Archives > "I will not die before I canonize Pope
I will not die before I canonize Pope
Five days ago, we reported that
Pope John Paul II was 10 minutes from death the night he was
hospitalized (February 1).
Now, in the very different context of an 84-year-old
Pope on the mend, we consider one of the most controversial
issues he will have to face in the months ahead, and reveal
that he himself has already, according to our sources, made
up his mind on the matter.
Our sources tell us they believe that John Paul II, barring
an unexpected crisis of the type which just occurred, will
live for some time yet (one source suggested the figure "five
During that time, we have been told, John Paul fully intends
to perform at least one very controversial act: declare that
Pope Pius XII -- denounced by many for his alleged "silence"
during the Nazi persecution of the Jews -- was a saint who
helped save the lives of nearly 1 million Jews.
- by Inside the Vatican staff
Pius XII Now on Fast Track to Become a Saint
Pope John Paul II, who nearly suffocated last week due to
a constricted throat and had to be rushed to the hospital,
is strongly supporting the advancement of the controversial
cause of Pope Pius XII for beatification, "Inside the
Vatican" has learned from reliable sources.
Because of this papal support, Pius XII, the pontiff who
guided the Church throughout World War II, fighting both the
Nazis and Communists, who slept only four hours a night and
ended his life weighing only 125 pounds -- and nearly died
in 1954, four years before his death -- is now on the fast
track to beatification, and ultimately, canonization, multiple
Indeed, one source, who asked not to be identified, but agreed
to have the phrase cited, told us that John Paul, sometime
prior to this latest hospital episode, remarked: "I will
not die before I canonize Pope Pius XII."
This source continued: "The Pope was only minutes from
dying, but now seems to have recovered. Maybe this happened
because God has something still in mind for him to accomplish.
The Pope would like to declare Pius a saint because he stood
against the great totalitarian regimes of the last century,
and because he wants that model for dangers facing the Church
and mankind today."
These reports contradict widespread rumors that John Paul
is reluctant to proceed toward canonizing Pius. Such rumors
have persisted despite John Paul's continuing public praise
for his predecessor, whom he has called "a great Pope."
"Pius stands at the center of the 20th century,"
one source told us. "He confronted Hitler and Stalin.
He confronted the ideology of totalitarianism, of Marxism.
He went to Germany to study Marx, and he studied him in depth.
He understood the diabolic projects that they had. He was
a towering figure."
John Paul's support for declaring Pius a saint does not mean
that the long process (which was initiated by Pope Paul VI
in 1965) is over. Several crucial steps still remain.
As "The Times of London" reported February 5, confirming
what ITV had already independently learned: "The next
step, in accordance with Vatican rules, is for Pius XII's
'heroic virtues' to be recognized" by the historical
and theological commissions of the Vatican's Congregation
for the Causes of Saints, after which the wartime pontiff
can be "declared 'Venerable'." "The Times"
continued: "The beatification process then requires the
approval by the Congregation of a posthumous miracle -- usually
the 'medically inexplicable' cure of a terminal illness through
prayers of intercession. That accomplished, Pius XII will
be declared Blessed -- probably 'within two or three years,'
according to Vatican insiders -- and the 'wartime pontiff'
will be on the road to sainthood."
It is possible that something could happen to "derail"
this process -- for example, the death of Pope John Paul and
the arrival of a new pontiff not as devoted to Pius XII.
But, with that proviso, it seems likely that Pius XII will
become Blessed Pius XII and then St. Pius XII in the next
few years. This would be a startling response for the Church
to make to critics of Pius, who have gone so far to argue
that, far from being a saint, he was "Hitler's Pope"
the title of a book published in 1999 by British writer John
Cornwell. In that work, according to the description on the
publisher's website (Penguin Books), "Cornwell shows
that, even well before the Holocaust, Pope Pius XII was instrumental
in negotiating an accord that helped the Nazis rise to unhindered
power--and sealed the fate of the Jews in Europe. Drawing
upon secret Vatican and Jesuit archives to which he had exclusive
access, Cornwell tells the full, tragic story of how narcissism,
longstanding personal antipathy for the Jews, and political
and spiritual ambition combined to make Pius the most dangerous
churchman in history." It is this "most dangerous
churchman in history" whom Pope John Paul according to
our sources, is persuaded deserves to be called a saint.
