Five days ago, we reported that Pope John Paul II was 10 minutes from death the night he was hospitalized (February 1).
Now, in the very different context of an 84-year-old Pope on the mend, we consider one of the most controversial issues he will have to face in the months ahead, and reveal that he himself has already, according to our sources, made up his mind on the matter.
Our sources tell us they believe that John Paul II, barring an unexpected crisis of the type which just occurred, will live for some time yet (one source suggested the figure "five more years").
During that time, we have been told, John Paul fully intends to perform at least one very controversial act: declare that Pope Pius XII -- denounced by many for his alleged "silence" during the Nazi persecution of the Jews -- was a saint who helped save the lives of nearly 1 million Jews.
- by Inside the Vatican staff
>>Pius XII Now on Fast Track to Become a Saint<<
Pope John Paul II, who nearly suffocated last week due to a constricted throat and had to be rushed to the hospital, is strongly supporting the advancement of the controversial cause of Pope Pius XII for beatification, "Inside the Vatican" has learned from reliable sources.
Because of this papal support, Pius XII, the pontiff who guided the Church throughout World War II, fighting both the Nazis and Communists, who slept only four hours a night and ended his life weighing only 125 pounds -- and nearly died in 1954, four years before his death -- is now on the fast track to beatification, and ultimately, canonization, multiple sources confirm.
Indeed, one source, who asked not to be identified, but agreed to have the phrase cited, told us that John Paul, sometime prior to this latest hospital episode, remarked: "I will not die before I canonize Pope Pius XII."
This source continued: "The Pope was only minutes from dying, but now seems to have recovered. Maybe this happened because God has something still in mind for him to accomplish. The Pope would like to declare Pius a saint because he stood against the great totalitarian regimes of the last century, and because he wants that model for dangers facing the Church and mankind today."
These reports contradict widespread rumors that John Paul is reluctant to proceed toward canonizing Pius. Such rumors have persisted despite John Paul's continuing public praise for his predecessor, whom he has called "a great Pope."
"Pius stands at the center of the 20th century," one source told us. "He confronted Hitler and Stalin. He confronted the ideology of totalitarianism, of Marxism. He went to Germany to study Marx, and he studied him in depth. He understood the diabolic projects that they had. He was a towering figure."
John Paul's support for declaring Pius a saint does not mean that the long process (which was initiated by Pope Paul VI in 1965) is over. Several crucial steps still remain.
As "The Times of London" reported February 5, confirming what ITV had already independently learned: "The next step, in accordance with Vatican rules, is for Pius XII's 'heroic virtues' to be recognized" by the historical and theological commissions of the Vatican's Congregation for the Causes of Saints, after which the wartime pontiff can be "declared 'Venerable'." "The Times" continued: "The beatification process then requires the approval by the Congregation of a posthumous miracle -- usually the 'medically inexplicable' cure of a terminal illness through prayers of intercession. That accomplished, Pius XII will be declared Blessed -- probably 'within two or three years,' according to Vatican insiders -- and the 'wartime pontiff' will be on the road to sainthood."
It is possible that something could happen to "derail" this process -- for example, the death of Pope John Paul and the arrival of a new pontiff not as devoted to Pius XII.
But, with that proviso, it seems likely that Pius XII will become Blessed Pius XII and then St. Pius XII in the next few years. This would be a startling response for the Church to make to critics of Pius, who have gone so far to argue that, far from being a saint, he was "Hitler's Pope" the title of a book published in 2000 by British writer John Cornwell. In that work, according to the description on the publisher's website (Penguin Books), "Cornwell shows that, even well before the Holocaust, Pope Pius XII was instrumental in negotiating an accord that helped the Nazis rise to unhindered power--and sealed the fate of the Jews in Europe. Drawing upon secret Vatican and Jesuit archives to which he had exclusive access, Cornwell tells the full, tragic story of how narcissism, longstanding personal antipathy for the Jews, and political and spiritual ambition combined to make Pius the most dangerous churchman in history." It is this "most dangerous churchman in history" whom P!
ope John Paul according to our sources, is persuaded deserves to be called a saint.
How is this possible?
John Paul II's position stems from his agreement with a group of historians, not all of them Catholic, who have long argued that the criticisms made against Pius are reckless, ideologically-motivated and demonstrably untrue. During his pontificate (1939-1958), Pius XII was widely considered a great and courageous leader, an implacable and outspoken foe of racism and totalitarianism, and deadly enemy of both Nazism and Communism. At the time of his death in 1958, he was mourned the world over and praised, in particular, by the Jewish community, who lauded the pontiff's wartime actions, which rescued the lives of an estimated 860,000 Jews during the Holocaust.
