Venerable Pope Pius XII
The writer has chosen the Venerable Pope Pius Xll as a Patron for some very personal as well as powerful reasons.
Cardinal Pacelli was elected Pope at a crucial point in modern history. He was no sooner installed, when he had to face the onset of the Second World War. Gentle as he was, he was not to be bullied by the power mongers of Europe. His many accomplishments during this time of unprecedented political turbulence are legendary. One of these has special appeal: his mammoth effort to save as many Jews as possible from the clutches of Hitler and his high command.
Pope Pius Xll, at very high personal risk, devised a wide range of schemes to help Jewish people escape torture and death. After the war, tributes flowed from Jews around the world, in warmest appreciation for the Vatican’s extensive rescue efforts. The highest praise was also given to the Pope for the wisdom of his policies in dealing with the Nazis – sometimes speaking out and condemning; at other times reluctantly keeping silent at the request of many rabbis from war-torn countries, to help prevent further carnage. The Chief Rabbi of Rome, so overwhelmed by the love and sacrificial caring of the Pope for the Jews, was received into the membership of the Catholic Church after the war.
Years later after the Pope’s death, as some of the young Jews born around the time of the war, grew to adulthood, it seems they sought a scapegoat for their own perceived sense of guilt, or the lack of success of courageous relief operations by their elders, they turned on Pope Pius and accused him of being silent when he could have said more, or of doing too little when he should have done more. Thankfully, many leading Rabbis and other Jews have repudiated such unfortunate claims; but much sadness remains as Jews, albeit a small minority, continue to criticise Pope Pius and indeed the whole Catholic Church, when they have the advantage of hindsight and more detailed knowledge to hand. There is an unfortunate ring of familiarity about the way modern media make a feast of it.
Pope Pius XII took a strong stand against destructive influences wherever they occurred. He was especially devoted to giving clear guidance and teaching to help young families cope with rebuilding their lives after World War Two.
We have attached part of an address by Pius Xll to the youth of Rome gathered at a 1947 conference. It shows real vigor and spiritual leadership we expect from a great Pope. The Holy Father’s message is just as relevant today as it was in 1947, and is good spiritual reading for the faithful of all ages.
We look forward to the Beatification of this great man of God when we will be able to join the whole Church together with the Heavenly Court in singing the glorious praises of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Alert To the Young
From an address by Pope Pius Xll to the youth of Rome
8th December, 1947
Great is Our joy as We welcome you here, beloved Sons, the Catholic youth of the Eternal City, the young people of Our own diocese. You wish to be “the Pope’s Youth”. Well, we wish to be “the Pope of youth”. Youth and age are not measured by the number of years (1). To be young and to remain young is to grow and to have confidence, to dare to act.
The future belongs to youth, but to the youth which has known how to conquer it and dominate it ― all the more reason why it should belong to you, who wish to be advanced lay apostles of the Catholic youth of Italy, who wish to march in the front ranks when there is question of keeping God for your dear country.
Conscious of your mission, you are awaiting Our directive. Here It is. The present hour presents it to you in an imperious fashion under a triple form: clear principles, personal courage, indissoluble union of religion and life.
1. Clear principles
Clear principles. We see shining in your eyes; we hear vibrant in your voices the enthusiasm which fills your hearts: for Christ, for the Church, for the papacy. But the enthusiasm of feelings is unstable if it is supported merely by the memory of the glories of Christian Rome; superfluous and ephemeral is the fervor which is simply the fruit of habit. If we do not want this beautiful enthusiasm one day to be pricked like a balloon in the hands of a child, it must stem from a conviction which is clear and strong. You must have a reasoned and profound understanding of the object of your faith. This object must appear before you in all the splendor of its truth, its purity, its strength, in the fullness of its exigencies. You must know why the Catholic teaching has reason on its side.