How is this possible?
John Paul II's position stems from his agreement with a group
of historians, not all of them Catholic, who have long argued
that the criticisms made against Pius are reckless, ideologically-motivated
and demonstrably untrue. During his pontificate (1939-1958),
Pius XII was widely considered a great and courageous leader,
an implacable and outspoken foe of racism and totalitarianism,
and deadly enemy of both Nazism and Communism. At the time
of his death in 1958, he was mourned the world over and praised,
in particular, by the Jewish community, who lauded the pontiff's
wartime actions, which rescued the lives of an estimated 860,000
Jews during the Holocaust.
Within a few years of his death, however, a young playright
named Rolf Hochhuth, a guilt-ridden German Protestant who
had served in Hitler's Youth Movement as a boy in Nazi Germany,
wrote "The Deputy," a play performed throughout
the world which depicted Pius XII as silent and indifferent
during the Holocaust, particularly during the Nazi round-up
of Rome's Jews in 1943.
Though modern scholarship has "decisively established
the falsehood of Hochhuth's specific allegations," to
quote historian Eamon Duffy, "The Deputy" was accepted
as authentic history by many, creating an anti-papal legend
that persists to this day.
As the late Father Robert Graham, an American Jesuit and
expert on Pius XII, commented: "'The Deputy' was more
than merely a play. It was a sustained exercise in character
assassination that was resoundingly echoed in the popular
press. The production of the play coincided closely with the
publication of Anne Frank's diary and the trial and execution
of Adolf Eichmann. The world needed to give vent to its horror,
and with no more real Nazis left to punish, the image of a
pusillanimous Pope offered just the right scapegoat."
However, over time, and because of the dedication of Jewish
as well as Catholic researchers, the truth about Pius XII's
pontificate is becoming better known, and the Vatican's recent
decisions to move forward with the cause of Pius XII is dramatic
proof of that.
A recent series of events demonstrates the strength, effectiveness
and progress of Pius XII's growing movement of support. Consider
--On December 28, 2004, Italian historian Alberto Melloni
published a 1946 document, in the Milan daily "Corriere
della Sera," alleging that Pius XII had blocked the re-unification
of Jewish children rescued by the Church during the Holocaust,
with their surviving families, after the War. Melloni claimed
that Pius's papal nuncio in France at the time, Angelo Roncalli
(the future Pope John XXIII) ignored the papal directive and
helped place the Jewish children back with their families.
--On January 11, Italian journalist Andrea Tornielli and
historian Matteo Luigi Napolitano published a devastating
expose of Melloni's claims, in the more responsible Italian
paper, "Il Giornale." They revealed that the October,
1946 document Melloni was presenting as a papal document,
ordering French officials not to hand over Jewish children
to their families, was not, in fact a papal letter, but an
unsigned, mistranslated French memo, written by an unknown
French official, misrepresenting an authentic directive of
Pius XII, written one month earlier, clearly directing Church
officials to return Jewish children to their relatives. The
original documents, as well as supplementary material, have
now been posted on Napolitano's website (http://www.vaticanfiles.net).
--In the new January-Febuary 2005 edition of "Inside
the Vatican," just out, papal experts William Doino Jr
and Professor Ronald Rychlak, following the revelations of
Tornielli and Napolitano, update and recount the whole affair,
demonstrating how the latest allegations, repeated by a prejudiced
and uninformed media, constitute yet "another anti-papal
hoax." The two authors reveal the truth about the Vatican's
directives, showing how hard Pius XII worked, in unison with
Roncalli, to save persecuted Jewish children during the Holocaust,
and then to re-unite them with their families, after the War.
