the Christmas radio message of December 24, 1953 he magnifies the modern technique, which leads man to a perfection never achieved in the domination of the material world: ” Embracing the results of this evolution with a glance, it seems to grasp in the nature itself the consent of satisfaction with what man has done in it, and the incitement to proceed further in the investigation and use of the extraordinary possibilities ” .
In line with these convictions, Pius XII dedicates his keen attention to the means of social communication. User expert of the Radio message, which was widely used during the war to replace the traditional written texts, when the Italian television is about to begin its regular transmissions, January 4, 1954 he sends to the Bishops of Italy an exhortation with which it exalts the new ” wonderful medium offered by science and technology to humanity “, but at the same time invites them to carefully watch over the damage that could derive from it. On 6 June 1954, the ” Television Europe ” Organization was set up, including the Radiotelevisions of Italy, France, Germany, Belgium, Holland, Denmark and Great Britain, on 6 June 1954the Pope greets the event with joy in different languages : the viewer will be able to catch live on the face of the speakers and the protagonists even the slightest nuances of their feelings. And he is so convinced of the importance of the new means of social communication, that on December 16, 1954 he established the Pontifical Commission for Film, Radio and Television, to which he entrusted the task of studying the problems of these activities that are related to the faith and morality.
Despite his many commitments, June 21, 1955 he grants a solemn hearing to representatives of the Italian film industry to emphasize the extraordinary importance of the new art, which after sixty years since the first screening has ensured the power to recall in the dark of the rooms many billions of people, with obvious responsibilities for producers; on 11 October 1955, on the occasion of the 60th anniversary of the discovery of Radiotelegraphy, he sent a celebratory radio message of Guglielmo Marconito the scientists who took part in Genoa at the third International Congress of Communications; on October 21, 1955, he received in audience the participants of the General Assembly of the European Broadcasting Union, to whom – focusing on the developments of the new means of communication – he recalled the moral and social criteria and norms that should animate all those who they operate in the sector; October 28, 1955 receives a large group of film operators from Italy, Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, England, Holland, Spain, United States, Sweden and Switzerland, who recommends using the film as an instrument of elevation, education and improvement .
The need to illuminate the Catholic world on the problems deriving from the new means of social communication induced Pius XII to direct a long and articulate encyclical to the Church Hierarchy, the Miranda prorsus of September 8, 1957, entirely dedicated to cinema, radio and On TV. In this solemn document the Pope specifically examines the three means and their relations with society. He praises them as ” wonderful inventions of which our times are glorified “, but once again expresses his concern about the dangers that an incorrect use of audiovisual techniques can constitute for the faith and for the moral integrity of the Christian people.
A pastor of an extremely turbulent and difficult historical period, so much so that he was called ” the Pope of suffering humanity “, Pius XII generously and completely dedicated himself to apostolic tasks, as can also be seen by reading and studying all his Encyclicals and his principal ones. documents published in this work.
Opened to universal problems, just after the Second World War on 18 February 1946, he created thirty-two Cardinals from all parts of the world (including China), with the purpose of demonstrating the ” supernatural character of the Church and its universal unity” .
Very devoted to Our Lady, during the Holy Year, with the Apostolic Constitution Munificentissimus Deus of 1 November 1950 defined as a dogma of faith that the Virgin Mary, Mother of God, was assumed in Heaven in body and soul.
Despite being weak in health, he carried out his business with great commitment and absolute generosity. He died at Castel Gandolfo on October 9, 1958, after nine hours of agony. His body was moved to Rome, in St. Peter’s, and buried in the Vatican caves.
- Pope Eugenio Maria Giuseppe Pacelli Biography and Profile (Vatican / Pope Pius XII Biography Translated From Italian to English By Google Translator)