Thus, we will no longer see in your midst those inconstant youths who, after having spent a pious adolescence quickly begin to doubt, to vacillate, perhaps even to separate themselves from the Church, simply because their thinking is marked by equivocation and by ignorance of the things of faith, because their poor religious baggage consists of vague, incomplete, imprecise religious notions which, as they grow older, melt away like snow before the sun. That is why you must be able to account for your convictions; you must be really strong young men, like deep-rooted oak trees, not like reeds shaken in the wind (2), weak minds whom every difficulty confounds and disconcerts,
Catholic thought has profoundly explored every aspect of the questions relevant to religion, to redemption, to the Church. It is up to you to make your own, its conclusions, its solutions, its answers, so that the faith within you may be living and fruitful. This is your first duty.
2. Personal courage
Personal courage. Do not be surprised, beloved Sons if, in speaking of courage, We wish to emphasize precisely the word personal. To form a united group as compact as yours is, animated not by desires of violence but determined to defend properly and loyally the highest and the most sacred desires — this is certainly an excellent thing every one supports every one else, mutually, fraternally and, in this way, daring becomes easier. But this courage must be shown even if, in some place or other, at a certain moment, because of particular circumstances, you should find yourselves in the minority, few in number, perhaps, even alone, faced with an adversary bolder and more numerous. Be ready to resist to the end, against them all in your affirmation of the law of God, in the defense of the faith and of the Church — should we add today also, in the defense of order, of progress, and of social peace, on every occasion that the common good requires your collaboration?
Look at the first martyr, St. Stephen: one against them all, to the very end. He surpassed, even in intelligence and wisdom, his cruel foes who were unable to answer his argument and his proofs (3). It is men like that who are needed by the Church and by society. Such is the second one of your directives. Now hear the third.
3. The indissoluble union of religion and life
The indissoluble union of religion and life. The Church of the first centuries has often been called and been represented as “the Church of the catacombs”, as if the Christians of that period were accustomed to live hidden in the catacombs. Nothing is more inaccurate: these subterranean cemeteries, destined in large measure for the burial of the faithful departed, did not serve also as places of refuge except, sometimes, in periods of violent persecution. The lives of Christians, in those first blood-stained centuries, were spent in the street and in the home, in the open. They “did not live separated from the world, they frequented, as others did, the forum, the baths, the shops, the workrooms, the markets, the public squares; they exercised their professions of soldier, sailor, farmer, merchant” (4). To make of that valorous Church, always ready to step into the breach, a society in ambush, living their lives in hiding through shame or pusillanimity, would be to insult their courage.
They were fully conscious of their duty of winning the world for Christ, of transforming, according to the teaching and the law of the Divine Saviour, both public and private life, from which would spring up a new civilisation, would rise up another Rome out of the tombs of the two Princes of the Apostles. They achieved their aim. Rome and the Roman Empire became Christian.
A Call To Action
The Church’s mission and the mission of the faithful is ever the same: to bring back to Christ the whole of life: personal life, private life, public life; not to cry truce until his teaching and his law have entirely renewed and refashioned it. He is Our Lord, Our King, Our Peace (5).In fact, the greater the violence of the efforts of unbelief and irreligion to jostle Christ and his Church off humanity’s path, the more the ranks of lay apostles, especially of the young, should close in and do combat for the sovereign rights of Christ and the liberty of the church, on which depend not only the eternal salvation of souls, but even the dignity and the happiness of men here on earth, the civil order, justice, and peace. Here all vivisection is fatal: they cannot kill the Christian without by the same blow killing the citizen and the honest man. When life ceases to be Christian, it is in danger of quickly falling into unbelief and barbarity.
References In Text.
(1) Cf. Wisdom 4: 8.
(2) Cf. St Matt. 11: 7.
(3) Cf. Acts v6: 10.
(4) Cf. Tertullian, Apol. C. 42.
(5) Eph 2: 14.
Eugenio Pacelli as a young priest after his ordination in 1899.
Archbishop Pacelli, as Papal Nuncio, leaving the Ministry of State in Berlin after the ratification of the Concordat with Prussia.
