Pope Pius XII

head of the Catholic Church from 1939 to 1958

Pope Pius XII (born Eugenio Maria Giuseppe Giovanni Pacelli; 2 March 1876 - 9 October 1958) was head of the Catholic Church and sovereign of the Vatican City State from 2 March 1939, until his death in 1958. Before his election to the papacy, he served as secretary of the Department of Extraordinary Ecclesiastical Affairs, papal nuncio to Germany, and Cardinal Secretary of State, in which capacity he worked to conclude treaties with European and Latin American nations, such as the Reichskonkordat with Nazi Germany.

God did not create a human family made up of segregated, dissociated, mutually independent members. No; he would have them all united by the bond of total love of Him and consequent self-dedication to assisting each other to maintain that bond intact.

While the Vatican was officially neutral during World War II, the Reichskonkordat and his leadership of the Catholic Church during the war remain the subject of controversy—including allegations of public silence and inaction about the fate of the Jews. Pius employed diplomacy to aid the victims of the Nazis during the war and, through directing the Church to provide discreet aid to Jews and others, saved hundreds of thousands of lives. Pius maintained links to the German Resistance, and shared intelligence with the Allies. His strongest public condemnation of genocide was, however, considered inadequate by the Allied Powers, while the Nazis viewed him as an Allied sympathizer who had dishonoured his policy of Vatican neutrality.

During his papacy, the Church issued the Decree against Communism, declaring that Catholics who profess Communist doctrine are to be excommunicated as apostates from the Christian faith. The Church experienced severe persecution and mass deportations of Catholic clergy in the Eastern Bloc.


  • All men are brothered in Jesus Christ.
    • Statement (27 May 1946), as quoted in America, Vol. 100 (1958) by America Press, p. 121
  • God did not create a human family made up of segregated, dissociated, mutually independent members. No; he would have them all united by the bond of total love of Him and consequent self-dedication to assisting each other to maintain that bond intact.
    • Statement (7 September 1956), as quoted in America, Vol. 100 (1958) by America Press, p. 121
  • True science discovers God in an ever-increasing degree — as though God were waiting behind every door opened by science.
    • address to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, 22 November 1951
    • quoted in Time, 3 December 1951
    • quoted by Dan Brown, Angels and Demons, page 44
  • Besides, every human being, even the child in the womb, has the right to life directly from God and not from his parents, not from any society or human authority. Therefore, there is no man, no human authority, no science, no "indication" at all—whether it be medical, eugenic, social, economic, or moral—that may offer or give a valid judicial title for a direct deliberate disposal of an innocent human life, that is, a disposal which aims at its destruction, whether as an end in itself or as a means to achieve the end, perhaps in no way at all illicit. Thus, for example, to save the life of the mother is a very noble act; but the direct killing of the child as a means to such an end is illicit. The direct destruction of so-called "useless lives," already born or still in the womb, practiced extensively a few years ago, can in no wise be justified. Therefore, when this practice was initiated, the Church expressly declared that it was against the natural law and the divine positive law, and consequently that it was unlawful to kill, even by order of the public authorities, those who were innocent, even if on account of some physical or mental defect, they were useless to the State and a burden upon it. The life of an innocent person is sacrosanct, and any direct attempt or aggression against it is a violation of one of the fundamental laws without which secure human society is impossible. We have no need to teach you in detail the meaning and the gravity, in your profession, of this fundamental law. But never forget this: there rises above every human law and above every "indication" the faultless law of God.
    • Allocution to Midwives on the Nature of Their Profession, October 29, 1951. [1] [2]
  • Caution must be used when there is rather question of hypotheses, having some sort of scientific foundation, in which the doctrine contained in Sacred Scripture or in Tradition is involved. If such conjectural opinions are directly or indirectly opposed to the doctrine revealed by God, then the demand that they be recognized can in no way be admitted.
    • Humani Generis §35

