Wednesday, 18 June 2008


VATICAN CITY, 17 JUN 2008 (VIS) - This morning in the Holy See Press Office, a press conference was held to present two initiatives to mark the 50th anniversary of the death of Servant of God Pope Pius XII: a congress on his Magisterium and a photographic exhibition.

Participating in the conference were bishop Salvatore Fisichella, rector of Rome 's Pontifical Lateran University ; Fr. Gianfranco Ghirlanda S.J., rector of Rome 's Pontifical Gregorian University ; Msgr. Walter Brandmuller, president of the Pontifical Committee for Historical Sciences; Giovanni Maria Vian, director of the "Osservatore Romano" newspaper, and Giovanni Morello, president of the Foundation for the Artistic Patrimony and Activity of the Church.

Referring to Pius XII and the years of his pontificate (1939-1958), Bishop Fisichella highlighted the Pontiff's "great stature, especially in spiritual terms, but also intellectually and diplomatically".
"Various different historical situations of great significance came together in the life of Pius XII", he said: "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 pointed out that, although many aspects of the pontificate have already been studied, "what remains largely unknown is Pius XII's influence on Vatican Council II". In this context, he mentioned the 43 Encyclicals "which marked his pontificate, and the many discourses in which he examined the most controversial questions of his time.

"In this Magisterium", Bishop Fisichella added, "it is easy to identify certain particular traits which we may summarise 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 Pope Pius examines "the serious problem of theological relativism. ... Finally", said Bishop Fischella, "Pius XII never failed to make his voice heard clearly and explicitly when circumstances required it".

Fr. Ghirlanda spoke of the congress to mark the anniversary of the Pontiff's death, which is due to take place at the Gregorian and Lateran Universities from 6 to 8 November. Pius XII himself, Fr. Ghirlanda noted, studied at the Gregorian University and at the Pontifical Athenaeum of the Roman Seminary of Sant'Apollinare which later became the Lateran University .

The congress, which will be attended by professors from both universities, is scheduled to be held over two days. "The first day", Fr. Ghirlanda explained, "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". The themes will include: "the development of biblical studies, evangelisation, 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".

"Another commemorative event", said Msgr. Brandmuller, "will be the photographic exhibition entitled "Pius XII: the Man and the Pontificate", which will illustrate the life of this great and exceptional Pontiff who was already an object of admiration among his contemporaries. It has been sought", explained the president of the Pontifical Committee for Historical Sciences, "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".

For his part, Giovanni Morello recalled that the exhibition - which is due to be held in the Charlemagne Wing off St. Peter's Square from 21 October 2008 to 6 January 2009 - will follow the Pontiff's life "through contemporary photographs, many of them supplied by the photographic service of the 'Osservatore Romano', documents and personal effects, loaned both by the Pacelli family and by the 'Famiglia Spirituale Opera'".

"The exhibition begins with the birth of the future Pope (in Rome on 2 March 1876) and follows his youthful and scholastic activities up to the moment of his priestly ordination on 2 April 1899", Morello explained. The young priest soon entered the service of the Holy See; he was consecrated a bishop by Pope Benedict XV in the Sistine Chapel on 13 May 1917 then appointed as nuncio, first in Bavaria (1917-1924) and subsequently in Berlin (1925-1929), at a crucial moment in German history.

On 16 December 1929 Pius XI made him a cardinal and soon afterwards appointed him as secretary of State. The young cardinal thus became the Pope's main collaborator as evinced, said Morello, "by the corrections and notes Cardinal Pacelli made in preparing some of the most important documents, including the famous Encyclical 'Mit brennender Sorge'. During this period, Cardinal Pacelli made many journeys abroad; he was the first secretary of State, after many centuries, to travel as papal legate". Among the countries he visited were: Argentina , Brazil , Uruguay , United States and France .

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", said the president of the Foundation for the Artistic Patrimony and Activity of the Church, "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 the Italian Republic; 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. All these items used to be kept 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".