Eugenio Pacelli was crowned Pope as Pius XII on March 12th, 1939.
The daily recitation of the Psalms & Scriptures.
Four “candid” shots of the Holy Father.
The Pope’s private appartment at the Vatican.
March 1939 was a time of high tension as Hitler, unsatisfied with his Munich verbal threats, was preparing to rend Europe. Faced with this situation the cardinals quickly elected Eugenio Pacelli, the late Pope’s capable and experienced secretary of state.
Eugenio Pacelli was born at Rome on March 2, 1876, of a family devoted to the papal service. Eugenio, eager to become a priest, worked so hard at the Capranica Seminary that his health gave way and he was forced to leave the seminary. Leo XIII allowed young Pacelli to live at home while completing his courses and in this way Pacelli reached ordination in 1899.
Eugenio began his priestly career with a combination of parish work and professional study. He took a degree in Canon and Civil Law at the Apollinaris. Cardinal Rampolla, on the watch for talent, took Pacelli into his department of state. Pius X made him a monsignor and set him to work on the titanic task of re-codifying canon law. During the First World War Pacelli gained valuable experience helping Benedict XV and Cardinal Gaspari in their humane efforts.
In 1917 Benedict sent Pacelli as nuncio to Munich to forward the Pope’s peace plans. Although Pacelli managed to secure an interview with the Kaiser, nothing came of it, and Germany went down in 1918. Revolution swept Munich and Pacelli got a bitter taste of life under the hammer and sickle. Several times the Communists threatened him, but he managed to calm them down. Once an automobile in true gangster fashion roared by his house blasting it with machine-gun fire. When the Weimar Republic was established, Benedict created a nunciature at Berlin and sent Pacelli to be the first nuncio. He got along well with the Germans and left with regret in 1929 to be made a cardinal. The next year he succeeded the aged Gaspari as Secretary of State. Few popes had, up to that time, travelled as widely as Pius XII, and he is the first pope to have visited the United States.
In the gloomy days of the Second World War, Pius tried hard to keep a door open to peace. On December 24, 1939, he gave the world a sane fivepoint peace programme. If he could not stop the war, at least he could and did relieve the sufferings of the miserable millions of refugees and war victims. Pius called on Catholics all over the world and especially in comparatively comfortable America to share with the needy. Pius also did much to save Rome from destruction; but he saved more than buildings. While Gestapo agents glared, Jews, refugees, and all manner of hunted folk found safety in the tiny Papal State.
After the war Pius continued to stress the need for a just peace. A realist, the Pope understood the thorny difficulties faced by the United Nations, but he approved of it and encouraged all good works tending to foster international understanding. As pastor of souls Pius keenly felt the need of modem man for spiritual sustenance. To make it easier for people to attend Mass and receive Holy Communion, Pius greatly relaxed the old rules governing the time of Mass and the fast necessary to receive Holy Communion.
Pius XII died on October 9, 1958. For suffering people of all faiths or no faith he had been a true father.
Warm Love of Children
Description of the above picture.
Following the end of World War II, a group waiting for the Holy Father’s visit was made up of 150 crippled children who had been maimed and mutilated in the war. One boy who lost both hands demonstrates his ability to overcome his terrible handicap by writing something with the little stubs of his arms.
The Pontiff stood by and watched intently. He was very much affected by these children and it showed in his face. The priest (bottom left of picture) showed the boy’s writing to the Holy Father, who read it aloud: “…long live the Pope!”
Viewers almost thought he was going to cry, he was so moved by all this. But he placed his hands upon the boy’s head and blessed him. Then he asked him his name and other questions, and told him to trust in God and to have courage. He spoke to each of the children and blessed each one of them.
Then he turned to the grown-ups there, the priests and laymen who accompanied the children. The Supreme Pontiff recalled the love of Christ for children and expressed the certainty that generous souls would never be wanting so that children like these can be given lives of usefulness, happiness and peace in spite of – and even because of, their handicaps.