Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Events to Mark 50th Anniversary of Pius XII's Death

Show Pope of "Great Stature"

VATICAN CITY, JUNE 17, 2008 ( A conference and exhibition on the near 20-year pontificate of Pope Pius XII and the years leading up to his election to the See of Peter will mark the 50th anniversary of the Servant of God's death.

Today in the Vatican press office, the two commemorative initiatives were presented. Pius XII served as Pope from 1939-1958.

Bishop Salvatore Fisichella, rector of the Pontifical Lateran University, spoke of the Pontiff's "great stature, especially in spiritual terms, but also intellectually and diplomatically."

It fell to Pius XII to lead the Church during various significant historical situations, the bishop recalled, including "the genocide of the Jews, the communist occupation of various Christian nations, the Cold War, new advances of science, and the innovations of certain schools of theology."

Bishop Fisichella further pointed out that "what remains largely unknown is Pius XII's influence on Vatican Council II."

In this context, he mentioned the 43 encyclicals "that marked his pontificate, and the many discourses in which he examined the most controversial questions of his time."

The rector suggested that certain traits are particularly characteristic of Pius XII's magisterium. He summarized them in three points: "Firstly the promotion of doctrine, the definition of the dogma of the Assumption in 1950 being particularly memorable; [...] secondly defending doctrine and indicating errors," such as in the encyclical "Humani generis" of 1950 where Pius XII examines "the serious problem of theological relativism. [...] Finally, Pius XII never failed to make his voice heard clearly and explicitly when circumstances required it."

Alma mater

The conference on Pius XII's magisterium is scheduled for November and will be held at two universities where the future Pope studied, the Gregorian and Lateran Universities. (The Lateran University at the time was the Roman Seminary of Sant'Apollinare.)

Jesuit Father Gianfranco Ghirlanda, rector of the Pontifical Gregorian University, spoke of the itinerary of the conference.

"The first day will be dedicated to four introductory lectures on the general views of Pius XII and the cultural and historical context in which that great Pontiff developed his magisterium," Father Ghirlanda explained. The themes will include: the development of biblical studies, evangelization, religious freedom and Church-state relations, and the social communications media.

The morning of the second day will focus on "Pius XII's teaching in the fields of ecclesiology, liturgy and the role of the laity. The afternoon will be dedicated to his vision of relations between the Church and the world, Mariology, medicine and morals and, finally, questions of canon law," he added.

Man and Pope

Monsignor Walter Brandmuller, president of the Pontifical Committee for Historical Sciences, presented the other commemorative event: a photographic exhibition titled "Pius XII: the Man and the Pontificate."

The exhibit "will illustrate the life of this great and exceptional Pontiff who was already an object of admiration among his contemporaries," Monsignor Brandmuller noted. "It has been sought to reconstruct Eugenio Pacelli's life from boyhood to death, using images -- many of them unpublished -- as well as documents, personal objects, gifts and clothes: his formation at the Pontifical Roman Athenaeums, his training for a diplomatic career at the Secretariat of State; his mission to Germany -- first in Bavaria then in Berlin; his return to the Vatican as secretary of state and, finally, his election to the pontifical throne."

Giovanni Morello, president of the Foundation for the Artistic Patrimony and Activity of the Church, noted that the exhibition will follow the Pontiff's life "through contemporary photographs, many of them supplied by the photographic service of L'Osservatore Romano, documents and personal effects, loaned both by the Pacelli family and by the 'Famiglia Spirituale Opera.'"

The exhibition will be on display in the Charlemagne Wing off St. Peter's Square from Oct. 21 to Jan. 6.

"[It] begins with the birth of the future Pope -- in Rome on March 2, 1876 -- and follows his youthful and scholastic activities up to the moment of his priestly ordination on April 2, 1899," Morello explained.

Young Father Pacelli soon entered the service of the Holy See; he was consecrated a bishop by Pope Benedict XV in the Sistine Chapel in 1917, then appointed as nuncio, first in Bavaria (1917-1924) and subsequently in Berlin (1925-1929), at a crucial moment in German history.

On Dec. 16, 1929, Pius XI named him a cardinal and soon afterward appointed him as secretary of state.

The young cardinal thus became the Pope's main collaborator, Morello said, noting as proof "the corrections and notes Cardinal Pacelli made in preparing some of the most important documents, including the famous encyclical 'Mit brennender Sorge,'" written in 1937 on the German Reich.

"During this period, Cardinal Pacelli made many journeys abroad; he was the first secretary of state, after many centuries, to travel as papal legate," Morello mentioned. Among the countries he visited were Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay, the United States and France.

An art lover

The exhibition will also cover the events of Pius XII's pontificate, particularly the Second World War, and the Holy See's humanitarian efforts in support of individuals and peoples, including the people of Rome.

"The exhibition, apart from its historical and documentary aspects," Morello continued, "is also of great artistic interest. Indeed, not everyone is aware that the first nucleus of the modern art collection in the Vatican Museums, later expanded during the pontificate of Paul VI, dates back to an initiative of Pius XII. [...] Ten works from this original nucleus will be on display, including paintings by Carra, De Chirico, De Pisis, Morandi, Rouault, Sironi and Utrillo, as well as a number of sketches presented for the competition for the Holy Door of St. Peter's Basilica for the Holy Year 1950."

"The artistic side of the exhibition is enriched by the presence of various valuable 'gifts' given to Pius XII during his pontificate, such as the 'Peace' offered by Luigi Einaudi, president of Italy; the precious desk service by Giovanni Valadier, a gift from the city authorities in 1956, and a small table clock given to the Pope by the first personal representative of the U.S. president," Morello added. "All these items used to be kept by the Vatican Apostolic Library and are now held in the Vatican Museums. [...] They will be on display with the vestments and other objects used by Pius XII, which today are conserved in the Pontifical Liturgical Treasury."

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