Eugenio Pacelli

[Pope Pius XII]

Biography of Eugenio Pacelli

Pope Pius XII, born Eugenio Maria Giuseppe Giovanni Pacelli (2 March 1876 – 9 October 1958), reigned as Pope, head of the Catholic Church and sovereign of Vatican City State, from 2 March 1939 until his death in 1958.

Before election to the papacy, Pacelli served as secretary of the Department of Extraordinary Ecclesiastical Affairs, papal nuncio to Germany (1917–1929), and Cardinal Secretary of State, in which capacity he worked to conclude treaties with European and Latin American nations, most notably the Reichskonkordat with Nazi Germany. The concordat of 1933, with which the Vatican sought to protect the Church in Germany, and Hitler sought the destruction of 'political Catholicism', and Pius' leadership of the Catholic Church during World War II, including his "decision to stay silent in public about the fate of the Jews", remain the subject of controversy.

After the war Pius XII advocated peace and reconciliation, including lenient policies towards Axis and Axis-satellite nations. The Church experienced severe persecution and mass deportations of Catholic clergy in the Eastern Bloc. In light of the Pope's overt involvement in Italian politics – anyone who voted for a Communist candidate in the 1948 elections was threatened with automatic excommunication – Pius XII became known as a staunch opponent of the Italian Communist Party. Pius XII explicitly invoked ex cathedra papal infallibility with the dogma of the Assumption of Mary in his 1950 Apostolic constitution Munificentissimus Deus. His magisterium includes almost 1,000 addresses and radio broadcasts. His forty-one encyclicals include Mystici Corporis, the Church as the Body of Christ; Mediator Dei on liturgy reform; and Humani generis on the Church's positions on theology and evolution. He eliminated the Italian majority in the College of Cardinals in 1946.

In the process toward sainthood Pope Benedict XVI declared Pius XII Venerable in December 2009.

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