Pius XII, Eugenio Guiseppe Giovanni Pacelli, born on 02-03-1876 in Rome into a deeply religious, aristocratic family with a history of ties to the papacy (the “Black Nobility”). His grandfather, Marcantonio Pacelli, was Under-Secretary in the Papal Ministry of Finances. At the seminary, he received a special dispensation to live at home for health reasons. In 1904, Pacelli became a papal chamberlain and in 1905 a domestic prelate. Pope Benedict XVappointed Pacelli as nuncio to Bavaria on 23-04-1917, consecrating him as titular Bishop of Sardis and immediately elevating him to archbishop in the Sistine Chapel on 13-05-1917. After his consecration, Eugenio Pacelli left for Bavaria. As there was no nuncio to Prussia or Germany at the time, Pacelli was, for all practical purposes, the nuncio to all of the German Empire. Pius XI died on 10-02-1939 and Pacelli was his successor. He had one day a meeting with the Hitler admirer Winifred Wagner. Nazi persecution of the Church in Germany then began by “outright repression” and “staged prosecutions of monks for homosexuality, with the maximum of publicity.” When Dutch bishops protested against the deportation of Jews, (see Anne Frank)
the Nazis responded by deporting Jewish converts. In Poland, the Nazis murdered over 2,500 monks and priests while even more were sent to concentration camps. The Priester-Block, priests barracks, in the Dachau concentration camp lists 2,600 Roman Catholic priests. Pius XII’s refusal to censure the German invasion and annexation of Poland was regarded as a “betrayal” by many Polish Catholics and clergy. The Pope’s reaction to the Holocaust was complex and inconsistent. At times, he tried to help the Jews and was successful. He talked with Adolf Hitler and Franz “Fränzchen von Papen. But these successes only highlight the amount of influence he might have had, if he not chosen to remain silent on so many other occasions. No one knows for sure the motives behind Pius XII’s actions, or lack thereof, since the Vatican archives have only been fully opened to select researchers. He even gave an audience for the catholic German Oberstleutnant of the Fallschirmjäger, Friedrich August Freiherr von der Heydte a German airborne hero, commander of the 6th Fallschirmjäger Regiment. Historians offer many reasons why Pope Pius XII was not a stronger public advocate for the Jews: A fear of Nazi reprisals, a feeling that public speech would have no effect and might harm the Jews, the idea that private intervention could accomplish more, the anxiety that acting against the German government could provoke a schism among German Catholics, the church’s traditional role of being politically neutral and the fear of the growth of communism were the Nazis to be defeated. Whatever his motivation, it is hard to escape the conclusion that the Pope, like so many others in positions of power and influence, could have done more to save the Jews.
Death and burial ground of Pius XII, Eugenio Guiseppe Giovanni Pacelli.
Pius XII died of stomach and kidney problems on 09-10-1958, age 82 and is buried in the St Peter’s Basilic in Rome.