Cardinal Bertone’s conference on Pius XII

Source: FSSPX News


In the first excerpt we cannot help being surprised by Cardinal Bertone’s attempt to present pope Pius XII as a precursor of the liturgical reform of Vatican II, a forerunner of inculturation and even of a certain feminism regarding his canonization… Undoubtedly, we must consider this as a desire to affirm the “modernity” of Pope Pacelli, the victim of an unjust “black legend”. Unless it be an attempt to show “continuity in change” from Pius XII to John XXIII and Paul VI, a manner of interpreting Tradition in the light of the Council.

Apart from these reservations, we can acknowledge that Cardinal Bertone displays a certain courage when he shows with precision and efficiency how the “black legend” of the allegedly guilty silence of the Vicar of Christ during the war, was put together.

The last excerpt proposed here below invites historians not to be guilty of anachronisms, namely not to “judge the reality of that time with the eyes and mentality of today.” We can only agree with such wise advice, which should put an end to the repeated repentances which have the temerity to judge tradition in the light of modernity.



“(…) We must nevertheless be grateful to Andrea Tornielli who, in this massive and well-documented biography, drawing from much unpublished material, restores for us the greatness and completeness of the figure of Pius XII. He allows us to delve into his humanity, he allows us to rediscover his teaching. He brings again to our minds, for example, his encyclical on the liturgy, his reform of the rites of Holy Week, the great preparatory work that would flow into the conciliar liturgical reform. Pius XII opened up the application of the historical-critical method to sacred Scriptures, and in the encyclical “Divino Afflante Spiritu”, established the doctrinal norms for the study of sacred Scripture, emphasizing the importance of its role in the Christian life. It is the same Pope Pacelli who, in the encyclical “Humani Generis”, takes evolutionary theory into consideration, albeit with care. Pius XII also gave notable impetus to missionary activity with the encyclicals “Evangelii Præcones”, 1951 and “Fidei Donum,” 1957 – this year is its 50th anniversary – highlighting the Church’s duty to proclaim the Gospel to the nations, as Vatican II would amply reaffirm. The pope refused to identify Christianity with Western culture or with a particular political system. There is more. Pius XII is still the pope who gave the most room to women in his canonizations and beatifications: 54,4% of canonizations and 62,5% of beatifications. Indeed, this pontiff spoke often about women’s rights, affirming, in a 1957 radio message to a congress of the Italian Center for Women, for example, that women are called to “resolute action” even in the political and judiciary fields.”



In regard to the “silences”, I happily advert to a well-documented article by professor Gian Maria Vian entitled “Il Silenzio Pio XII: alle origini della leggenda near” (The Silence of Pius XII: At the Origins of the Black Legend), which was published in 2004 in the journal Archivum Historiæ Pontificiæ. In this article he says, among other things, that the first to ask about the “silences of Pius XII” was the French Catholic philosopher Emmanuel Mounier in 1939, just a few weeks after the election of the Supreme Pontiff and in relation to Italian aggression in Albania. A bitter polemic, of Soviet and communist origin – and, as we shall see, revived by certain exponents of the Russian Orthodox Church – grafted itself onto these questions. Rolf Hochhuth, author of “The Deputy,” the play that contributed to the creation of the black legend against Pius XII, has in a recent interview defined Pope Pacelli as a “demonic wimp,” while there are historians who only promote anti-Pius XII research and even call those who do not think as they do and dare to propose a different view on these matters “The Pacelli Brigade.” It is impossible not to denounce this attack on good sense and reason that is often perpetrated on the pages of newspapers.”



On June 2, 1943, on the occasion of the feast of St. Eugene, Pius XII publicly expounded the reasons for his attitude. First of all, Pope Pacelli speaks again of the Jewish people. “The rulers of nations must not forget that he who ‘carries the sword’ – to use the language of sacred Scripture – cannot decide the life and death of men except in accord with the law of God, from whom all authority comes.” “You cannot expect us,” Pius XII continued, “here to recount point by point all that we have tried to procure and accomplish to mitigate their sufferings, to better their moral and juridical condition, to safeguard their inalienable religious rights, to bring help in their sufferings and necessities. Every word to this end that we addressed to the competent authorities as well as each of our public allusions had to be weighed and measured by us in the very interest of those who were suffering lest we should unwittingly make their situation more grave and unbearable. Unfortunately, the visibly obtained improvements do not correspond to the maternal solicitude of the Church on behalf of these particular groups that are subjected to the most bitter misfortune, and the Vicar, asking only for compassion and a return to elementary norms of law and humanity, has found himself, at times, before doors that no key could open.” Here, in the middle of 1943, we find revealed the reason for the prudence with which Pacelli conducted himself in public denouncements: “in the very interest of those who were suffering, lest we should unwittingly make their situation more grave and unbearable.” (…)

Popes do not speak with the idea of pre-constituting a favorable image for future ages. They know that the fate of millions of Christians can at times depend on their very word, they have at heart the fate of men and women of flesh and blood, not the applause of historians. Robert Kempner, a Jewish lawyer and public official at the Nuremberg trials, wrote in 1964, after the release of Hochhuth’s “The Deputy”: “Any propagandistic position that the Church would have taken against Hitler’s government would have not only provoked suicide… but it would have hastened the execution of still more Jews and priests.”

The directive that Pope Pius XII gave in 1942 on the radio, in the press, and through diplomatic channels was clear. In the tragic year of 1942 he told everyone: “Action, not lamentation, is the precept of the hour.” The wisdom of this affirmation is testified to by a myriad of documents: diplomatic notes, urgent consistories, specific instructions – to Cardinals Bertram, Innitzer, Schuster, etc. – to do what was possible to save people, preserving the neutrality of the Holy See.

This neutrality allowed the pope to save not only Europeans but other prisoners as well. I am thinking of the awful situation in Poland and the humanitarian interventions in Southeast Asia. Pius XII never signed circulars or proclamations. His instructions were given verbally. And bishops, priests, religious, and lay people all understood what had to be done. The countless audience papers with the comments of Cardinals Maglione and Tardini, among other things, were testimony to this. Then the protests or the rejections of the Holy See humanitarian requests would arrive.” (…)



In conclusion, I would like to thank Andrea Tornielli for this book, which contributes to a better understanding of the luminous apostolic action of the figure of the Servant of God Pius XII. This is a useful service to the Church, a useful service to the truth. It is right to discuss, delve into, debate, and confront. But it is important that we guard ourselves against the gravest error of the historian, that is, anachronism, judging the reality of that time with the eyes and mentality of today. How profoundly unjust it is to judge the work of Pius XII during the war with the veil of prejudice, forgetting not only the historical context but also the enormous work of charity that the pope promoted, opening the doors of seminaries and religious institutes, welcoming refugees and persecuted people, helping all.” (…)

(source: Zenit)