Within a few years of his death, however, a young playright named Rolf Hochhuth, a guilt-ridden German Protestant who had served in Hitler's Youth Movement as a boy in Nazi Germany, wrote "The Deputy," a play performed throughout the world which depicted Pius XII as silent and indifferent during the Holocaust, particularly during the Nazi round-up of Rome's Jews in 1943.
Though modern scholarship has "decisively established the falsehood of Hochhuth's specific allegations," to quote historian Eamon Duffy, "The Deputy" was accepted as authentic history by many, creating an anti-papal legend that persists to this day.
As the late Father Robert Graham, an American Jesuit and expert on Pius XII, commented: "'The Deputy' was more than merely a play. It was a sustained exercise in character assassination that was resoundingly echoed in the popular press. The production of the play coincided closely with the publication of Anne Frank's diary and the trial and execution of Adolf Eichmann. The world needed to give vent to its horror, and with no more real Nazis left to punish, the image of a pusillanimous Pope offered just the right scapegoat."
However, over time, and because of the dedication of Jewish as well as Catholic researchers, the truth about Pius XII's pontificate is becoming better known, and the Vatican's recent decisions to move forward with the cause of Pius XII is dramatic proof of that.
A recent series of events demonstrates the strength, effectiveness and progress of Pius XII's growing movement of support. Consider the following:
--On December 28, 2004, Italian historian Alberto Melloni published a 1946 document, in the Milan daily "Corriere della Sera," alleging that Pius XII had blocked the re-unification of Jewish children rescued by the Church during the Holocaust, with their surviving families, after the War. Melloni claimed that Pius's papal nuncio in France at the time, Angelo Roncalli (the future Pope John XXIII) ignored the papal directive and helped place the Jewish children back with their families.
--On January 11, Italian journalist Andrea Tornielli and historian Matteo Luigi Napolitano published a devastating expose of Melloni's claims, in the more responsible Italian paper, "Il Giornale." They revealed that the October, 1946 document Melloni was presenting as a papal document, ordering French officials not to hand over Jewish children to their families, was not, in fact a papal letter, but an unsigned, mistranslated French memo, written by an unknown French official, misrepresenting an authentic directive of Pius XII, written one month earlier, clearly directing Church officials to return Jewish children to their relatives. The original documents, as well as supplementary material, have now been posted on Napolitano's website (http://www.vaticanfiles.net).
--In the new January-Febuary 2005 edition of "Inside the Vatican," just out, papal experts William Doino Jr and Professor Ronald Rychlak, following the revelations of Tornielli and Napolitano, update and recount the whole affair, demonstrating how the latest allegations, repeated by a prejudiced and uninformed media, constitute yet "another anti-papal hoax." The two authors reveal the truth about the Vatican's directives, showing how hard Pius XII worked, in unison with Roncalli, to save persecuted Jewish children during the Holocaust, and then to re-unite them with their families, after the War. In the same issue, Mary Jo Anderson, a well-known Catholic author, castigates the anti-papal polemicists for repeating allegations about Pius XII before examining all the facts.
--On January 27, the influential website newsmax.com published an explosive article entitled, "NY Times Wrong: Pius XII Saved Jews," assailing "The New York Times" for publishing a story, on January 9th ("Saving Jewish Children, But at What Cost?"], which repeated Melloni's charges, even as evidence was just then emerging which would completely discredit them. The highly-documented newsmax article proved that "The New York Times" piece did not even meet the minimum standards of responsible journalism, and called for the firing of the editors and writers involved in "The Times'" bogus story.
--In its new issue, dated February 5, 2005, the Vatican-approved Jesuit fortnightly, "La Civilta Cattolica," has published an authoritative article, entitled, "La vicenda dei bambini ebrei salvati dall'Olocausto" [The Case of the Jewish Children Saved from the Holocaust] demolishing the allegations of Melloni, and confirming the research of Tornielli, Napolitano, Doino and Rychlak.
--An American organization called the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights (http://www.catholicleague.com) has published three major news releases -- on January 14, 18 and 27 -- refuting every aspect of the anti-papal campaign, and detailing the actual record of Pius XII, including new details (first aired by the Italian weekly "Avvenire"), about Hitler's plot to kidnap Pius XII, because of the pontiff's fierce opposition to Nazi ideology, and because Pius was considered a "friend of the Jews" by the Third Reich.
