Pope Francis thinking about declaring Pius XII a saint

from: Catholic News Agency
By Andrea Gagliarducci

Pope Pius XII. CNA file photo.

.- Pope Francis is considering whether he will make Pope Pius XII a saint, in the same way that he approved the cause of John XXIII.

A source who works at the Vatican’s Congregation for Causes of Saints, who asked for anonymity, told CNA July 25 that “just as Pope Francis moved ahead with John XXIII’s canonization, he is considering the same thing for Pius XII.”

According to the normal procedures, Pius XII would be beatified once a miracle attributed to his intercession is officially certified by a team of doctors and recognized by a commission of cardinals.

But if Pope Francis decides to go ahead without a miracle, he could “even canonize him with the formula of scientia certa (certainty in knowledge), thereby jumping over the step of beatification,” the source said.

“Only the Pope is able to do it, and he will, if he wants to.”

Pope Francis is very interested in Pius XII because “he considers him ‘a great,’ in the same way as John XXIII is, even if for different reasons,” the source explained.

But there is also a historical reason that Pope Francis is interested in Pius XII.

When Pope Paul VI started the beatification and canonization process in 1967, nine years after Pius XII’s death, he formed a committee of historians to conduct an in-depth study of his predecessor’s life and behavior, giving particular attention to the events of World War II.

The committee was made up of four Jesuits: Fathers Pierre Blet (France), Angelo Martini (Italy), Burkhart Schneider (Germany), and Robert A. Graham (United States).

Their work led to the publication of “Actes et Documents du Saint Siège relatifs à la Seconde Guerre Mondiale” (Acts and Documents of the Holy See related to the Second World War), an 11-volume collection of documents from the Vatican’s Secret Archive about Pius XII’s papacy during that tumultuous time.

Yet, the remainder of the documents from Pius XII’s papacy is not expected to be released until 2014 – the time it will take to organize the papers.

The completed catalog will include approximately 16 million documents from Pius XII’s papacy (1939-1958).

Pope Benedict XVI initially decided to postpone Pius XII’s cause for sainthood and advocated waiting until the archives would be open for researchers in 2014.

But Benedict changed his mind and declared Pius XII Venerable on Dec. 19, 2009, based on the recommendation of the committee investigating his cause.

The decision was met with criticism from some Jewish quarters, which charged that Pius XII was silent about the Holocaust and did not do enough to resist the Germans.

Despite the conclusions of the committee, the debate that followed the initial criticism brought Pius XII’s canonization process to a halt.

According to Matteo Luigi Napolitano, a member of the Pontifical Committee for Historical Science who wrote several books about Pius XII, “for what concerns the historical judgment, the dossier on Pius XII is almost complete.”

Napolitano added in his July 29 interview with CNA, “theological judgments on Pius XII’s life and behavior” are “not competence of the historians.”

His remarks referred to what is known as a “positio,” a document that is compiled for every person being considered for canonization, after they have been declared “venerable” – the second step in the process.

The study is comprised of two parts: the first deals with the history of the person and is sketched by a commission of historians, while the second contains a  “theological judgment” on the life and works of venerable, which is handed down by a theological committee.

At the moment, according to the source from the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, Pope Francis has said he wants Pius XII’s cause to move ahead.

Since there are several miracles attributed to Pius XII’s intercession, the source explained that Pope Francis might decide that he will sidestep the normal process and declare him a saint.

“It is not impossible that the Pope would act in the way he did for the canonization of John XXIII.”

When Pope Francis decided to approve the canonization of John XXIII, he submitted his case to a vote by the members of the congregation, despite the fact that “a miracle attributed to the intercession of John XXIII was discussed,” the source said.

But “the miracle would have needed further checks,” the saints expert explained, so Pope Francis “opted to canonize him without waiting for the certification of the miracle.”

The source maintained, “this seems to be possible for what concerns Pius XII.”

Matteo Luigi Napolitano acknowledged that the possibility of the Pope pushing the cause forward. There are “several (saints) causes that, for several reasons, are the object of pressures,” he remarked.

What remains to be seen is whether Pius XII being declared a saint will result in a new debate about the emerging historical record of the wartime Pope or a recycling of the claims that he was “Hitler’s Pope.”

Napolitano noted, “the debate about Pius XII is more widely a debate about the Shoah, i.e. the biggest tragedy of the Second World War.”

So, Napolitano said, “it is normal to investigate what the Vatican did during that period.”

