To one who turns the pages of your history and reflects upon the causes of what has been accomplished it is apparent that the triumphal progress of Divine religion has contributed in no small degree to the glory and prosperity which your country now enjoys. It is indeed true that religion has its laws and institutions for eternal happiness but It is also undeniable that it dowers life here below with so many benefits that it could do no more even if the principal reason for its existence were to make men happy during the brief span of their earthly life.
Pius XII, SERTUM LAETITIAE (1939)
The first papal visit to the United States is usually thought to be that of Pope Paul VI in 1965. However, Cardinal Pacelli, the future Pius XII, visited the United States in October-November 1936, becoming the first man who served as pope to set foot in the land of the free and the home of the brave. As Papal Secretary of State, foreign travel came as part of the job, but the purpose behind his visit is still something of a mystery. Some historians have claimed that he struck a deal with FDR by which the United States would establish diplomatic relations with the Vatican in exchange for the Church silencing radio priest Father Coughlin, initially a supporter of FDR but by 1936 a fierce critic.
It was usual for Pacelli to take an annual vacation and he changed plans to visit Switzerland for the United States on short notice. He met with FDR on November 5, the day after his re-election. He did secure a promise that he would appoint a personal representative from him to the Vatican, although this promise was not fulfilled until 1939, after Pacelli was elected Pope.
Pacelli never met with Father Coughlin. During his tour of the US, Pacelli brushed aside questions about Coughlin from newspaper reporters, although he made it clear that the Vatican did not agree with his criticisms of Roosevelt.
After the election Coughlin did cease broadcasting briefly, although he returned to the radio in 1937. As for Pacelli, he came away with a keen perception of both the strengths and weaknesses of the Church in the US. His comments in Sertum Laetitiae, issued in 1939 on the one hundred and fiftieth anniversary of the establishment of the US hierarchy, now seem prophetic:
12. Among the associations of the laity – the list is too long to allow of a complete enumeration – there are those which have won for themselves laurels of unfading glory – Catholic Action, the Marian Congregation, the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine; their fruits are the cause of joy and they bear the promise of still more joyful harvest in the future. Likewise the Holy Name Society, an excellent leader in the promotion of Christian worship and piety.
13. Over a manifold activity of the laity, carried on in various localities according to the needs of the times, is placed the National Catholic Welfare Conference, an organization which supplies a ready and well-adapted instrument for your Episcopal ministry.
14. The more important of these institutions We were able to view briefly during the month of October, 1936, when We journeyed across the ocean and had the joy of knowing personally you and the field of your activities. The memory of what We then admired with Our own eyes will always remain indelible and a source of joy in Our heart.
15. It is proper then that, with sentiments of adoration, We offer with you thanks to God and that We raise to Him a canticle of thanksgiving: “Give glory to the God of heaven; for his mercy endureth for ever” (Psalms cxxxv: 26). The Lord Whose goodness knows no limits, having filled your land with the bounty of His gifts, has likewise granted to your churches energy and power and has brought to fruition the results of their tireless labors. Having paid the tribute of Our gratitude to God, from Whom every good thing takes its origin, We recognize, dearly beloved, that this rich harvest which We joyfully admire with you today is due also to the spirit of initiative and to the persistent activity of the pastors and of the faithful; We recognize that it is due also to your clergy who are inclined to decisive action and who execute your orders with zeal; to the members of all the religious Orders and congregations of men who, distinguished in virtue, vie with each other in cultivating the vineyard of the Lord: to the innumerable religious women who, often in silence and unknown to men, consecrate themselves with exemplary devotion to the cause of the Gospel, veritable lilies in the Garden of Christ and delight of the Saints.
16. We desire, however, that this Our praise be salutary. The consideration of the good which has been done must not lead to slackening which might degenerate into sluggishness; it must not issue in a vainglorious pleasure which flatters the mind; it should stimulate renewed energies so that evils may be avoided and those enterprises which are useful, prudent and worthy of praise may more surely and more solidly mature. The Christian, if he does honor to the name he bears, is always an apostle; it is not permitted to the Soldier of Christ that he quit the battlefield, because only death puts an end to his military service.
