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from issue no. 09 - 2008


The Pope most quoted by Vatican Council II

Cardinal Siri, in the Synod Hall of the Vatican, in the presence of John Paul II, on 8 October 1983, said: “If we study the indices of Vatican II, one can easily see that after those taken from Holy Scripture, the most numerous quotations are those derived from the writings of this Pope”

by Cardinal Fiorenzo Angelini

The subject on which I have been invited to share some thoughts can be addressed in various ways: as many as were the issues and problems that the Council considered and on which it pronounced. I shall, however, limit myself to drawing attention to only two of these aspects: one, that I would call historical; the other I would call theological and spiritual.
The historical aspect concerns the close relationship between the event of Vatican II and the contribution made by Pius XII to its preparation; the theological and spiritual aspect brings to light, in my opinion, how in his purposive efforts directed at the holding of the Council, Pius XII offered further evidence of his status not only as great pope, but as a man of God, as saintly pontiff.
The close relationship between the two is confirmed by the fact that it was Paul VI himself, with the Council in session, who opened the cause of beatification and canonization of Pius XII.

Eugenio Pacelli, born in Rome on 2 March 1876, elected Pope on 2 March 1939 under the name of Pius XII, died at Castel Gandolfo on 9 October 1958

Eugenio Pacelli, born in Rome on 2 March 1876, elected Pope on 2 March 1939 under the name of Pius XII, died at Castel Gandolfo on 9 October 1958

The contribution of Pius XII to the preparation of Vatican II
I could begin and end my speech on “Pius XII and the Vatican II” simply by quoting a statement by Cardinal Giuseppe Siri, delivered in the Synod Hall of the Vatican, in the presence of John Paul II, on 8 October 1983, on the twenty-fifth anniversary of the death of Pope Pacelli. The then archbishop of Genoa said: “If we study the indices of Vatican II, one can easily see that after those taken from Holy Scripture, the most numerous quotations are those derived from the writings of this Pope”1.
In fact, while the convocation and holding of the Vatican II Ecumenical Council are rightly regarded as a happy and extraordinary initiative taken for the renewal of the life of the Church of our time by John XXIII, too often one ignores or fails to stress that Vatican II was carefully and diligently prepared by Pius XII from immediately after his election. That is why the final documents of the Council contain 201 quotations from or references to 92 acts of the Magisterium of his pontificate2. Solely in the Dogmatic Constitution Lumen Gentium there are 58 citations referring to the Magisterium of Pius XII.
Our late dear friend and priest, Father Giovanni Caprile S.J., in his monumental work on Vatican II, wrote that “also under Pope Pius XII the idea of convening a council surfaced again, and several steps in preparing it were made”3. For these steps Father Caprile cites documents, some of which, at that time, altogether unpublished4.
For me who attended all the sessions of the Vatican Council II, after having had the honor and responsibility under Pope Pius XII of work that led me to have contact with him, the link between the Magisterium of Pius XII and the documents approved by Vatican II has always seemed beyond dispute, confirming a clear magisterial continuity.
John Paul II also said so on the fortieth anniversary of the election of Pope Pius XII. In fact, at the Angelus of 18 March 1979, recalling his predecessor, he said: “On this fortieth anniversary of the start of that significant pontificate, we can not forget how much Pius XII contributed to the theological preparation of the Second Vatican Council, above all in terms of the teaching about the Church, the first liturgical reforms, the new impetus given to biblical studies, the great concern for the problems of the contemporary world”5.
Besides, in fact, the references mentioned above, the exemplification is redundant and can be extended to many other documents.
It is quite usual, for example, to speak of the Pastoral Constitution Gaudium et Spes as the Council document most open to dialogue with the contemporary world. One ignores or forgets that in 1950 the text of a Concilii oecumenici declaratio authentica was already prepared, which must be considered a precursor of the contents of the future schema 13 which became Gaudium et spes6.
It is enough to read it to realize such7. Moreover, as to concern for issues and problems of contemporary society, Pius XII enhanced, through particular initiatives, the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, founded on 28 October 1936 by Pius XI. It is the only academy of sciences of a supra-national and single-class character existing in the world. Pontifical academicians are selected without discrimination from the eminent scholars of mathematical and experimental sciences of each country. And among them, also in the days of Pius XII, there were distinguished Jewish scholars.
In his Magisterium Pius XII wanted to eliminate claims of incompatibility between faith and science. No scientific congress of high and highest level was held to which he did not devote a perfectly informed speech, illuminating to the point of amazing the distinguished representatives of science. Speeches that he wrote personally and prepared, starting some, such as those for Holy Christmas, even months beforehand, after asking that the bibliography and all the latest information on the topic to be dealt with be provided to him. Sometimes, when he had to face subjects relating, for example, to medicine, physics, astronomy and other topics of a highly scientific nature, having drafted the speech, he would invite a person of trust, an expert in their subject matter, and asked him to stay in a room adjacent to his study to examine and correct the text prepared by him, and he was sorry if corrections were not made. I have first-hand experience of those particular circumstances.
When, soon after his death, I gathered and published in a book Discorsi ai medici [Speeches to doctors] of Pius XII8, it was acknowledged on all sides that the Pope had dealt with the most serious problems relating to medicine and ethics with scrupulous care, great wisdom and acute prescience.
The Speeches to doctors of Pius XII are a veritable manual, which confirmed its essential nature to me and my collaborators, when drafting, thirty years later, the first Carta degli Operatori sanitari [Health Workers’ Charter]9.
St. Peter's Basilica during the Vatican II Ecumenical Council