In the same issue, Mary Jo Anderson, a well-known Catholic
author, castigates the anti-papal polemicists for repeating
allegations about Pius XII before examining all the facts.
--On January 27, the influential website newsmax.com published
an explosive article entitled, "NY Times Wrong: Pius
XII Saved Jews," assailing "The New York Times"
for publishing a story, on January 9th ("Saving Jewish
Children, But at What Cost?"], which repeated Melloni's
charges, even as evidence was just then emerging which would
completely discredit them. The highly-documented newsmax article
proved that "The New York Times" piece did not even
meet the minimum standards of responsible journalism, and
called for the firing of the editors and writers involved
in "The Times'" bogus story.
--In its new issue, dated February 5, 2005, the Vatican-approved
Jesuit fortnightly, "La Civilta Cattolica," has
published an authoritative article, entitled, "La vicenda
dei bambini ebrei salvati dall'Olocausto" [The Case of
the Jewish Children Saved from the Holocaust] demolishing
the allegations of Melloni, and confirming the research of
Tornielli, Napolitano, Doino and Rychlak.
--An American organization called the Catholic League for
Religious and Civil Rights (http://www.catholicleague.com)
has published three major news releases -- on January 14,
18 and 27 -- refuting every aspect of the anti-papal campaign,
and detailing the actual record of Pius XII, including new
details (first aired by the Italian weekly "Avvenire"),
about Hitler's plot to kidnap Pius XII, because of the pontiff's
fierce opposition to Nazi ideology, and because Pius was considered
a "friend of the Jews" by the Third Reich.
--Appearing on the January 14th edition of "The World
Over Live," EWTN's popular weekly news broadcast (hosted
by Raymond Arroyo), William Donohue, president of the Catholic
League, delivered a point-by-point refutation of the recent
charges against Pius XII. Donohue also emphasized that the
campaign against Pius XII has now reached a dead end, and
that Pius XII was being vindicated by the outstanding, pioneering
work of Sister Margherita Marchione [see below], the work
of Ron Rychlak, in his great book, "Hitler, the War and
the Pope" and a brand new anthology, "The Pius War:
Responses to the Critics of Pius XII" (Lexington Books;
ISBN: 0-7391-0906-5), edited by Joseph Bottum and Rabbi David
G. Dalin, which Donohue described as "absolutely masterful."
"The Pius War," which includes an acclaimed 80,000
word commentary by ITV contributor William Doino Jr, has already
received favorable reviews from publications such as "National
Review" and "First Things." In its February
14th edition, "National Review" commented that "The
Pius War" was "one of the best volumes to emerge"
on the topic, containing "some of the most compelling
defenses of Pius" and called Doino's contribution a "tour
de force of scholarship." Writing in "First Things"
(February, 2005), editor-in-chief Fr. Richard John Neuhaus
echoed this praise, and concluded that "The Pius War
will likely be an important resource in advancing the cause
of Pius XII toward his canonization."
[Editorial Note: If Pius XII is beatified and canonized,
few will deserve more credit than Sister Margherita Marchione.
Sister Margherita, popularly known as "the fighting nun,"
is a member of the Religious Teachers Filippini, holds a Ph.D
from Columbia University, was a Fulbright scholar, and is
author of more than 50 books. At least a dozen of them, in
English and Italian, have been devoted to the life and work
of Pope Pius XII during the Holocaust (including "Pius
XII: Architect for Peace" , and Pope Pius XII:
Consensus and Controversy ). Her first book on Pius,
Yours is a Precious Witness (1997), was a groundbreaking oral
history of Jewish and Catholic survivors of the German occupation
of Rome, who paid tribute to Pius XII for his life-saving
measures taken during the War. She has appeared on many radio
and television programs, combating the likes of John Cornwell...who
recently admitted he was wrong about Pius XII in light of
the "debates and evidence following Hitler's Pope."
("The Pontiff in Winter" [Doubleday, 2004] p. 193).
Much of that "evidence" was first publicized by
Sister Marchione. Below we reprint Sister Marchione's contribution,
"The Sanctity of Pius XII," outlining the many reasons
why this great man will one day be declared a saint.]
