December 17, 2012, Monday — The Cause of Paul VI Proceeds… But What of Pius XII?

A week ago, the Vatican Congregation for the Causes of Saints voted in favor of Pope Paul VI’s “heroic virtue.” This clears the way for Paul’s beatification (though a miracle still must be approved). Paul’s beatification could occur during 2013, perhaps at the end of the “Year of Faith.” Still, the “elephant on the room” — the long-delayed cause of Pope Pius XII — remains. Why is Pope Paul’s cause apparently proceeding more quickly than that of Pope Pius, declared “Venerable” in 2009? Some say there is a desire in the Curia to “canonize” the Council, which Paul VI presided over from 1963-1965. Still, some think Benedict could take the opportunity of Paul’s beatification to beatify Pius XII alongside him — the “Pope of the Council” and “the Pope most cited in the Council’s 16 documents”…

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“Cardinals vote unanimously in favour of Paul VI’s canonization”

The cardinals and bishops of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints gave the “go ahead” on December 10 for Paul VI’s beatification, Italian Vatican journalist Andrea Tornielli reported on his VaticanInsider website on December 14.

“The late Pope’s Positio – the collection of documents used in the process by which a person is declared a saint – was approved unanimously by all present,” Tornielli reported (the Vatican has not officially released the news). “All bishops and cardinals expressed themselves in favour of the ‘heroic virtues’ of Giovanni Battista Montini, elected Pope with the name Paul VI in 1963 and deceased in 1978. Theologians, who voted separately, also voted unanimously in favor.”

The next move? Pope Benedict will have to sign a “Decree of Heroic Virtues.” This is expected later this week, on Thursday, December 20 (the day the Prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, Cardinal Angelo Amato, will be received by the Pope).

“It is highly likely Benedict XVI will approve the beatification,” Tornielli writes.

Tornielli noted that this decision to declare Paul VI “Venerable” immediately after the vote will be taken (if it is taken, as is expected) much faster than the decision Benedict took in December 2009, after months of delay, to declare Pius XII “Venerable.”

Prior to any beatification, a second step is necessary: the recognition of a miracle, usually an inexplicable healing which occurs through the intercession of the person appealed to in prayer.

Fr. Antonio Marrazzo, the postulator of Paul VI’s cause, believes that an unborn child — an embryo — was healed 16 years ago in California through Paul VI’s intercession.

“During the pregnancy, doctors had found a serious problem with the fetus and because of the effects this problem was known to have on the brain, the only possible solution for the young mother was to have an abortion,” Tornielli writes. “The woman wanted to go through with the pregnancy and entrusted herself to the intercession of Paul VI, the Pope who wrote the 1968 encyclical Humanae Vitae. The child was born without any health impairments.”

A second unexplainable case of healing involving a nun diagnosed with a tumor may also be presented for examination, Tornielli said.

Tornielli concludes that Pope Benedict “intends to proceed as quickly as possible” noting that “2013 marks the 50th anniversary of Montini’s election as Pope and the 35th anniversary of his death (in 1978).”

Thus, the beatification of Pope Paul VI is expected in late 2013.

Protests against the decision

Another Vatican journalist, Salvatore Izzo, reporting on December 16 (yesterday) on Tornielli’s article, observes that “the hypothesis of a rapid beatification, however, has prompted the protests of (Catholic) traditionalists, who do not wish to see the Pope who conducted the Second Vatican Council raised to the altars.”

Izzo noted that the popular Italian traditional Catholic website, Messainlatino, had been “deluged” with “emails of protest.”

“Until the moment when the Holy Father has placed his signature on the decree, we will continue to express very grave reservations regarding such an inopportune decision,” the editors of the website write. (The original Italian: “Fino a quando la firma del Sommo Pontefice non sara’ apposta al decreto noi continueremo ad esprimere fortissime riserve in merito a tale inopportuna decisione.”)