Quotes about Pius XII

Sorted alphabetically
  • In Rome, the Pope again deplored the bombing of civilian populations, but he was naïve- civilians are military objectives in our time.
    • Alvah Bessie, Men in Battle: A Story of Americans in Spain (1939), p. 173
  • Yet, if the Roman Catholic Church pursues its plans to canonize Pope Pius XII, it will be more damaging to its reputation than another huge explosion of pedophile priest scandals. For even child molestation – evil and sinister as it is – remains a step below complicity in the extermination of millions of people and ordering mass kidnapping, two great sins among many by which Pius XII disgraced himself.
  • The Church and the papacy have saved Jews as much and in as far as they could save Christians.... Six million of my co-religionists have been murdered by the Nazis, but there could have been many more victims, had it not been for the efficacious intervention of Pius XII.
    • Dr. Raffaele Cantoni, director of the Italian Jewish Assistance Committee, American Jewish Yearbook 1944-1945, 233.
  • With an unequalled cynicism the Vatican "suada" (art or way of persuasion) refers to a few Catholics who took a firm stand against the fascistic atrocities -- and omits the fact that the Pope and his bishops did not support these courageous priests at all.
    • Emil Carlebach, Jewish communist and survivor of Buchenwald
  • The people of Israel will never forget what His Holiness and his illustrious delegates, inspired by the eternal principles of religion, which form the very foundation of true civilization, are doing for our unfortunate brothers and sisters in the most tragic hour of our history, which is living proof of Divine Providence in this world.
  • The repeated interventions of the Holy Father on behalf of Jewish Communities in Europe has evoked the profoundest sentiments of appreciation and gratitude from Jews throughout the world.
    • Rabbi Maurice Perlzweig, Political director of the World Jewish Congress. Written February 18 1944 in a letter to Msgr. Amleto Cicognani, the apostolic delegate in Washington, D.C.
  • In the most difficult hours of which we Jews of Romania have passed through, the generous assistance of the Holy See…was decisive and salutary. It is not easy for us to find the right words to express the warmth and consolation we experienced because of the concern of the supreme pontiff, who offered a large sum to relieve the sufferings of deported Jews…. The Jews of Romania will never forget these facts of historic importance.
    • Rabbi Alexander Safran, chief rabbi of Romania note to Monsignor Andrea Cassulo, Papal Nuncio to Romania, April 7 1944
  • Those of us who were foreign correspondents in Berlin during the days of the Weimar Republic were not unfamiliar with the figure of the dean of the diplomatic corps. Tall, slender, with magnificent eyes, strong features and expressive hands, in his appearance and bearing Archbishop Pacelli looked every inch what he was - a Roman nobleman, of the proudest blood of the western world. In knowledge of German and European affairs and in diplomatic astuteness the Nuncio was without an equal.
—Dorothy Thomas, American newspaper writer and radio commentator [4]
  • More than anyone else, we have had the opportunity to appreciate the great kindness, filled with compassion and magnanimity, that the Pope displayed during the terrible years of persecution and terror when it seemed that for us there was no longer an escape.
  • We share in the grief of humanity at the passing away of His Holiness Pope Pius XII. In a generation affected by wars and discords, he upheld the highest ideals of peace and compassion. When fearful martyrdom came to our people in the decade of Nazi terror, the voice of the Pope was raised for the victims. The life of our times was enriched by a voice speaking out on the great moral truths above the tumult of daily conflict. We mourn a great servant of peace.
    • Golda Meir, Israeli Prime Minister, message of condolence to the Vatican, sent 1958.
  • If the pope had spoken out, Hitler would probably have massacred more than six million Jews and perhaps ten times ten million Catholics, if he had the power to do so.
    • Rabbi Marcus Melchior, Holocaust survivor and Chief Rabbi of Denmark, 1950.
  • With special gratitude we remember all he has done for the persecuted Jews during one of the darkest periods in their entire history.
    • Nahum Goldmann, president of the World Jewish Congress, message of condolence to the Vatican, sent 1958.
  • In relation to the insane behavior of the Nazis, from overlords to self-styled cogs like Eichmann, he [Pius XII] did everything humanly possible to save lives and alleviate suffering among the Jews; that a formal statement would have provoked the Nazis to brutal retaliation, and would substantially have thwarted further Catholic action on behalf of Jews.