St. Peter's Basilica during the Vatican II Ecumenical Council

Although topics such as anesthesiology, transplant surgery, lawful birth control, euthanasia and genetic engineering did not have in the ’forties and ’fifties of the twentieth century the resonance they have today, the moral principles set out by Pius XII in their regard remain unsurpassed10.
It is rightly acknowledged, therefore, that with the Humani generis11 Pius XII built a bridge of extraordinary effectiveness for the meeting between science and faith. That encyclical, in fact, not only drove against serious errors, but represented a strong affirmation of full respect not only for the light that truth draws from Revelation, but also for the invaluable contribution of human reason12. As Cardinal Siri wrote, “the encyclical Humani generis is a ‘Summa’ that must be heeded”: a ‘Summa’ that led John XXIII to say that ‘in his pontificate Pius XII achieved a theological encyclopedia’”.
Social sensitivity and the issues addressed by Gaudium et Spes also found timely treatment in the Magisterium and ministry of Pius XII.
On the duty of Christians to strive for the solution of the social question, Pius XII had spoken from the beginning of his pontificate, in his radio message of 1 June 1941 in commemoration of the fiftieth anniversary of the publication of the Rerum Novarum of Leo XIII13.
I shall not dwell on the ACLI [Association of Italian Catholic Workers], which, from the first meeting with Pope Pius XII on 11 March 1945 up to the unforgettable 1 May 1955 in St. Peter’s Square, found in the Pope a strong and vigilant guide, concerned above all for sound training for the Catholic worker14.
I shall limit myself, instead, always on the matter of the sensitivity of Pius XII on social problems, to mentioning two particulars15.
During the construction of the church and parish structures of San Leone Magno in Rome in 1952, we were told of the Pope’s wish to meet the workers involved. He wanted to receive us in the Vatican on March 12 1952, the anniversary of his coronation as pope, and the confirmation of the audience took us unprepared. We reached the Throne Room almost breathless: the workers were in their working clothes, dusty and patched, wearing hats made from newspaper. The Pope was of an extraordinary kindness, mixing in with the workers and talking with everybody16.
But I want to recall another detail on the social sensitivity of Pius XII. The collective pastoral letter published in 1962 by the Chilean bishops, Social and political duty at the present time, had as its basic text these words of Pius XII: “Peace has nothing in common with clinging harshly and obstinately, with tenacious and childish stubbornness, to what exists no more ... For a Christian aware of his responsibility towards the smallest of his brothers, neither sluggish indolence nor escape exists, but instead the struggle, work against all inactivity and desertion, in the great spiritual contention that sees the building, indeed the very soul, of future society set in jeopardy”17.
No one can miss the prophetic insight of Pius XII on the serious problems that were emerging in the southern hemisphere. Moreover, his words on social issues occupy a vast space in the collections of social documents of the popes of our time18.
When the encyclical Divino afflante Spiritu19 on the renewal of biblical studies was published in 1943, the papal directives appeared even daring. Since a few months earlier, on June 29, the Pope had published the encyclical Mystici Corporis, there was no lack of people who showed amazement that in the midst of World War II, the Pope could give such prominence to issues that might appear abstract. In fact, those two encyclicals were prophetic and to them, then, the documents of Vatican II refer back with remarkable frequency.
In regard to ecumenism, as Cardinal Agostino Bea said both in reference to the encyclical Mystici Corporis20 and other documents of Pius XII, “there would be many fine things to say that many people might not suspect”21.
I want to reserve one last remark for Pius XII’s concern for the internal structure of the Church.
A certain rooted habit behind a discreditable neglect of the merits of Pius XII leads to ignoring, for example, that it was he, ten years before the Council, who decided that a Bishops’ Conference be set up in Italy also. Italy’s lateness in this field had many reasons, almost all attributable to the consequences of the ending of the Papal States and the difficult relations, up to the Concordat, between the Holy See and the Italian State.
In a laudable initiative, L’Osservatore Romano of 20 May 2002 published as a supplement the text of the paper given at the Augustinianum Patristic Institute by Professor Andrea Riccardi on the fifty years of the Italian Bishops’ Conference22. His reconstruction revealed how it was precisely Pius XII who wanted an Italian Bishops’ Conference to be set up23.
Liturgical reform will be counted among the greatest innovations of Vatican II. Today it is recognized that its foundations were laid in 1947 by Pope Pius XII with the encyclical Mediator Dei24. The same is true of the internationalization of the Roman Curia and the College of Cardinals, and simplification of the clothing of the various ranks of prelates.
Pius XII; in the background, the front pages of <I>L’Osservatore Romano</I> devoted to the encyclicals <I>Mystici Corporis</I> signed 
on 29 June 1943, and <I>Divino afflante Spiritu</I>, signed on 30 September 1943

