Pius XII

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Pius XII,

1876–1958, pope (1939–58), an Italian named Eugenio Pacelli, b. Rome; successor of Pius XI. Ordained a priest in 1899, he entered the Vatican's secretariat of state. He became (1912) undersecretary of state and, after becoming a bishop, was appointed (1917) nuncio to Bavaria. He stayed in Germany until 1929 and concluded concordats with Bavaria and Prussia. He was made cardinal in 1929 and papal secretary of state in 1930, succeeding his teacher, Cardinal Gasparri. He negotiated the concordat with Nazi Germany in 1933. Elevated to the papacy in 1939, Pius was the first papal secretary to be elected in centuries and the first Roman pope since 1730. In his first encyclical (Summi pontificatus, 1939) Pius made a general attack on totalitarianism. During World War II, however, he believed that the Vatican could best work to achieve peace by maintaining formal relations with all the belligerents. He was later much criticized for not speaking out against the Nazi persecution of the Jews and accused of not doing enough to protect them within Italy. After the war Pius was alarmed by the resurgence of Communism in Italy and fostered the growth of Catholic Action groups to strengthen the Christian Democratic party. In 1949 he excommunicated Italian Catholics who joined the Communist party. In retaliation for the political persecution of the church in Communist Eastern Europe, Pius excommunicated the political leaders of Yugoslavia, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Romania, and Poland. Pius issued his main directives in encyclical form; their subjects included the doctrine of the mystical body of Christ, i.e., the church (Mystici Corporis Christi, 1943); biblical studies (Divino afflante spiritu, 1943); the 14th centenary of St. Benedict (1947) and the liturgy and practices surrounding it (Mediator Dei, 1947); and the future of Africa (Fidei donum, 1957). He continued Pius XI's educational pontifical universities in South America (at Lima, Medellín, Rio de Janeiro, and Santiago de Chile), and he favored the appointment of native hierarchies in overseas dioceses. In 1950, in the papal bull Munificentissimus Deus, the pope defined the dogma of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary. He reformed (1956) the Holy Week liturgy, relaxed the rules for fasting, and increased the hours during which Mass may be said. Pius had only one secretary of state, Cardinal Luigi Maglione; after his death (1944) the pope acted as his own secretary of state. He was succeeded by John XXIII. Pope Pius was widely venerated during his lifetime, and proceedings for his beatification were begun in 1965.


See his Guide for Living, ed. by M. Guinlan (1960); biographies by K. K. Burton (1958), T. J. Kierman (1958), J. H. L. Smyth (1958), F. J. Coppa (2012), and R. A. Ventresca (2012); C. Falconi, The Silence of Pius XII (tr. 1970); J. Cornwell, Hitler's Pope (1999).

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Pius XII

original name Eugenio Pacelli. 1876--1958, Italian ecclesiastic; pope (1939--58): his attitude towards Nazi German anti-Semitism has been a matter of controversy
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
References in periodicals archive ?
On Monday, Pope Francis said that Pius XII had guided the Catholic Church "in one of the saddest and darkest moments of the 20th century," and that he had sometimes been criticized in an "exaggerated" manner.
Selected in March 1939, Eugenio Pacelli (who would take the name Pius XII) had previously headed the Holy See's diplomatic efforts as secretary of state--the appointment of an experienced diplomat (although Riebling prefers to bill him as an intelligence chief) with the prospect of the Second World War looming.
Soldier of Christ readily acknowledges that a cloud continues to linger over Pius XII's wartime record.
Even today, with or without the availability of new archival sources, the figure of Pius XII continues to be divisive in both ecclesiastical and historical circles.
But for the last half century, Hochhuth's charge has put the Vatican on the defensive, particularly during the last decade, when a firestorm of international controversy accompanied Pope Benedict XVI's approval of the Congregation for the Causes of the Saints' recommendation to name Pius XII "venerable," a step towards possible canonization.
Part of the problem in evaluating Pius XII and his attitude toward the Jews is one of papal rhetoric.
Rabbi Abraham Skorka, a friend of the current Pontiff for the past 20 years, says he has had a discussion with Pope Francis about the actions of Pius XII - the man long dubbed 'Hitler's Pope'.
A scholar of modern world history adds to his extensive writing on the papacy by exploring the controversial policies and actions of Pius XII during World War II, and the Cold War that followed.
During the war, Pius XII cooperated with the Allies by providing them with information about German troop movements and by supporting extension of the Lend-Lease Program to the USSR.
On one side of the "Pius war" are those who argue that Pius XII sought to protect Jews as best he could under very trying circumstances.
According to the Telegraph, Pope Pius XII, who was labeled "Hitler's Pope", because of his silence during the Holocaust, may have arranged the exodus of about 200,000 Jews from Germany just three weeks after Kristallnacht, when thousands of Jews were rounded up and sent to concentration camps.
She was able to do this because Pope Pius XII had ordered that the cloisters be opened so that Jews could be hidden there.