--Appearing on the January 14th edition of "The World Over Live," EWTN's popular weekly news broadcast (hosted by Raymond Arroyo), William Donohue, president of the Catholic League, delivered a point-by-point refutation of the recent charges against Pius XII. Donohue also emphasized that the campaign against Pius XII has now reached a dead end, and that Pius XII was being vindicated by the outstanding, pioneering work of Sister Margherita Marchione [see below], the work of Ron Rychlak, in his great book, "Hitler, the War and the Pope" and a brand new anthology, "The Pius War: Responses to the Critics of Pius XII" (Lexington Books; ISBN: 0-7391-0906-5), edited by Joseph Bottum and Rabbi David G. Dalin, which Donohue described as "absolutely masterful." "The Pius War," which includes an acclaimed 80,000 word commentary by ITV contributor William Doino Jr, has already received favorable reviews from publications such as "National Review" and "First Things." In its February 14th!
edition, "National Review" commented that "The Pius War" was "one of the best volumes to emerge" on the topic, containing "some of the most compelling defenses of Pius" and called Doino's contribution a "tour de force of scholarship." Writing in "First Things" (February, 2005), editor-in-chief Fr. Richard John Neuhaus echoed this praise, and concluded that "The Pius War will likely be an important resource in advancing the cause of Pius XII toward his canonization."
[Editorial Note: If Pius XII is beatified and canonized, few will deserve more credit than Sister Margherita Marchione. Sister Margherita, popularly known as "the fighting nun," is a member of the Religious Teachers Filippini, holds a Ph.D from Columbia University, was a Fulbright scholar, and is author of more than 50 books. At least a dozen of them, in English and Italian, have been devoted to the life and work of Pope Pius XII during the Holocaust (including Pius XII: Architect for Peace , and Pope Pius XII: Consensus and Controversy ). Her first book on Pius, Yours is a Precious Witness (1997), was a groundbreaking oral history of Jewish and Catholic survivors of the German occupation of Rome, who paid tribute to Pius XII for his life-saving measures taken during the War. She has appeared on many radio and television programs, combating the likes of John Cornwell...who recently admitted he was wrong about Pius XII in light of the "debates and evidence followi!
ng Hitler's Pope." ("The Pontiff in Winter" [Doubleday, 2004] p. 193). Much of that "evidence" was first publicized by Sister Marchione. Below we reprint Sister Marchione's contribution, "The Sanctity of Pius XII," outlining the many reasons why this great man will one day be declared a saint.]
>>The Sanctity of Pius XII<<
- by Sr. Margherita Marchione
The Vatican Congregation for the Causes of Saints will soon begin an examination of the Positio [the multi-volume biography and documented testimony] on the beatification of Pius XII. With regard to Pius XII's sanctity, Father Peter Gumpel, relator, judge, and leading authority on this process, recently stated: "After reading over 100,000 pages of the documents related to the process of beatification, I am more and more convinced that Pius XII was a saint."
A beatification is strictly an internal affair of the Catholic Church. This is not an honorary title. It is the declaration of an individual's holiness. The requirements for beatification and canonization demand years of investigation. The life of the individual is scrutinized; documentation of his heroic virtues is made available to the Congregation; miracles attributed to his intercession are scientifically examined. This is done through the work of collecting testimonials and documentaries as well as through theological and medical assessments. The moral certainty and the formulation of a judgment must be well-founded, serious and precise. Finally, the case must be submitted to the Holy Father who decides on the promulgation of the decree.
Since the beginning of the year 2005, there has been an increased interest in the beatification of Pope Pius XII among Catholics throughout the world. Pius XII was a man of deep faith and extraordinary charity. As has been copiously documented by my books and others, no other head of state or religious leader before, during, and after World War II did as much as Eugenio Pacelli to save Jews fleeing from Nazi persecution. In his famous book, Three Popes and the Jews (1967), Israeli historian Pinchas Lapide did not hesitate to estimate that "the Catholic Church, under the pontificate of Pius XII, was instrumental in saving at least 700,000 but probably as many as 860,000 Jews from certain death at Nazi hands."
More recently, Sir Martin Gilbert, the world's leading Holocaust researcher, stated that such life-saving acts were not accomplished spontaneously, as if they were totally independent from the Vatican (as Pius's detractors have argued), but were being guided and inspired by Pius XII: "Hundreds of thousands of Jews, saved by the entire Catholic Church, under the leadership and with the support of Pius XII, would, to my mind, be absolutely correct." ("Inside the Vatican," August, 2003, p. 31)
Eugenio Pacelli was the Pope during a tragic period of history. He was a model of sanctity. In him was manifested the heroism of the one who works under extreme responsibility: it was the sanctity that flows from decisive action in the face of total warfare; a sanctity that knows it cannot stop because of Nazi threats of kidnapping and death. The miracle of Pius XII is that, because of him, the house built upon the rock (Mt. 7:24) -- the Church -- which he kept intact during a period of the most radical evil, was capable of providing shelter and protection for millions of Europeans, including hundreds of thousands of persecuted Jews.