17. You well know where it is necessary that you exercise a more discerning vigilance and what program of action should be marked out for priests and faithful in order that the religion of Christ may overcome the obstacles in its path and be a luminous guide to the minds of men, govern their morals and, for the sole purpose of salvation, permeate the marrow and the arteries of human society. The progress of exterior and material possessions, even though it is to be considered of no little account, because of the manifold and appreciable utility which it gives to life, is nonetheless not enough for man who is born for higher and brighter destinies. Created indeed to the image and likeness of God, he seeks God with a yearning that will not be repressed and always groans and weeps if he places the object of his love where Supreme Truth and the Infinite Good cannot be found.
18. Not with the conquest of material space does one approach to God, separation from Whom is death, conversion to Whom is life, to be established in Whom is glory; but under the guidance of Christ with the fullness of sincere faith, with unsullied conscience and upright will, with holy works, with the achievement and the employment of that genuine liberty whose sacred rules are found proclaimed in the Gospel. If, instead, the Commandments of God are spurned, not only is it impossible to attain that happiness which has place beyond the brief span of time which is allotted to earthly existence, but the very basis upon which rests true civilization is shaken and naught is to be expected but ruins over which belated tears must be shed. How, in fact, can the public weal and the glory of civilized life have any guarantee of stability when right is subverted and virtue despised and decried? Is not God the Source and the Giver of law? Is He not the inspiration and the reward of virtue with none like unto Him among lawgivers (Cf. Job XXXVI:22)? This, according to the admission of all reasonable men, is everywhere the bitter and prolific root of evils: the refusal to recognize the Divine Majesty, the neglect of the moral law, the origin of which is from Heaven, or that regrettable inconstancy which makes its victims waver between the lawful and the forbidden, between justice and iniquity. Continue reading
Co-blogger Foxfier has a first rate post at The Catholic Stand defending Pius XII:
The guy whose behavior during the Nazi occupation converted the chief rabbi of Rome to Catholicism was working with the Nazis? The guy who was supposedly so silent and passive, at best, did enough that EWTN found a dozen paged of quotes from contemporary Jewish sources that were favorable to his behavior? A Pope who is defended from such accusations by a Jewish historian (formerly of the Jewish Theological Seminary of America) who not only debunks the claims, but describes Pius XII as the greatest friend to Jews of the 20th century? The man who, at his death, got this official condolence from Golda Meir, Israel’s delegate to the UN: “When fearful martyrdom came to our people in the decade of Nazi terror, the voice of the pope was raised for the victims. The life of our times was enriched by a voice speaking out on the great moral truths above the tumult of daily conflict. We mourn a great servant of peace.”
This man gets described as “Hitler’s Pope”?
Ah, such is the power of a well-crafted story, even if that craft is used for evil ends.
Hattip to Father Z. From the speech of Pope Pius XII to seminarians on the opening of the North American College in Rome on October 14, 1953:
We belong to the Church militant ; and she is militant because on earth the powers of darkness are ever restless to encompass her destruction. Not only in the far-off centuries of the early Church, but down through the ages and in this our day, the enemies of God and Christian civilization make bold to attack the Creator’s supreme dominion and sacrosanct human rights. No rank of the clergy is spared ; and the faithful—their number is legion—inspired by the valiant endurance of their shepherds and fathers in Christ, stand firm, ready to suffer and die, as the martyrs of old, for the one true Faith taught by Jesus Christ. Into that militia you seek to be admitted as leaders.
Imprisonment and martyrdom, We know, do not loom on the horizon that spreads before your eyes. In an atmosphere of untrammeled freedom, where «the word of God is not bound», the Church in your country has grown in numbers, in influence, in strength of leadership in all that makes for the good of the commonwealth. The college on the via dell’Umiltà has seen your priests increase from twenty-fìve hundred to forty-fìve thousand and more-proud and glorious tribute to the unselfìsh, clear-visioned Catholic family life that prevails among you; a mission country become a seminary of apostles for foreign fìelds. But the Church militant is «one body, with one Spirit … with the same Lord, the same faith, the same baptism».(Eph 4, 4 ff.) And that Spirit calls for more than a dash of heroism in every priest who would be worthy of the name, whatever the external circumstances of time and place.
The spirit of the martyrs breathes in every priestly soul, who in the daily round of pastoral duties and in his cheerful, unrelenting efforts to increase in wisdom and in grace, gives witness to the Prince of shepherds, who endured the cross, despised the shame «when He gave Himself up on our behalf, a sacrifice breathing out fragrance as He offered it to God». (Eph 5, 2.)
