Pope Pius xiiPope Pius XII was the 260th man head of the Catholic Church and the 12th such individual to choose “Pius” as his papal name. This article will discuss major moments in his life and summarize his papacy while also spicing things up with a few personable tidbits about the man to keep students invested in learning.

Early Life and Education.

Eugenio Pacelli was born into a family with deep connections to the Church. His parents were Filippo and Virginia Pacelli. Eugenio, his brother Francesco and his sisters Giuseppina and Elisabetta all grew up in Rome. After spending some time as an altar boy, Eugenio was sent to study under Professor Marchi, then to the Liceo Ennio Quirino Visconti Institute in 1891. Upon reaching age 18, Eugenio changed schools to the Almo Collegio Capranica in order to study theology, followed by the pursuit of philosophy at the Jesuit Pontifical Gregorian University; theology at the Athenaeum S. Apollinare and modern languages and history at La Sapienza. At the end of his freshman year, in 1895, he abandoned Capranica and the Gregorian University; Elisabetta blamed the Capranica’s food. After getting special dispensation, Eugenio continued studying seminary as an outside student. 1899 would see him finish his doctorate in Sacred Theology, concluding with a dissertation and oral exam given in Latin.

Career with the Church.

Pacelli received his doctorate in canon law on 1904 for his dissertation on the execution of canon law when concordats fall into abeyance. His work transitioned into working for Monsignor Pietro Gasparri, under a sub-organization of the Vatican Secretariat of State. By 1911, he was under-secretary for the Department of Extraordinary Ecclesiastical Affairs, then its adjunct-secretary in 1912 and finally its secretary in 1914. After Benedict XV succeeded Pius IX, Pacelli was appointed secretary of state. World War I would seem him keeping a running tally of prisoners of war for the Vatican.

Benedict XV made Pacelli nuncio to Bavaria in April of 1917; considering that neither Prussia nor Germany had a nuncio, this made Pacelli nuncio to the entire German Empire. After the chaos of the Armistice, Pacelli requested to be transferred somewhere safe, placing him in a Swiss sanitorium. Pacelli became the nuncio to Germany in June of 1920 and many of his staff from Munich continued to serve under him. When the Weimar Republic seemed consigned to dissolution, Pacelli was recalled to Rome. After a brief stint serving as Cardinal-Priest of Santi Giovanni e Paolo in 1926, he was made Cardinal Secretary of State on February 7th, 1930. Five years later, he would be made Camerlengo of the Holy Roman Church.

The Reichskonkordat

This legislation was crucial to the quartet of concordats Pacelli arranged between the German States and the Vatican. Because the German States, rather than the Vatican, oversaw education and culture, the role of the Church was in peril. The Reichskonkordat was a signed agreement between Germany and the Holy See and is considered the most important of Pacelli’s concordats. Pacelli had hoped to bolster the Church’s legal standing in Germany and sought for the protection of Catholic associations, education and the press. After a great deal of back and forth between the Church and Chancellor Adolf Hitler, the concordat was finally signed on July 20th, 1933; Pacelli provided the Church’s signature while vice-chancellor Franz von Papen signed for Germany.

Papal Legacy.

Pacelli’s considerable work in foreign Church affairs made him a natural pick to succeed Pius XII. He chose “Pius” as his name in deference to his Italian heritage and having served under other great popes who chose the name.

  • He sought to diminish the heavily Italian bent to the Roman Curia’s members by appointing more non-Italians than any of his predecessors.
  • He called for priests to investigate religion by studying Hebraic texts.
  • He dogmatically defined the Assumption of Mary.
  • He believed it was right to give pain medicine to the terminally ill.
  • He saw science and religion as two Godly gifts.
  • He considered evolution a viable explanation for life, but did not consider it an answer to all things; the soul, he believed, was solely God’s creation.

Quick Facts About Pope Pius XII.

  • He was born on March 2nd of 1876, when Rome belonged to the Kingdom of Italy.
  • Like many Italians, he had a lengthy full name: Eugenio Maria Giuseppe Giovanni Pacelli.
  • He died on October 9, 1958, spending his last days recovering within Italy’s Castel Gandolfo.
  • After suffering from chronic bout of gastritis since 1953 that were severe enough for him to consider abdication in 1954, Pius XII’s final days were full of side-effects from treatments of his gastritis. The official cause of his death is recorded as acute heart failure.
  • His papacy began on March 2nd, 1939.
  • As is the case with most popes, Pius XII’s papacy stopped when he stopped living.
  • His papal successor was John XXIII.

Six Interesting Facts About Pope Pius XII.

  1. Even before he became pope, he was considered part of the “Black Nobility” because several of his family members were connected to the papacy.
  2. He met Winston Churchill while serving the Church in 1908.
  3. Nearly every speech he gave while working in Germany decried the rising tide of Nazism.
  4. While Camerlengo and not yet pope, he met Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1936, renewing the United States’ relationship with the papacy since its absence in the 1870s.
  5. Pacelli is credited for the words appearing in “Mit brennender Sorge,” an encylical released by Pius XI that condemned the more than 50 violations of the Reichskonkordat.
  6. He was the first cardinal Secretary of State to become pope since Clement IX.