    • Dr. Joseph Lichten, a Polish Jew who served as a diplomat and later an official of the Jewish Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith in Rome. Written in his book A Question of Judgment (1963) (written in response to The Deputy play and available online in full).
  • The papal nuncio and the bishops intervened again and again on the instructions of the pope, and that as a result of these labors in the autumn and winter of 1944, there was practically no Catholic Church institution in Budapest where persecuted Jews did not find refuge.
    • Jeno Levai, Jewish historian, in Hungarian Jewry and the Papacy: Pius XII Did Not Remain Silent (1965).
  • Pius XI had good reason to make Pacelli (the future Pius XII) the architect of his anti-Nazi policy. Of the forty-four speeches which the Nuncio Pacelli had made on German soil between 1917 and 1929, at least forty contained attacks on Nazism or condemnations of Hitler’s doctrines. Pacelli, who never met the Führer, called it ‘neo-Paganism.’
    • Pinchas E. Lapide, former Israeli diplomat and Orthodox Jewish Rabbi in Three Popes and the Jews (New York: Hawthorn, 1967) p. 118.
  • The Catholic Church, under the pontificate of Pope Pius XII was instrumental in saving at least 700,000, but probably as many as 860,000, Jews from certain death at Nazi hands.
    • Pinchas E. Lapide, Three Popes and the Jews (1967).
  • No Pope in history has been thanked more heartily by Jews. Upon his death in 1958, several suggested in open letters that a Pope Pius XII forest of 860,000 trees be planted on the hills of Judea in order to fittingly honor the memory of the late Pontiff because the Catholic Church under the pontificate of Pius XII was instrumental in saving the lives of as many as 860,000 Jews from certain death at Nazi hands.
    • Pinchas E. Lapide, Three Popes and the Jews (1967).
  • I told [Pope Pius XII] that my first duty was to thank him, and through him the Catholic Church, on behalf of the Jewish public for all they had done in the various countries to rescue Jews…. We are deeply grateful to the Catholic Church.
    • Moshe Sharett (who later became Israel’s first foreign minister and second prime minister)
  • Pius XII did not make his protest heard when the Roman Jews were carried away right under his nose.
    • Amos Luzzatto, president of Union of Italian Jewish Communities. (September 28, 1998). [5]
  • Hitler distrusted the Holy See because it hid Jews. The Germans considered the Pope as an enemy.
    • Richard Breitman, Jewish historian and professor at American University in Washington, D.C. Statement made in Italian newspaper "Corriere della Sera" on June 29 2000.
  • My judgment cannot but be positive. Pope Pacelli was the only one who intervened to impede the deportation of Jews on 16 October 1943, and he did very much to hide and save thousands of us. It was no small matter that he ordered the opening of cloistered convents. Without him, many of our own would not be alive.
    • Michael Tagliacozzo, Jewish historian and staff member at Beth Lohame Haghettaot (Center of Studies on the Shoah and Resistance). Beth Lohame Haghettaot in western Galilee in Israel is one of the world's largest museums and centers of documentation on the Holocaust. October 25 2000.
  • The Talmud teaches that 'whosoever preserves one life, it is accounted to him by Scripture as if he had preserved a whole world.' More than any other twentieth-century leader, Pius XII fulfilled this Talmudic dictum, when the fate of European Jewry was at stake. No other pope had been so widely praised by Jews — and they were not mistaken. Their gratitude, as well as that of the entire generation of Holocaust survivors, testifies that Pius XII was, genuinely and profoundly, a righteous gentile.
  • Never, in those tragic days, could I have foreseen, even in my wildest imaginings, that the man who, more than any other, had tried to alleviate human suffering, had spent himself day by day in his unceasing efforts for peace, would - twenty years later - be made the scapegoat for men trying to free themselves from their own responsibilities and from the collective guilt that obviously weights so heavily upon them.
    • Monsignor John Patrick Carroll-Abbing, in his 1965 book But for The Gace of God, pp.48
  • During the Nazi occupation of Rome, three thousand Jews found refuge at one time at the pope’s summer residence at Castel Gandolfo. Amazingly, Castel Gandolfo is never mentioned or discussed in the anti-papal writings of many of the pope’s critics. Yet at no other site in Nazi-occupied Europe were as many Jews saved and sheltered for as long a period as at Castel Gandolfo during the Nazi occupation of Rome. Kosher food was provided for the Jews hidden there, where, as George Weigel has noted, Jewish children were born in the private apartments of Pius XII, which became a temporary obstetrical ward.
