Pope Pius XII, born Eugenio Pacelli in 1876, was the son of a lawyer. It was the year of 1899 when he was ordained to the priesthood, and early on he played a significant role on behalf of the Church before he was even elected to the Chair of Peter in 1939. Pacelli took on a major feat of putting together the new code of Canon Law. In 1917 Pacelli was given the position of nuncio in Bavaria. He was assigned as dean of the diplomatic corps in 1920, and almost a decade later as Cardinal in 1929, and then Secretary of State in 1930.
Since the beginning of the pontificate of Pope Pius XII, he promoted the message of peace in the world as the time of his election and prior to his election to the Chair of Peter was a time of turmoil and violence with much bloodshed in a world on the brink of war. The Pope used the radio broadcast, to ensure that majority of the people of the time were able to hear and listen to his message of peace, and help spread that message to others across the world.
Pope Pius XII was not a Pope who simply sat on the sidelines, and only watched the chaos unfold with the furor, Hitler, persecuting numerous peoples, majority of the Jewish faith. The Holy Father spoke out against the heinous atrocities taking place, and took action in a way that was a more cautious approach and would not lead to further persecution, and the mass murder of more innocent people by the Nazi regime. Pope Pius XII was not silent during the Holocaust, which has been the opinion of him due to the propaganda portrayed in the play, The Deputy, which debuted in February 1963. Pope Pius XII when World War II broke out gave the Vatican the title of an “open city,” and later when Hitler seized and took by force Rome, the Holy Father in 1943 accepted refugees. The refugees included many Jews, and the Vatican became a refuge and sanctuary for victims facing not only persecution by the Nazis, but also a guaranteed and sure ill fate by way of the Nazi internment camps, where they were either worked to death from harsh labor or killed immediately in gas chambers and by being shot to death.
"Those rescued by Pius are today living all over the world. There went to Israel alone from Romania 360,000 to the year 1965." (Fr. Michael O'Carroll)
Pope Pius XII took direct action to save the lives of thousands of Jewish people during the time of World War II when Jews were being rounded up by the Nazis with genocide taking place. There is even evidence of the Holy Father’s actions to save the Jewish people, and his words spoken out against Hitler and his monstrous persecution taking place across Europe in The Acts and Documents of the Holy See Relative to World War II (Actes et Documents), and his secret letter to the Catholic Bishops of Europe pleading for them to do everything in their power to aid the Jews and others in fleeing from Nazi persecution. The Nazis were well aware that the Pope was not their advocate and supporter as even as Cardinal he made his voice heard with regards to the actions of the Nazis against specific peoples. Also, Pacelli played a major part in the 1937 Encyclical, Mit brennender sorge (With Burning Sorrow), although signed by Pope Pius XI, the document was advised by Eugenio Cardinal Pacelli. It addressed the Bishops of Germany to urge their Catholic flocks to remain faithful to the Catholic Church, and their Catholic beliefs, and to not fall victim to becoming a part of Hitler’s German National Church.
“I take this decision having heard the opinions of my closest advisers, with a calm and trusting spirit, certain that serious and objective historical research will succeed in evaluating in its proper light, with appropriate criticism, the praiseworthy moments of [Pius XII] and, no doubt also the moments of grave difficulty, of anguished decisions, of human and Christian prudence, which to some may appear reticent, and which were instead human and hard-fought attempts to keep alive, in periods of intense darkness and cruelty, the flame of humanitarian initiatives, of hidden but active diplomacy, of hope in the possible favorable opening of hearts." (Pope Francis)
On March 2, 2020, the anniversary of Eugenio Pacelli's election to the papacy, Pope Francis opened the section of the Vatican archives dedicated to Pope Pius XII. There is information in the Actes et Documents that is now being portrayed as a new discovery into the supposedly "negative" and anti-semitic actions of the Pope during the Holocaust. But the truth is that the findings in the documents are not new findings at all. The research conducted by Father Hubert Wolf and the researchers working alongside him has already been published and can be found in the revised and expanded edition of Ronald Rychlak's book Hitler, the War and the Pope.
Pope Pius XII is a memorable Pope, and despite fictional information passed down with regards to his role during the Holocaust, the Holy Father was a man who was deeply concerned about the persecution of the Jews, and did much during the time of World War II to do what he could to save the lives of the Jewish people.
Arlotta, Father Jack. “The Modern Popes.” 15 Dec. 2018.
Craughwell, Thomas. “Pius XII and the Holocaust.” Sursum corda!. Spring 1998: 52-59