We raise a fervent prayer to Mary Immaculate, under whose patronage you have placed your country, to Mary gloriously assumed into heaven, whom you have wished to honour in your chapel here, that she would always show a mother’s loving care of the clergy of America, and guide you, beloved seminarians, bearers of such high hopes, along the way that leads to that holiness which will bring her to recognize in you a greater and greater resemblance to her own divine Son. Continue reading
In the afternoon of the same day, Wednesday, June 7th, the Pope received, in a memorable and moving general audience in the Sala Clementina, some seven hundred grimy Allied soldiers, most of them fresh from battle and all of them in the highest spirits. There were British, French, Americans, Poles, Indians, and men from all the Dominions. The contrast between these varieties of battle-dress and the plumed Swiss Guard in their sixteenth-century uniforms who marshalled them made the deepest impression : here were the centuries meeting, as well as the nations of the free world, at an historic moment in history. The Pope said in English from the throne : “We bless all you here in person, and We send Our blessing to your loved ones at home. We pray that God in His love and mercy may be with you always. Goodbye. Bless you all.” Then he administered the Apostolic Benediction as the soldiers knelt, and came down from the throne, passing among the men as he made his way to leave. Hundreds of soldiers pressed round the common father, trying to kiss his hand or his cassock, and altogether too enthusiastic for the Swiss Guard ; but the Pope himself was entirely unperturbed, smiling, and speaking all the time to those nearest to him. Every soldier who attended was given a rosary which he had specially blessed, in a little envelope bearing the papal crest.
The Tablet, June 17, 1944
The Italian theatre of operations was the forgotten theatre of operations in World War II Europe. The American, British, Poles, New Zealanders, Australians, South Africans, Brazilians and other Allied troops fought a long and grinding campaign against a formidable German defense, with advances often painfully won from mountain top to mountain top, up the tough spine of the Italian boot. Typical of how events in Italy were overshadowed by events elsewhere in Europe was the liberation of Rome on June 5, 1944, a very hard won objective of the Allied 5th American Army and the 8th British Army, which was immediately overshadowed by D-Day the next day.
The above video is color footage showing the entrance of some of the American troops into Rome on June 5, 1944, and an audience they had with Pope Pius XII.
The Pope, like almost all Romans, was joyous to be free from Nazi occupation, and he made that clear when he met with General Mark Clark. Continue reading
Although it seems that it is almost impossible for a modern pope to escape canonization, Pope Francis does appear to make one exception: Pius XII.
Without a miracle on his record, the beatification of Second World War-era pontiff Pius XII is stalled, says Pope Francis.
During a news conference held as Francis returned Monday from a three-day trip to the Holy Land, the pope said that the file on Pius XII is still open.
“There is still no miracle,” said Francis. “If there are no miracles we cannot go forward”. Continue reading
Christopher Johnson at The Midwest Conservative is at it again. He is a non-Catholic who has taken up the cudgels so ofen in defense of the Faith that I have designated him Defender of the Faith. He enters the lists now on behalf of the most unjustly maligned man of the last century, Pope Pius XII:
Pius XII has long been vilified as “Hitler’s pope”, accused of failing publicly to condemn the genocide of Europe’s Jews. Now a British author has unearthed extensive material that Vatican insiders believe will restore his reputation, revealing the part that he played in saving lives and opposing nazism. Gordon Thomas,
Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa. Who is this guy, some trad Catholic? Dude, that’s special pleading, that’s not genuine research, you blithering idiot.
was given access to previously unpublished Vatican documents and tracked down victims, priests and others who had not told their stories before.
The Pope’s Jews, which will be published next month, details how Pius gave his blessing to the establishment of safe houses in the Vatican and Europe’s convents and monasteries. He oversaw a secret operation with code names and fake documents for priests who risked their lives to shelter Jews, some of whom were even made Vatican subjects.
Thomas shows, for example, that priests were instructed to issue baptism certificates to hundreds of Jews hidden in Genoa, Rome and elsewhere in Italy. More than 2,000 Jews in Hungary were given fabricated Vatican documents identifying them as Catholics and a network saved German Jews by bringing them to Rome. The pope appointed a priest with extensive funds with which to provide food, clothing and medicine. More than 4,000 Jews were hidden in convents and monasteries across Italy.
During and immediately after the war, the pope was considered a Jewish saviour. Jewish leaders – such as Jerusalem’s chief rabbi in 1944 – said the people of Israel would never forget what he and his delegates “are doing for our unfortunate brothers and sisters at the most tragic hour”. Jewish newspapers in Britain and America echoed that praise, and Hitler branded him “a Jew lover”. Continue reading