They add: “Paul VI, not able to withstand the weight of many pressures also from the Curia… was too indulgent in his desire to please the false friends of the Church (internal and external).” (Original Italian: “Paolo VI, non reggendo il peso di molte pressioni anche della Curia… e indulse troppo nel voler compiacere i falsi amici della Chiesa (interni ed esterni).”)

The editors do not deny “the many gestures and talks of Pope Montini in defense of the Church” (“i molti gesti e discorsi di Papa Montini, a difesa della Chiesa”) but note that he himself “publicly stated that instead of a springtime, the spirit of the Council had provoked a winter, and declared that the smoke of Satan had entered into the Church” (Italian: “accuso’ pubblicamente che invece della primavera, lo spirito del Concilio aveva provocato l’inverno. E denuncio’ che il fumo di Satana era entrato nella Chiesa”).

The website said that, if Benedict XVI does sign the decree for Paul’s heroic virtue and for a miracle, and Paul is then beatified, they will, out of respect for Pope Benedict and his authority, not raise further protests.

And What About Pius XII?

The news that Paul VI may soon be beatified — and then, possibly, canonized as a saint — raised a question in many observers’ minds: What about Pope Pius XII?

In comments following Izzo’s article (found at, one Italian Catholic suggested that it is the world’s Jewish community which opposes Pope Pius’s beatification, and has asked the Vatican not to beatify Pius. “In the case of Pius XII, for the moment, there is the Jewish “nyet,'” this writer wrote. (Italian: “Su Pio XII c’è il niet ebraico, per ora.”) [Note: “Nyet” means “no” in Russian.]

Still, Pope Benedict may actually decide to beatify Pope Pius XII together with Pope Paul VI toward the end of 2013, to close the “Year of Faith.”

“If the Pope who brought the Council to an end and the Pope most cited in the Council documents were beatified together?” another person wrote. “It doesn’t seem to me that unrealistic.” (Italian: “Se il Papa che ha portato a termine il Concilio e il Papa più citato dai documenti conciliari venissero beatificati insieme? Non mi pare così irreale.”) 

Another wrote that the beatification of Pope Pius XII would be simply “an act of justice toward a JUST MAN who saved many, many lives during the National Socialist extermination!” (Italian: “un atto di giustizia nei confronti di un GIUSTO che tante vite salvò durante lo sterrminio nazista!)

A third writer said that the discussion of the beatification of Paul VI and reaction against the possible decision was ignoring the “elephant in the room,” that is, the long delayed cause of Venerable Pope Pius XII, that is, Pope Eugenio Pacelli (Italian: “l’elefante nella stanza, cioè il caso del sommo pontefice venerabile Pio XII, ovvero Papa Pacelli”).

This person, too, suggested that Benedict may decide to beatify Pius alongside Paul VI later this year, as took place when John XXIII (considered a “progressive”) was beatified alongside Pius IX (considered a “conservative”) on September 3, 2000 (Italian: “si potrebbe realizzare ancora una volta un’accoppiata variegata come quella che fu Giovanni XXIII e Pio IX beati in una volta sola.”)

Finally, a commentator asked whether the beatification of “so many Popes” makes sense. “Did not Pius XI (the Pope before Pius XII) and Benedict XV (the Pope during the First World War) also have merits, or not? Is it not perhaps that there is a desire to canonize the Second Vatican Council and to diminish the pre-conciliar Magisterium?” (Italian: “La beatificazione di tanti papi che senso ha? i precedenti, Pio XI e Benedetto XV, han meriti o demeriti? Non è che si voglia canonizzar il Vaticano II e sminuir il Magistero precedente?”)

So there is considerable interest, and some discontent, in Italian Catholic circles in how Pope Benedict will decide to move forward on Paul VI, and when, and whether Benedict will decide to use Paul as a way to place an exclamation point of approval on the Second Vatican Council, or whether he may decide to place Pius XII beside Paul VI at that moment, thus emphasizing the continuity between the pre-conciliar and conciliar magisterium.

Here is a link to the original article by Tornielli.

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