This investigation involves several areas of interest: the choice of the Holy See to remain neutral, the way Christian values were lived during that period, the choices of Catholics who confronted the tactics of the Nazis, and what dioceses and clergy in countries involved in the war did.

Napolitano underlined that “the ‘positio’ on Pius XII is made up of all of these aspects, with a collection of sources that agreed the Congregation for the Causes of Saint should carry their job forward.”

For what concerns a historical judgment of Pius XII’s behavior, “interpretations can vary, but I can say that the most authoritative Jewish, Catholic and lay historians agree on one key point: Eugenio Pacelli never was, and he never could be, ‘Hitler’s Pope.’”

This entry was posted in Cause for Beatification and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

14 Responses to Pope Francis thinking about declaring Pius XII a saint

  1. Frere Rabit says:

    “catalog will include approximately 16 million documents from Pius XII’s papacy”

    Well – fait accompli – and look no further. To produce 16 million communications in the pre-Twitter age is truly a miracle.


  2. Kalondu says:

    Reblogged this on Beyond Surface Appearance.


  3. kathleen says:

    “The decision [declaring Pope Pius XII Venerable] was met with criticism from some Jewish quarters…”

    Whilst all the Jewish authorities in the immediate aftermath of WW2 poured thanks and praise on the valiant Pope who had saved so many Jewish lives. And the last paragraph of the article affirms just this, even in this present day.

    I find it hard to understand therefore how the criticism (only from some Jewish quarters) in this case could affect the judgement of the Church authorities so greatly, that the process of canonisation should have been halted! Other saints also received a fair amount of criticism from opposing factions (e.g. St. Jose Maria Escriva de Balaguer) but the process quite rightly went ahead just the same.
    Why so then in the case of this holy and courageous Pope?


  4. Toad says:

    “Why so then in the case of this holy and courageous Pope?”

    He apparently did what he could for the Jews – by stealth.
    Maybe he would have done better had he stepped up and broadcast a ringing denunciation of the Nazi holocaust.
    I don’t know.
    But people would surely have listened.

    Still, why not make him a saint, anyway?
    Doesn’t hurt.


  5. The Raven says:


    You are forgetting that he had the example of the Dutch bishops before him: following their denunciation of the regime, the Nazis scoured the convents and monasteries; the fragile shield that the Church was able to offer was tossed aside.

    Pius would have gained the approval of secularists sat snug in their comfortable studies, glorying in the wisdom that hindsight has granted them, at the expense of many hundreds of thousands of lives across Europe.


  6. Toad says:

    No Raven, I’m not forgetting the Dutch bishops. We can never forget the Dutch bishops on CP&S.
    All I’m saying is that possibly Pius Xll did not do what many people thought he should have done, loudly and clearly enough, and the Hell with the consequences, whatever they might have been.
    And we cannot know what the consequences would have been.
    We can only assume.
    Maybe it would have sparked a general revolt among Germans, and overthrown Hitler.
    You can’t say it certainly would not have.
    As it is we all admit (I think) the pope shut up to avoid making more trouble.
    Well, I don’t blame him. I might well have done the same myself.
    Except I’m not Pope.
    You clearly disagree.
    Fair enough.
    We’ve been all over this before.
    And got nowhere.


  7. The Raven says:


    You’re forgetting that Catholics are a minority in Germany and that Protestants don’t tend to be particularly impressed with papal pronouncements.

    I don’t pretend to know whether Pius did the right thing or not: I am glad that I do not have to make the decisions that fell to his lot.


  8. Toad says:

    “I don’t pretend to know whether Pius did the right thing or not: I am glad that I do not have to make the decisions that fell to his lot.”

    Neither do I Raven, as I’ve already said above. But there are plenty of people who think he did do the right thing by saying nothing.
    Matter of opinion.
    And what did the Dutch bishops say? “Whoops!” That’ll teach us to upset dictators! Won’t do that again in a hurry!” or, “We said what needed saying, and we’d say it again. All Hitler can do is kill us.”?


  9. The Raven says:

    Toad, if the Dutch bishops had themselves worn the martyr’s crown instead of thousands of others, then it would have been unarguable that Pius should have spoken; instead it was the poor, the unremarked and the powerless who ended up on the long train journey to certain death.


  10. Toad says:

    “The poor, the unremarked and the powerless who ended up on the long train journey to certain death.”

    Then, Raven, you are saying that if the Bishops had not spoken out, these people would not have died?