Pius XII; in the background, the front pages of L’Osservatore Romano devoted to the encyclicals Mystici Corporis signed on 29 June 1943, and Divino afflante Spiritu, signed on 30 September 1943

Someone has written that Pius XII, at a time when vocations were abundant, also foresaw the crisis in priestly and religious vocations that would come about starting from the post-Council period. It’s true. For over thirty years, the Church has been suffering, especially in countries with a long Christian tradition, a severe crisis in vocations to the priesthood and the consecrated life. Let me remind you that in the apostolic exhortation Menti nostrae of 1950 Pope Pius XII, while not speaking of the impending crisis in vocations, went to the heart of the problem, saying in no uncertain terms that recourse to prayer could not guarantee the flourishing of vocations. In a time when upper and lower seminaries and religious colleges were brimming with candidates, the Pope – with great realism and openness of mind – insisted on the need “to take particular care in the training of the character of the young person, developing in him the sense of responsibility, the ability to judge, the spirit of initiative”. He called on those responsible for training “to use coercive means sparingly, relaxing, gradually as young people grow older, the system of strict surveillance and restrictions, setting young people off to guide themselves and to feel responsibility for their own actions”. Finally he stipulated that candidates for the priesthood and the religious life should get the public education diplomas to avoid their perseverance being due to a fear that by abandoning the seminary, because not called, they would find themselves in the same situation as the man in the Gospel: “Fodere non valeo, mendicare erubesco”: “To dig I am unable, to beg I am ashamed” (Lk 16, 3)25.
These directives, unfortunately, were largely disregarded. Whereas, if they had been duly heeded perhaps the painful drain that occurred later would have been avoided26. I would also like to note that this document – which was to have had the honor of providing a quarter of the 48 citations contained in decree Optatam totius on training for the priesthood – came out in a year that should not be remembered only for the Jubilee and the dogmatic definition of the bodily Assumption of Mary into Heaven, but for some serious events that struck the Church in Eastern Europe to the heart: sovietization; the beginning of the era of the “Church of silence”; the abolition of seminaries and religious institutions and the confiscation of their property; the persecution of pastors grew harsh; the detention of the primate of Hungary, Cardinal József Mindszenty, who was arrested on 27 December 1948, became ruthless; an identical and more ruthless fate awaited the Archbishop of Zagreb, Cardinal Alojzije Stepinac.
In the West the optimism of post-war reconstruction prevailed, but in 1952 Pius XII launched from Rome – unfortunately insufficiently heeded this time again – a mission of renewal which, starting from the center of Christianity, was to involve the whole Church.
The great Pope felt in advance that the wave of secularism, secularization, of exaggerated individualism, of growing consumerism and hedonism that was investing the West would even strike within the Church.
Nor should we forget that Pius XII understood and made the most of, in his time, the mass media. If the caution expressed by Pius XI in the encyclical Vigilanti cura (29 June 1936) gave way to the constructive position entirely in favor of the encyclical Miranda prorsus (8 September 1957), preparing the Council decree Inter Mirifica, it was mainly due to the importance given by Pius XII to the use – for the purpose of evangelization – of the means of mass communication.
The radio messages of Pius XII, which became from his election onwards the instrument of his universal Magisterium, constituted – in the war years – the most tireless call to peace and, in later years, a decisive approach to the shaping of the modern democracies. Not to speak of their importance to the leadership of the Church and service to its unity. Remember that Episcopal Conferences did not yet exist nor were the gatherings of the Synods of Bishops held.

