Pope Pius XII By: Amanda Evans

General Information

  • Birth: March 2, 1876
  • Real name: Eugenio Maria Giuseppe Giovanni Pacelli
  • Death: October 9, 1958
  • Became pope: March 2, 1939
  • Was pope during World War II
  • Was a steadfast Germanophile(a person who is fond or greatly admires Germany)
  • Lifelong fear of communism

Early Life

  • Born Eugenio Maria Giuseppe Giovanni Pacelli
  • Born on March 2, 1876 in Rome, Italy in the Kingdom of Italy
  • Born to parents, Filippo and Virginia Pacelli
  • One of four children in his family
  • Born into a papal or "black" family
  • Great-grandfather was the minister of finance to Pope Gregory XVI
  • Grandfather was undersecretary to the interior for Pope Pius IX
  • Father was the dean of the Vatican lawyers
  • Attended state primary school and also went to secondary school.
  • Went to the Appolinare Institute of Lateran University and Gregorian University
  • Earned degrees in law and theology

Vocational Career

  • Was ordained a priest in 1899
  • Was appointed to the papal secretariat of state in 1901
  • Worked under the direction of Pietro Cardinal Gasparri
  • Taught international law and diplomacy at the school for papal diplomats in Rome
  • Named Secretary of the Congregation of Extraordinary Affairs in 1914
  • Named the apostolic nuncio(Ambassador) for the German state of Bavaria during World War I
  • After World War I, he stayed in the Bavarian capital, Munich where he experienced a Spartacist uprising.
  • He had a lifelong fear of communism because of the Spartacist uprising which was when communists burst into where he was brandishing revolvers.
  • Was the first apostolic nuncio to be dispatched to the new German Weimar Republic
  • Discussions with the Weimar Republic failed but he made agreements with Bavaria and Prussia
  • In 1929, he became a cardinal
  • Replaced Cardinal Gasparri as Secretary of State in 1930
  • In 1935, he was appointed the papal chamberlain
  • Traveled widely on papal missions
  • Became Pope Pius XI's principal adviser to Hitler and the Nazis due to his familiarity with Germany
  • Helped draft an Anti-Nazi encyclical which Pope Pius XI did not like
  • An American Jesuit wrote a new encyclical that Pacelli was not allowed to be involved with.

Being Pope

  • Became pope on March 2, 1939
  • Wanted to serve as a "Pope of Peace."
  • Tried unsuccessfully to stop European governments from starting wars
  • Did not want to antagonize Fascist Italy or Nazi Germany
  • Said that the papal position was not one of neutrality, but one of impartiality
  • Was the first pope to use the radio extensively
  • Made multiple Christmas radio broadcasts that showed that he hoped for a new world order that would overcome the old one
  • His policies were filled with uncompromising anticommunism during the Nazi regime
  • Refused to support the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union
  • Established the Vatican Information Service to help aid people during World War II including Jews.
  • Sharply criticized after the war for not doing more to aid Hitler's victims
  • Seen by some as the "Pope of Silence" during the Holocaust.
  • Endorsed postwar western European integration in Germany and Italy
  • Condemned the expansion of communism in eastern Europe
  • Issued a decree in 1949 attacking the totalitarianism of the Soviet Union
  • Told the Holy Office to excommunicate any Catholics who joined or collaborated with the communists
  • In 1950, announced the sole infallible declaration, Mary was bodily assumed into heaven, after the doctrine of infallibility at the First Vatican Council.
  • Shorten and liberalized the time period of fasting before communion
  • Took steps to revise the liturgy
  • Made evening masses possible
  • Denounced atomic weaponry
  • Established the Latin American Episcopal Council


  • Died on October 9, 1958 at the age of 82
  • Died of a stroke
  • Was supposed to be beatified in 2000 alongside John XXIII but controversy with him caused his beatification to be postponed


Created with images by Archives New Zealand - "Pope Pius XII by Peter McIntyre"

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