Pope Pius XII is a lofty model of charismatic responsibility and rational rigor, of which we have a tremendous need in today's world. When he passed away on October 9, 1958, an editorial "Fighter for Peace" in the "Los Angeles Examiner," expressed the sentiments of Catholics and non-Catholics: "It was God's will that the leader of the Roman Catholic Church through years of grave trial should be a man with beautifully sensitive hands, a face of compassionate wisdom, a frail body, and a voice of quiet and profound solace.
"Yet this Pope's hands could clench in battle, his face could be that of a warrior, his body could endure the rigors of disease and the erosion of the years, his voice could thrust like steel against Godless Communism. The incredible strength of the Spirit lived beneath that delicacy of manner, that fragility of frame.
"Pius XII was known as 'the Pope of Peace.' He called himself a fighter for peace. His self-description was more accurate, for the years of his reign, beginning in March, 1939, were those of the horrible violence of war or the stealth and treachery of Communist evil. It was in these and through these continuous ordeals that the gentle and ascetic scholar became God's warrior; a bulwark against despair, a magnificent fighter for peace, a repository of the hopes of mankind.
"Never, during these troubled years, did Pius XII lose his gift of gracious beneficence. No other Pope received so many people. They numbered many millions. Whether the audiences were large or small, he conveyed a sense of intimacy and understanding. His gifts to them were hope and courage. This fighter for peace is now in peace with God."
There are volumes of depositions for the beatification of Pius XII. His sanctity has been recorded.
Pius XII was a humble person who did not want his many good works and accomplishments revealed. Respecting his wishes, Sister Pascalina Lehnert -- his housekeeper -- quietly implemented the Pope's charitable works, serving him faithfully from 1923-1958. Only after his death, in her memoirs and deposition to the Congregation, did Sister Pascalina reveal Pius's extraordinary courage and charity.
As early as 1929, when he was still nuncio to Germany, and four years before Hitler came to power, Sister Pascalina remembers how Archbishop Pacelli warned that Hitler was a "madman," capable of destroying everything that went before him; and she describes how the Nuncio criticized Germans who refused to recognize the evil Hitler represented. (See Pascalina's memoirs, Pio XII, il privilegio di servirlo [Milan: Rusconi, 1984]).
Ten years later, after Pacelli became Pope Pius XII, Sister Pascalina describes how the pontiff continued to fight Hitler with every fiber of his being, and how Pius went out of his way to assist the victims of the Third Reich. In her testimony before the Congregation (Session CLXIII, March 17, 1972), Sister Pascalina stated: "The Pope not only opened the doors of the Vatican to protect the persecuted, but he encouraged convents and monasteries to offer hospitality. The Vatican provided provisions for these people. The accusation that Pius XII was indifferent to the needs of the victims is without foundation. He ordered me to spend his inheritance and personal funds to provide for those who wished to leave Italy and go to Canada, Brazil, or elsewhere. Note that $800 was needed for each person who emigrated. Many times the Pope would ask me to deliver to Jewish families a sealed envelope containing $1,000 or more."
Pius XII's pontificate left a lasting mark on the history of the Catholic Church. His life was one of action, inspired by profound piety. He brought consolation, peace and encouragement everywhere. He instituted numerous liturgical reforms: the evening Mass, the new Eucharistic fast regulations and increased lay participation in liturgical functions. The Eucharistic Liturgy was the source from which Pius XII drew strength and wisdom to lead the world.
Pius XII has been called the "Pope of Mary" for his great devotion to the Mother of God, evidenced in the infallible definition of the Assumption. The consecration of Russia and of the whole world to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, the solemn proclaiming of the Marian Year, the institution of the feast of the Queenship of Mary, and the proclamation of the Centenary of the Apparitions of Our Blessed Lady to St. Bernadette, were also made by Pius XII.
Pius XII spoke numerous languages, but the only language that inspired others, was the language of his heart. He was a minister of peace in a warring world. When he was told that Stalin inquired about the number of divisions in his army, he said: "You may tell my son Joseph he will meet my divisions in heaven." That was Pacelli's secret. Even of Stalin he could say "my son." And mean it.
