Spiritual and Moral Leader in War and Peace
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'Triumphant Pontiticate =
the midst of menace
DOPE LEO XIII, very nearly 90 years old, was facing the oncoming 20th century when a tall frail young man on an April morning left the third-floor flat which was his home in Rome and went, with his parents and a group of relatives, to the private chapel of Archbishop Cassetta.
There, just a month after his 23rd birthday, he was ordained priest.
The year was 1899, the day April 2.
The following morning he celebrated his first Mass at Our Lady's altar in the Basilica of St. Mary Maio:.
Rather surprisingly it might seem, the Osservatore Romano not only announced the ordination and first Mass but gave a considerable amount of space to telling its readers all over the world who was there.
The Osserviatore's Editor may not have been interested primarily in the young priest: he was sacrificing some space to a seemingly quite ordinary occasion to please and honour a family which had given long and faithful service to the Holy See.
in fact, though, the Editor had the good fortune to he publishing the first newspaper report we have of the ordination of a future Pope. The young priest was Don Eugenio Pacelli.
And now there were in Europe a Pope and four men who in turn were to succeed him in the Chair of Peter.
In Venice there was the Cardinal Patriarch, Giuseppe Surto, Saint Pius X, as we now knoW him.
In Madrid, serving in the N nciature under the great Rampolla, was Mgr. Giacomo della Chiesa, who became Pope Benedict XV. Cardinal Rampolla himself nearly became Pope: it was only the veto of the Austrian Emperor which prevented his election in the Conclave after the death of Pope Leo XIII.
In Milan, working among his beloved books in the Ambrosian Library, was Don Achille Ratti, who was a Cardinal only five months when in 1922 he was elected to succeed Pope Benedict and took the name of Pius XL And now there was Don Eugenio.
Long tradition of service to the Holy See
The Pacelli family had a long tradition of loyal and devoted service to the Holy See. Filippo Pacelli, Pope Pius XII's father, served the Holy See as a lawyer, a Consistorial advocate. He also for many years represented the Catholics of Rome as Counsellor of the Municipality.
His mother was a marchioness whose family came from northern Italy.
His grandfather, Marcantonio Pacelli, served Pope Gregory XVI as Minister of Finance and was
Minister of Foreign Affairs under
Pope Pius IX from 1851 to 1870. Another member of the family was sent by Pope Pius IX to govern one of the provinces of the Papal States.
The Holy Father's elder brother, Francesco, spent his life in the sergjce of the Holy See. After succeeding his father as a Consistorial advocate, he was chosen by Pope Pius XI to be his intermediary in the negotiations between the Holy See and Italy which led to the Concordat and Lateran Treaties of 1929, which set up the Vatican City State and finally ended the " Roman Question," which had begun in 1870 with the seizure of the Papal States. Pope Pius XI created him a Marquis, and appointed him Counsellor General of Vatican City.
The Pope's Home was the Home of Millions
From his boyhood days—when like many another Catholic boy he used sometimes reverently to "play" at saying Mass at an altar in his home — it was obvious that the young Eugenio would one day set out to achieve his vocation.
But there was a barrier — his health. He tried, but failed, to live the community life of a seminarian. Instead, he was allowed to live at home and go to his studies as a day student.
It seemed incredible that he would live to celebrate his golden jubilee as a priest.
It seemed incredible that he could as Papal Secretary of State and the holder of many other offices, and last the pace set by Pope Pius XI, a man of immense physical strength and stamina — a mountaineer who, caught by fog and darkness, once spent a night standing on a narrow ledge on an Alpine peak, accompanied his two half-frozen companions down to the valley the next morning, left them to recover in comfort but himself climbed over the mountain again alone.
Incredibly, though, the so fraillooking Pope Pius XII did far more and for longer than his predecessor.
Look at the record: think of the amount of preparation, the physical effort involved, quite apartl from the mental alertness necessary ;n often strange surroundings and' meeting so many people for the The Holy Father. after giving one of his most famous addresses, on painless childbirth, in January, 1956, to some 700 gynaecologists and midwives, first time and realising that this was for them the great moment of their lives from which they were determined to gain the last ounce.
As a student Pope Pius XII won three doctorates when he was hardly out of his youth.
He travelled much farther, far more often and visited far more places outside Rome than any other Pope in history.
He met and spoke to tens of thousands more people than even Pope Plus XI.
He learned seven languages so well as to speak them fluently and understood several others.
He went on learning: dictionaries were his one hobby: he went to enormous pains to find the right word and phrase, revising, revising and revising again even for a speech on what to the world at large might seem the least important occasion.
He was a pioneer as Papal Nuncio to Bavaria: he had to be a pioneer again when Pope Pius XI made him Nuncio in Berlin.
He negotiated concordats almost single-handed with Bavaria and Berlin.
He created more Cardinals-32 —at one Consistory than any other Pope, and followed this with another Consistory at which he created 24.
He was the undisputed worldleader in the spiritual and moral battles against Nazism. COMmunism and all forms of totalitarianism.
Holy Year Marian Year
He went through the immense labours of a Holy Year — and proclaimed the Year of Our Lady.
He Issued 40 Encyclical Letters Involving the most acute, deep and penetrating study and elucidation of doctrine.
He created more than 190 new archdioceses and dioceses and founded scores of other ecclesiastical territories.
He established the Hierarchy in China — with 20 Archbishops and 79 Bishops.
He established the Hierarchy in British Africa, Norway and Denmark, and had almost completed the same for the Belgian Congo.
He canonised 33 saints and beatified 168 Servants of God.
Yet some will say that there was nothing more astonishing than that a man over eighty could do what Pope Pius XII did so often at public audiences.
He himself set an entirely new custom—and a new pace—in the first days of his pontificate when, after addressing a large gathering, he came down from his throne and. before the Noble Guard realised what he was about to do, walked right into the midst of the people.
In seconds, of course, His Holiness was in the middle of an excited mob who, because of all the pressing from every direction, could not have been gentle if they tried.
Prelates of the Papal Court held up their hands in astonishment. Noble guards tried in vain to squeeze through to the side of His Holiness. But there was no "rescue"; the Holy Father knew what he was letting himself in for and didn't want to be rescued. He wanted to greet everyone individually and this seemed the best way to achieve his and their wish.
As happy as anyone had seen him all his life, he made his way somehow through the long, wide hall, turning this way and that all the time, giving his hand to everyone within reach.
More than once on such occasions he lost his ring. as people seized his hand and refused to let go until all their relations or friends around had had the same privilege.
Later on more orderly arrangements were made, but'only because the Holy Father realised that many people were missing a privilege through the superior physical force of others.
Not just once, but often His Holiness spent five hours going round the audience halls with not a single moment's let up from greeting, chatting, bending down, turning. smiling all the time.
He loved it as much as the people, and his spirits grew as the hours went on. But he could do nothing about the physical strain: sometimes he was so tired when he arrived back in his private apartments that he could not speak a word.)
Why did the Pope do it?
The answer is in many of his speeches and letters: because there are not " masses" but only individuals, each person created separately by God for a purpose which no other human being can completely achieve ; each one with rights; each and all equal in the sight of God—therefore, of course.
equal in the affection of His