The Pope in War and Peace
POPE Pius XII has now occupied the Chair of Peter for a decade.
His Holiness observed his seventy-third birthday on Wednesday. It was also the tenth anniversary of his election as Pope. His coronation as Pope took place oat March 12, 1939. On April 3 he will have been a priest for 50 years.
It is unlikely that any Pontiff has been called upon to face problems more serious, more widespread and more complex than those which our reigning Pope has had to meet in the last ten years. It is unlikely, too, that any of the present Holy Father's predecessors saw or was seen by so many people, or knew about more of the world's great nations first-hand.
There were distinct breaks with tradition when, on March 2, 1939, the Conclave in the Vatican chose Cardinal Eugenio Pacelli to be Pope. He had been Secretary of State to Pius XI. and no one holding that office had been elected Pontiff since 1667. At his coronation, March 12, 1939, he became the first native of Rome to ascend to the Papacy in more than two centuries.
The Aims of His Pontificate
In his allocutions, in his acts and above all, in his first Encyclical Letter, Pius XII immediately made clear thc aim of his Pontificate: the reconstruction of moral, social and public life on Christian principles.
However, less than seven months after the coronation Germany sent her troops hurtling into Poland and World War II began to bring with it ruin, anguish, carnage and unrest such as the world had never seen.
Una/ its outbreak. the Holy Father worked with every resource at his command to prevent the disaster. Once the first shot was fired, he laboured unceasingly to halt its spread, to mitigate the almost inconceivable suffering it caused.
Even before the furious clash of arms died down to the rumblings of an uneasy and sullen peace, the Pope began tireless efforts to have a real and lasting peace. Unfortunately, in his Christmas Message of 1949, the Holy Father was compelled to ohserve that " any clear-sighted person who has the moral strength and courage to look truth squarely in the face " must recognise that the world stands "on the brink of a precipice where pitfalls and dangers fill good and generous people with increasing anxiety."
In a world made small by instantaneous communication and spacedevouring transportation, Pope Pitts XII saw much of earth's surface laid waste by war; hundreds of cities wrecked; miles of earth parched and unproductive; countless thousands actually starving; millions of persons uprooted from their homes and with no place to go; itnmoralities of every kind increasing through this uprooting and destitution; fierce warfare actually raging in many quarters. but largely ignored by the rest of a world intent upon forgetting the last world-wide conflagration; new tyrants rising to replace those World War 11 was fought to overcome; the Church suffering vicious, painful and relentless persecutions in many quarters; a Cardinal and an Archbishop of the Church imprisoned on trumped-up charges by hostile regimes in two countries, many Sees left vacant and prelates and clergy and laity bitterly persecuted.
Better Known Than Any
If the heart of a Vicar of Christ was never more sorely tried. none was ever closer to, or better known by. more of Christ's children round
the world. The tall, ascetic Cardinal Pacelli had already known much of Europe first-hand through his years in the diplomatic service of the Holy See. He spoke fluently more than a half-dozen languages and understood perhaps as many more. He had been to Latin America as thc Legate of his predecessor. and he had been to the United States in 1936 on a visit that took him from one end of the country to the other.
The war saw the Eternal City of Rome twice occupied-once by the Germans and later by the Allies. His Holiness showed a willingness to receive all who desired to call on him. and soldiers and civilians from every corner of the world came by
the thousands. It was not on one day alone that Pius XII saw as many as 8,000 Allied troops from a halfdozen countries at one time, and he received a thousand or more at a time, day after day and month after month. It was not just seeing these visitors and being seen; the Pope addressed each audience, and usually spent some time afterwards talking with individuals.
Pius XII has spoken to the Church throughout the world and in particular areas through thirteen Encyclicals, in addition to Constitutions. Motu Proprios and various other pronouncements. It is interesting that when his first Encycl ice I. Stonoti Ponttifictsass appeared October 31). 1939. pointing to the need for unity in opposing world evils. World War II had already started in Europe. and when his 13th Encyclical, In Multiplicibus, appeared on October 23, 1948, urging renewed prayers for peace. it took cognizance of fighting then going on Palestine.
The Search for Peace
From the beginning of his Pontificate, the Pope has spoken only of love and peace. and of spiritual. moral and social reconstruction. The five conditions' for peace laid down by the Holy Father in his Christmas Allocution of 1939 are indispensable signposts in the search for real tranquility and order. These conditions are: Independence for all nations, large and small. strong and weak; liberation of the nations from the slavery of armaments; wise reconstruction of international institutions so as to remove the consequences of past deficiencies; earnest examination of the real needs and just demands of nations and of peoples as as well as of ethnical minorities, and above all, a sincere and effective return to the immutable principles of Divine Law,
The Vatican Information Service for War Prisoners set up by the Pope with headquarters in Vatican City and branches throughout the world was one of the great consolations of people in virtually every country during the dark days of war. The offices in different countries, clearing through the Vatican headquarters, gave countless thousands of relatives the first. and in some cases the only. news they were able to obtain about soldiers taken prisoners of war. It was entirely a free service. patronised by persons of all races and faiths. Many millions of messages were handled. Following the cessation of hostilities in Europe and Japan, the Holy Father has been subjected to continuing abuse by the Communists, more intense at some times than at others.
Communism struck heavy blows at the Church as it dropped its " iron curtain " over country after country in Eastern Europe. Churches and schools were closed, faithful Catholics were discriminated against until their very lives were endangered, and schism was forced upon Eastern Rite Catholics. 7 hese hardships reached their peak in the imprisonment of Archbishop Aloysitts Stepinac in Czechoslovakia. of Cardinal Mindszents in Hungary. and of all the Eastern Rite Bishops of the Ukraine and Rumania.
The actual fighting of World War II had scarce]) ended when Pope Pius XII brought the Sacred College up to full complement for the first time in many sears by naming 32 new Cardinals at one time. December 23, 1945. It was the largest single elevation of Cardinals in history. Pope Leo X had named 31 Cardinals on July I, 1517. Only four of the 32 new Cardinals were Italians: 28 came from 18 other countries.
This epochal occasion was interpreted as notice served by Pope Pius XII of a universal crusade for Christian justice and the Christian way of life. Addressing the new Cardinals, upon whom he had just conferred red birettas, His Holiness said the Church " must to-day. as never before, live her mission."
Despite that World War II raged for six years in the first decade of his Pontificate, disrupting communications between nations, Pope Pius XII raised 10 new Saints to the honours of the altar. an average of One a year. They include:
Saint Frances Xavier Cabrini, Foundress of the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, and the first American citizen to he canonized; Saint Catherine Labours', who received the revelation of the Miraculous Medal; Saint Nicholas of Flue, patron of Catholic Switzerland; Saint Jeanne Elizabeth 13ichier des Agnes, Foundress of the Daughters of the Cross; St. Michael Garicoits, Founder of the Betharram Fathers, Saint Louis Marie Grignon de Montfort, Founder of the Montfortian Fathers; St. Bernardino Realino. Italian Jesuit; Saint Giuseppe Cafasso, Founder of the Ecclesiastical College, Turin: Saint John de Britt°. a Portuguese martyr. who died in India in 1693; and St. Margaret of Hungary. whose canonisation was proclaimed in a decratal letter of Pope Pius XII dated November 13, 1943.