Pacelli's prayerfulness was noted throughout his life. Very reserved, he did not speak about his personal spirituality, but whoever approached him would realize that he was in constant union with God. When he died, his acting secretary of state, Monsignor Domenico Tardini, declared: "Often the Church bells would ring at noon during our discussions. Immediately Pius XII would stand, fold his hands, lower his eyes and begin to recite the Angelus Domini."
Those who worked closely with Pius XII claim that he lived a life of exemplary temperance and mortification. He was an ascetic and practiced every virtue in an extraordinary way. He wanted only simple food. His meals were that of a poor person. He ate very little and did not eat desserts. He did not use alcoholic beverages or tobacco. Even though he needed special foods, during the war years he forbade any exceptions for his own meals. His weight was reduced to fifty-seven kilos (125 pounds).
He did not want his apartment heated because thousands of refugees hidden by the Vatican could not have their rooms heated. He slept only four hours each day, after working until two in the morning and getting up at six a.m. Even when the time period for fasting in order to receive Holy Communion was lessened, he continued to observe the original fast regulations. Pope Pius XII weighed everything in light of Gospel revelations and Christian traditions. His official speeches and writings alone amount to more than 22 volumes. He restored Church prestige and provided the faithful and the world with extraordinary leadership.
In 1954, Pius XII became gravely ill. He soon resumed his duties, and continued his mission. and gave four more years of fruitful service to the Church. During his final illness in 1958, as he prepared to meet his Master, when he could no longer celebrate Holy Mass, he repeated constantly the prayer, Anima Christi ["Soul of Christ, Sanctify me, Body of Christ, save me, In the hour of my death, call me."]
Cardinal Angelo Roncalli -- the future Pope John XXIII -- revered Pius XII and gave a eulogy in St. Mark's Basilica, Venice, on October 11, 1958. He recalled the magisterium of Pius XII who "adapted himself to modern thought and progress." He stated that history would recall his example, his messages. As leader of the Catholic Church, his name would be listed among the great and most popular of modern history. In his first Christmas Message (1958), Pope John XXIII unofficially canonized his predecessor and referred to "our Father and Pontiff, whom we see already among God's saints in heaven: Supreme Doctor, Light of Holy Mother Church, Lover of the Divine Law." ("Doctor Optimus, Ecclesiae Sanctae Lumen, Divinae Legis Amator"). In the 1960s, there began an effort to villify the wartime Pope, a campaign which Ralph McInerney has accurately labeled "the defamation of Pius XII." Following the Communists, who fabricated charges against the Pope, in hopes of driving the faithful a!
gainst him, Pius was subject to the most unscrupulous and un-historical attacks in modern history.
Today, his detractors continue to claim, against all evidence, that he lacked courage, human compassion, and a sense of moral rectitude. Hostile attacks by the uninformed and prejudiced media replace the historical record that showed him as a great leader.
In contrast to the universal esteem Pius XII enjoyed until his death, his reputation today still suffers from many scattered attacks. However, according to Michael Novak, these critics "are deflecting attention from themselves. Today's charges against Pope Pius XII cannot stand scrutiny." What Pius XII did for the Jews directly and indirectly through his diplomatic representatives and the bishops is well documented. At the end of World War II, Dr. Joseph Nathan, representing the Hebrew Commission, addressed the Jewish community, expressing heartfelt gratitude to those who protected and saved Jews during the Nazi-Fascist persecutions. "Above all," he stated, "we acknowledge the Supreme Pontiff and the religious men and women who, executing the directives of the Holy Father, recognized the persecuted as their brothers and, with great abnegation, hastened to help them, disregarding the terrible dangers to which they were exposed." The Romans gave Pope Pius XII the title "Defens!
or Civitatis" ("Defender of the City"); his contemporaries throughout the world acclaimed him "Pastor Angelicus" ("Angelic Shepherd"). Indeed, "Vox populi, Vox Dei" -- the voice of the people is the voice of God.
Pope Pius XII is a unique figure in modern history. He was an extraordinary man who fulfilled his duties with courage and great wisdom, and who was in his personal life an exemplary Christian, priest, bishop, cardinal, and pope. One of the most distinguished prelates ever to serve the Church, his pontificate achieved a wider respect than it had had since the Reformation. He restored Church prestige and provided the faithful and the world with extraordinary leadership. Pope Pius XII's aspirations toward truth and goodness and his extraordinary achievements may be considered one of the great events of the 20th century. The opinion of many of his contemporaries was that he was a saint. Long after his detractors are forgotten, Eugenio Pacelli will go down in history as one of the great religious leaders of his age, or indeed any age. He will be remembered as St. Pius XII.