The Sanctity of Pius XII
- by Sr. Margherita Marchione
The Vatican Congregation for the Causes of Saints will soon
begin an examination of the Positio [the multi-volume biography
and documented testimony] on the beatification of Pius XII.
With regard to Pius XII's sanctity, Father Peter Gumpel, relator,
judge, and leading authority on this process, recently stated:
"After reading over 100,000 pages of the documents related
to the process of beatification, I am more and more convinced
that Pius XII was a saint."
A beatification is strictly an internal affair of the Catholic
Church. This is not an honorary title. It is the declaration
of an individual's holiness. The requirements for beatification
and canonization demand years of investigation. The life of
the individual is scrutinized; documentation of his heroic
virtues is made available to the Congregation; miracles attributed
to his intercession are scientifically examined. This is done
through the work of collecting testimonials and documentaries
as well as through theological and medical assessments. The
moral certainty and the formulation of a judgment must be
well-founded, serious and precise. Finally, the case must
be submitted to the Holy Father who decides on the promulgation
of the decree.
Since the beginning of the year 2005, there has been an increased
interest in the beatification of Pope Pius XII among Catholics
throughout the world. Pius XII was a man of deep faith and
extraordinary charity. As has been copiously documented by
my books and others, no other head of state or religious leader
before, during, and after World War II did as much as Eugenio
Pacelli to save Jews fleeing from Nazi persecution. In his
famous book, Three Popes and the Jews (1967), Israeli historian
Pinchas Lapide did not hesitate to estimate that "the
Catholic Church, under the pontificate of Pius XII, was instrumental
in saving at least 700,000 but probably as many as 860,000
Jews from certain death at Nazi hands."
More recently, Sir Martin Gilbert, the world's leading Holocaust
researcher, stated that such life-saving acts were not accomplished
spontaneously, as if they were totally independent from the
Vatican (as Pius's detractors have argued), but were being
guided and inspired by Pius XII: "Hundreds of thousands
of Jews, saved by the entire Catholic Church, under the leadership
and with the support of Pius XII, would, to my mind, be absolutely
correct." ("Inside the Vatican," August, 2003,
Eugenio Pacelli was the Pope during a tragic period of history.
He was a model of sanctity. In him was manifested the heroism
of the one who works under extreme responsibility: it was
the sanctity that flows from decisive action in the face of
total warfare; a sanctity that knows it cannot stop because
of Nazi threats of kidnapping and death. The miracle of Pius
XII is that, because of him, the house built upon the rock
(Mt. 7:24) -- the Church -- which he kept intact during a
period of the most radical evil, was capable of providing
shelter and protection for millions of Europeans, including
hundreds of thousands of persecuted Jews.
Pope Pius XII is a lofty model of charismatic responsibility
and rational rigor, of which we have a tremendous need in
today's world. When he passed away on October 9, 1958, an
editorial "Fighter for Peace" in the "Los Angeles
Examiner," expressed the sentiments of Catholics and
non-Catholics: "It was God's will that the leader of
the Roman Catholic Church through years of grave trial should
be a man with beautifully sensitive hands, a face of compassionate
wisdom, a frail body, and a voice of quiet and profound solace.
"Yet this Pope's hands could clench in battle, his face
could be that of a warrior, his body could endure the rigors
of disease and the erosion of the years, his voice could thrust
like steel against Godless Communism. The incredible strength
of the Spirit lived beneath that delicacy of manner, that
fragility of frame.
"Pius XII was known as 'the Pope of Peace.' He called
himself a fighter for peace. His self-description was more
accurate, for the years of his reign, beginning in March,
1939, were those of the horrible violence of war or the stealth
and treachery of Communist evil. It was in these and through
these continuous ordeals that the gentle and ascetic scholar
became God's warrior; a bulwark against despair, a magnificent
fighter for peace, a repository of the hopes of mankind.