    I was under the impression that Hitler had decided, years before and written it down, that ‘certain death’ was to be the fate of all Jews, regardless of what anybody, Bishops or Pope said.
    In which case, was Pius not morally bound to protest from his position as the world’s leading Catholic?
    But I’m sorry., I shouldn’t have re-ignited all this smouldering ancient history, just when the poor old Church is currently in a schismic shambles, it seems. I’ll say no more on this.

    Except, yes, make Pius a saint, by all means.
    Make all dead ex-popes saints.
    Live ones, too, if you like.


  11. The Raven says:


    The truth is that I don’t know, but they had escaped the first wave of round-ups because they were converts (like St Theresa Benedicta) or were being sheltered on Church property.

    In my view, we canonise too many people, and too many Popes, as things stand.


  12. kathleen says:


    Pope Pius XII did talk out openly against the great evil actions of Hitler many many times. The German Catholic Nazis (who were in the minority… though that does not excuse them of course) were well aware of the Church’s position. Those that did not heed the Church’s teaching is something they will have to work out with their Creator.
    The very fact, now well-known, that the Nazis were planning to overrun the Vatican and kidnap the Pope, makes it clear that they knew only too well how adverse the Catholic Church, and the Vicar of Christ at the head, were to their plans of extermination of the Jews, gypsies, the poor mentally or physically retarded, etc.

    The point is, later on Pope Pius deterred from making a loud public display of his strong opposition to Hitler, to avoid making an already very threatening situation for millions of innocent people, much worse. He thought it was the wisest and best thing to do; though he continued to do everything in his power to help the victims – primarily the Jews – in a more subtle and undetected manner.


  13. JabbaPapa says:

    I was under the impression that Hitler had decided, years before and written it down, that ‘certain death’ was to be the fate of all Jews, regardless of what anybody, Bishops or Pope said.

    In which case, was Pius not morally bound to protest from his position as the world’s leading Catholic?

    False logic.

    Had Pope Pius XII and the other Catholic Bishops spoken out more openly, the most immediate result would have been the acceleration of the Nazi plans to do to the Catholics exactly what they were already doing to the Jews.

    One Bishop in the Netherlands (IIRC) spoke out “bravely” and in public ; his diocese received an immediate visit from the Death Squads, who carted off several priests as a “warning”.

    The Nazi plan for the future of religious life in Europe was :

    1) Exterminate all Jews

    2) Exterminate all Catholics

    3) Eradicate all remaining pockets of religious belief

    They simply never got beyond Part 1 of the plan …

    Meanwhile Pope Pius XII is personally responsible for saving more Jewish lives than any other individual alive during WW2.

    You would have had him commit actions that would have condemned thousands and tens of thousands to persecution, torture, and death ; instead he committed actions that saved hundreds of thousands of lives.

    Actions, not Words, Toad. Actions.


  14. crow says:

    In fact, it was not the Jews, but (self-proclaimed) Catholics, including John Cornwall, who have put about the idea of Pius X11 not saying enough/anything. The matter of Pius X11’s “silence” is dealt with in a book by Rabbi David G Dalin, “The Myth of Hitler’s Pope” (available on Amazon). Contemporaneous defenders of Pope Pius X11 include Pincus Lapide, who had interviewed holocaust survivers and concluded that Pius X11 was instrumental in saving “at least 700,000 but probably as many as 860,000 Jews from certain death at Nazi hands.” (Myth of Hitler’s Pope, p11). There are examples of repeated interventions by Pius and examples of refuges in Catholic Churches in Europe where Jews were protected by clergy. Pius X11 was denounced by Hitler and the Nazi regime and did speak out against the Nazis – at a time, when, it must be remembered, no-one else did! Pope Pius X11 was acclaimed by Jewish leaders in the years immediately after WWII, including Golda Meir and Albert Enstein.
    The Israeli Philharmonic Orchestra played for his honour – is it conceivable that, if he had not defended the Jews as bravely as he did, that these honours would have been paid to him by those who were contemporaneous witnesses?
    The Chief Rabbi of Rome during WWIi converted to Catholicism and changed his name to Eugenio in honour of Pope Pius X11. He wrote a book, entitled “Before the Dawn” about his experiences, also worth reading and also available on Amazon.
    There are those who blame the whole of World War II on the Catholics and let the Nazis off the hook. There are those also who make out that the Nazis were Catholic. This is a complete revisionism and suits the political agendas of certain groups who wish to diminish the moral influence of the Catholic Church.


Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s