Pacelli, who was of noble birth, was a grandson of Marcantonio Pacelli, founder of L'Osservatore Romano[?], a nephew of Ernesto Pacelli, a key financial advisor to Pope Leo XII, and a son of Filippo Pacelli, dean of the Vatican lawyers. His brother Francesco Pacelli became a highly regarded attorney, and was created a marchese by his brother Pius XII.
Pacelli became a Roman Catholic priest in April, 1899. From 1904 until 1916 Fr. Pacelli assisted Cardinal Gasparri in his codification of canon law. Fr. Pacelli was appointed Apostolic Nuncio in Bavaria by Pope Benedict XV in 1917, and Apostolic Nuncio to the German Weimar Republic in June, 1920. Pacelli was created a cardinal on 16 December 1929 by Pope Pius XI. Within a few months, on 7 February 1930 Pope Pius appointed papal Secretary of State. During the 1930s Cardinal Pacelli arranged concordats with Bavaria, Prussia, Austria and Germany. He also made many diplomatic visits throughout Europe and the Americas, including an extensive visit to the United State in 1936. On 2 March 1939, Pacelli became the first Secretary of State since 1667 to become pope; he took the name Pope Pius XII.
Pius XII's role during World War II has been a source of major controversy. To his defenders, Pius worked tirelessly for peace and to help Jews who were facing persecution by Nazi Germany. Through the Pontifical Aid Commission, Pius XII provided relief to the victims of the war on both sides, but especially to the Jewish people. When, following the collapse of the Italian Royal Government, the Nazis occupied Rome on 10 September 1943, Pope Pius XII opened the Holy See to Jewish refugees. Estimates have suggested that 1,500,000 refugees, including Jews were helped by Pope Pius, many through the granting of Vatican citizenship. It has also been alleged that Pius directly supported the network of priests who smuggled vast numbers of jews to safety. Israel Zolli[?], the Chief Rabbi of Rome, was so impressed by Pius's actions that following the war he became a Roman Catholic. Furthermore, Jewish relief agencies donated over a million dollars in gratitude to the Holy See after the end of World War II in Europe, while Pius XII was awarded the title "Righteous Gentile" by the state of Israel, and the Israeli Government announced its intention to plant 850,000 trees in his honor - one for each Jewish life he was credited with saving. Upon his death he was eulogized movingly and appreciatively by Golda Meir, at that time Israel's ambassador to the United Nations. (On the question of Pius XII's attitude toward the Nazi persecutions, see also the New York Times editorial page for Christmas Day of 1941 and 1942.)
His critics, however, suggested that Pius failed to speak out publicly in strong enough terms against nazism, arguing that an explicit condemnation by the Pope would have seriously undermined Hitler and Nazism among Germany's many Catholics. Charges were made in the play "The Deputy", later refuted, that his wartime aid to Jewish refuges from fascism was motivated primarily by motives of financial gain. Adolf Hitler made the observation that "[Pius] is the only human being who has always contradicted me and who has never obeyed me." Historians in general differ as to whether or not Pope Pius XII did enough to prevent the Holocaust and save lives.
Pope Pius XII raised his predecessor, Pope Pius X, to sainthood in 1953.
Among his most prominent encyclicals were
During his reign, Pius XII canonised eight saints and beautified five people. He consecrated the world to the Immaculate Heart of Mary[?] in 1942. In 1950, using Papal Infallibility he promulgated a new dogma, the Assumption[?] of the Blessed Virgin Mary into heaven (ie, that Mary, the mother of Jesus was taken into heaven body and soul, on account of her status as the Mother of the Son of God.
health and treatment in death caused considerable embarrassment to the Vatican, but in the 1950s was not reported, though widely rumoured among those in Rome who had witnessed the body's decay as it lay in state, as well as being captured in photographs. (See Catholic website below.)
Pope Pius XII became a candidate for sainthood under Pope John Paul II in the 1990s. He has been raised to Venerable, an early step through the process of sainthood.
Pope Pius XI
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Pope John XXIII