"Never, during these troubled years, did Pius XII lose
his gift of gracious beneficence. No other Pope received so
many people. They numbered many millions. Whether the audiences
were large or small, he conveyed a sense of intimacy and understanding.
His gifts to them were hope and courage. This fighter for
peace is now in peace with God."
There are volumes of depositions for the beatification of
Pius XII. His sanctity has been recorded.
Pius XII was a humble person who did not want his many good
works and accomplishments revealed. Respecting his wishes,
Sister Pascalina Lehnert -- his housekeeper -- quietly implemented
the Pope's charitable works, serving him faithfully from 1923-1958.
Only after his death, in her memoirs and deposition to the
Congregation, did Sister Pascalina reveal Pius's extraordinary
courage and charity.
As early as 1929, when he was still nuncio to Germany, and
four years before Hitler came to power, Sister Pascalina remembers
how Archbishop Pacelli warned that Hitler was a "madman,"
capable of destroying everything that went before him; and
she describes how the Nuncio criticized Germans who refused
to recognize the evil Hitler represented. (See Pascalina's
memoirs, Pio XII, il privilegio di servirlo [Milan: Rusconi,
Ten years later, after Pacelli became Pope Pius XII, Sister
Pascalina describes how the pontiff continued to fight Hitler
with every fiber of his being, and how Pius went out of his
way to assist the victims of the Third Reich. In her testimony
before the Congregation (Session CLXIII, March 17, 1972),
Sister Pascalina stated: "The Pope not only opened the
doors of the Vatican to protect the persecuted, but he encouraged
convents and monasteries to offer hospitality. The Vatican
provided provisions for these people. The accusation that
Pius XII was indifferent to the needs of the victims is without
foundation. He ordered me to spend his inheritance and personal
funds to provide for those who wished to leave Italy and go
to Canada, Brazil, or elsewhere. Note that $800 was needed
for each person who emigrated. Many times the Pope would ask
me to deliver to Jewish families a sealed envelope containing
$1,000 or more."
Pius XII's pontificate left a lasting mark on the history
of the Catholic Church. His life was one of action, inspired
by profound piety. He brought consolation, peace and encouragement
everywhere. He instituted numerous liturgical reforms: the
evening Mass, the new Eucharistic fast regulations and increased
lay participation in liturgical functions. The Eucharistic
Liturgy was the source from which Pius XII drew strength and
wisdom to lead the world.
Pius XII has been called the "Pope of Mary" for
his great devotion to the Mother of God, evidenced in the
infallible definition of the Assumption. The consecration
of Russia and of the whole world to the Immaculate Heart of
Mary, the solemn proclaiming of the Marian Year, the institution
of the feast of the Queenship of Mary, and the proclamation
of the Centenary of the Apparitions of Our Blessed Lady to
St. Bernadette, were also made by Pius XII.
Pius XII spoke numerous languages, but the only language
that inspired others, was the language of his heart. He was
a minister of peace in a warring world. When he was told that
Stalin inquired about the number of divisions in his army,
he said: "You may tell my son Joseph he will meet my
divisions in heaven." That was Pacelli's secret. Even
of Stalin he could say "my son." And mean it.
Pacelli's prayerfulness was noted throughout his life. Very
reserved, he did not speak about his personal spirituality,
but whoever approached him would realize that he was in constant
union with God. When he died, his acting secretary of state,
Monsignor Domenico Tardini, declared: "Often the Church
bells would ring at noon during our discussions. Immediately
Pius XII would stand, fold his hands, lower his eyes and begin
to recite the Angelus Domini."
Those who worked closely with Pius XII claim that he lived
a life of exemplary temperance and mortification. He was an
ascetic and practiced every virtue in an extraordinary way.
He wanted only simple food. His meals were that of a poor
person. He ate very little and did not eat desserts. He did
not use alcoholic beverages or tobacco. Even though he needed
special foods, during the war years he forbade any exceptions
for his own meals. His weight was reduced to fifty-seven kilos
He did not want his apartment heated because thousands of
refugees hidden by the Vatican could not have their rooms
heated. He slept only four hours each day, after working until
two in the morning and getting up at six a.m. Even when the
time period for fasting in order to receive Holy Communion
was lessened, he continued to observe the original fast regulations.