  • No rebuke has come to Nazism from Pope Pius XI and his successor, Pope Pius XII.
    • Rabbi Louis Finkelstein, chancellor, Jewish Theological Seminary of America in the New York Times, March 1940.
  • I simply cannot understand the failure of the Pope speak out.
    • Rabbi Eric H. Yoffie, president of Union of American Hebrew Congregations (2000)[6]
  • Even though the 'Final Solution' was a Nazi invention, not a Church one, the Pontiff who headed the Roman Catholic Church during the Holocaust period, Pius XII, did nothing to either condemn it or protest against it; his standing by while blood was being shed deserves full condemnation, on behalf of future generations as well. At Yad Vashem in Jerusalem, there is an avenue on which every tree is dedicated to the memory of a Righteous Gentile. Had Pius XII fulfilled his basic duty, this avenue would be much longer and the lives of many more Jews would have been saved during those horrible days.
    • Israeli Chief Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau, 2000.
  • In a sense, it's an indictment of the dual standard of morality practiced by Pius XII. They (the Vatican) have no hesitation in properly charging the Soviets with atrocities but tragically failed to do so when it came to the murder of the Jews in the Holocaust.
    • Elan Steinberg, executive director of the World Jewish Congress 2001 speaking on discovery of a report by Archbishop Montini into the Soviet occupation of Berlin.
  • The facts are that Pius XII was the best informed leader on what was happening in Europe during the Holocaust. Yet unlike many priests and bishops who risked their lives and showed great courage in defying Hitler, the Pope sat in stony silence as millions of Jews were murdered in the death camps.
    • Rabbi Marvin Hier, dean and founder of the Simon Wiesenthal Center 2001
  • Over time I have become convinced that during World War II Pope Pius XII and the vast majority of European Christian leaders regarded the elimination of the Jews as no less beneficial than the destruction of Bolshevism.
    • Rabbi Richard L. Rubenstein, professor emeritus University of Bridgeport (Pope Pius XII and the Holocaust, Eds Carol Rittner and John K. Roth, Continuum).
  • We can't help but notice that under Cardinal Ratzinger's tutelage, the Church began moves to elevate the infamous Pope Pius XII to the status of saint. Instead of repenting for the failure of the Church to give unequivocal messages telling all Catholics that they would be prevented from receiving communion for collaborating or cooperating in any way with Nazi rule, or for failing to hide and protect Jews who were marked for extermination, Ratzinger has sought to whitewash this disgraceful moment in Church history.
  • In [a] quest for Pacelli, clues begin to accumulate, even in his early life: a devout, pious family, highly professional and respected, yet relatively impoverished; strong and abiding Church links; a desire to restore a dispossessed Vatican to its rightful place in the world; continuing insider influence on the young Eugenio's behalf;[-] a strong dependence on a mother figure; [-] and finally, the use of the Pacelli's special interest in canon law to solve the Vatican's problems of dispossession by creating a new and all-encompassing Church order. [-] He emerges as an intellectually brilliant but psychologically fragile vessel, confronting ruthlessly powerful men, devoid of any scruple whatsoever, at the darkest hour in history.
    • Gerard Noel, Pius XII: The Hound of Hitler, p. 14, 2008
  • I came back from Auschwitz on my own. I lost my mother, two sisters and one brother. Pius XII could have warned us about what was going to happen. We might have escaped from Rome and joined the partisans. He played right into the Germans' hands. It all happened right under his nose. But he was an anti-Semitic pope, a pro-German pope. He didn't take a single risk. And when they say the Pope is like Jesus Christ, it is not true. He did not save a single child.
    • Settimia Spizzichino, the sole Roman Jewish woman survivor from the death camps
  • Liked the man from Rome well enough as a human being. But this was war. Let the British and French answer for it.
Kaiser Wilhelm II's diary [8]
  • What the Vatican did will be indelibly and eternally engraved in our hearts. Priests and even high prelates did things that will forever be an honor to Catholicism.
    • Israel [Zolli], former Chief Rabbi of Rome, 1948.