Pope Pius XII weighed everything in light of Gospel revelations
and Christian traditions. His official speeches and writings
alone amount to more than 22 volumes. He restored Church prestige
and provided the faithful and the world with extraordinary
In 1954, Pius XII became gravely ill. He soon resumed his
duties, and continued his mission. and gave four more years
of fruitful service to the Church. During his final illness
in 1958, as he prepared to meet his Master, when he could
no longer celebrate Holy Mass, he repeated constantly the
prayer, Anima Christi ["Soul of Christ, Sanctify me,
Body of Christ, save me, In the hour of my death, call me."]
Cardinal Angelo Roncalli -- the future Pope John XXIII --
revered Pius XII and gave a eulogy in St. Mark's Basilica,
Venice, on October 11, 1958. He recalled the magisterium of
Pius XII who "adapted himself to modern thought and progress."
He stated that history would recall his example, his messages.
As leader of the Catholic Church, his name would be listed
among the great and most popular of modern history. In his
first Christmas Message (1958), Pope John XXIII unofficially
canonized his predecessor and referred to "our Father
and Pontiff, whom we see already among God's saints in heaven:
Supreme Doctor, Light of Holy Mother Church, Lover of the
Divine Law." ("Doctor Optimus, Ecclesiae Sanctae
Lumen, Divinae Legis Amator"). In the 1960s, there began
an effort to villify the wartime Pope, a campaign which Ralph
McInerney has accurately labeled "the defamation of Pius
XII." Following the Communists, who fabricated charges
against the Pope, in hopes of driving the faithful against
him, Pius was subject to the most unscrupulous and un-historical
attacks in modern history.
Today, his detractors continue to claim, against all evidence,
that he lacked courage, human compassion, and a sense of moral
rectitude. Hostile attacks by the uninformed and prejudiced
media replace the historical record that showed him as a great
In contrast to the universal esteem Pius XII enjoyed until
his death, his reputation today still suffers from many scattered
attacks. However, according to Michael Novak, these critics
"are deflecting attention from themselves. Today's charges
against Pope Pius XII cannot stand scrutiny." What Pius
XII did for the Jews directly and indirectly through his diplomatic
representatives and the bishops is well documented. At the
end of World War II, Dr. Joseph Nathan, representing the Hebrew
Commission, addressed the Jewish community, expressing heartfelt
gratitude to those who protected and saved Jews during the
Nazi-Fascist persecutions. "Above all," he stated,
"we acknowledge the Supreme Pontiff and the religious
men and women who, executing the directives of the Holy Father,
recognized the persecuted as their brothers and, with great
abnegation, hastened to help them, disregarding the terrible
dangers to which they were exposed." The Romans gave
Pope Pius XII the title "Defensor Civitatis" ("Defender
of the City"); his contemporaries throughout the world
acclaimed him "Pastor Angelicus" ("Angelic
Shepherd"). Indeed, "Vox populi, Vox Dei" --
the voice of the people is the voice of God.
Pope Pius XII is a unique figure in modern history. He was
an extraordinary man who fulfilled his duties with courage
and great wisdom, and who was in his personal life an exemplary
Christian, priest, bishop, cardinal, and pope. One of the
most distinguished prelates ever to serve the Church, his
pontificate achieved a wider respect than it had had since
the Reformation. He restored Church prestige and provided
the faithful and the world with extraordinary leadership.
Pope Pius XII's aspirations toward truth and goodness and
his extraordinary achievements may be considered one of the
great events of the 20th century. The opinion of many of his
contemporaries was that he was a saint. Long after his detractors
are forgotten, Eugenio Pacelli will go down in history as
one of the great religious leaders of his age, or indeed any
age. He will be remembered as St. Pius XII.
Inside The Vatican (ISSN 1068-8579) is a Catholic news magazine, published monthly except July
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