Paul VI with the Gospel book during the Vatican II Ecumenical Council

Paul VI with the Gospel book during the Vatican II Ecumenical Council

The papacy of a man of God
There is a factor that binds together the whole activity, the entire Magisterium and ministry of Pius XII and that explains his firmness towards error, his boundless charity to the weak, the persecuted and the needy, his concern for all the problems of modern society. This unifying factor was the firm and suffering awareness of the spiritual dimension of his pontificate.
The holiness of Pius XII is the feature of this Pontiff that does not need to be defended, but to be known.
The hieratic figure of Pius XII was the mirror of his inner and spiritual profile. Not only was he a great man, he was a great man of God.
His condemnation of the errors that cause disaster on the political and social level derived from the irresistible desire to warn against the dangers of atheism, convinced that without God, there can be no freedom nor justice nor peace. In the persecution suffered by the Church in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe what wounded him and was cause of indescribable suffering was first and foremost the atheism that inspired it. His references to materialism and communism are always accompanied by the epithet atheist.
I shall limit myself to a particular I consider emblematic. When there is talk, particularly in the major press, of John XXIII, it gets repeated that his innovative distinction was that he used to reiterate the distinction between error and errant: the error to be condemned, the errant to be approached, understood, forgiven. An obviously unexceptionable position. Well, in 1952, at a time when the clash with atheistic communism was extremely tough, Pius XII issued an apostolic letter addressed to the “beloved people of Russia” in which, in reference to atheistic communism, he reiterated the above distinction and did so, as was his custom, with extraordinary clarity. The document says: “As an understanding of the duties of our office requires, we have certainly condemned and rejected the errors backed by the proponents of atheistic communism and which they are trying in every way to spread with great detriment to citizens and with extreme creation of division; as for the errant, instead, not only do we not reject them, but we ardently desire that they return to truth and righteous conduct”27.
Man of God, he nourished himself on prayer. When he prayed he sometimes remained so absorbed as not to hear people calling him and not even to notice the familiar canary that landed and chirped on his joined hands. It was, prayer, a characteristic that distinguished him from his youth, as a witness beyond suspicion such as Ernesto Buonaiuti tells us28.
Pius XII was, furthermore, a great ascetic. A man of most acute intelligence, of severe preparation ripened in years in which he held posts of delicate responsibility, he reached an inner balance that was certainly the result of a long apprenticeship.
A tireless worker, he imposed on himself a strict discipline. He worked at his desk into the night. His breaks from work were breaks for prayer. His asceticism transpired in his talk, in his actions, in the concern he knew how to lend to everything and everyone and in the need to know, in any happening and situation, the truth to defend and the error to combat.
The inner discipline ripened in him through the training of a most wholesome consciousness that was reflected in a seriousness and propriety of language that abhorred any kind of ambiguity.
He was ascetic because a lover of penance in the spiritual and mystical meaning of the term.
Finally, Pius XII was a true and great pastor. The Jesuit Father Augustine Bea, who was his confessor and was created cardinal by John XXIII, wrote: “Perhaps it will take decades, perhaps centuries, to measure the greatness of Pius XII and his influence on the Church and, let us say so, on the history of mankind”29. Certainly a hyperbolic statement in terms of the times, but clear in expressing the uncommon greatness of the Pontiff truly Supreme, and very indicative for affirming that the figure and work of Pius XII is a mine rich in the natural and supernatural treasures contained.
As great pastor Pius XII, opening himself in great encyclicals, such as Humani Generis, to the requirements of modern culture, closed, in fact, the tormented phase of the modernist movement.
With the definition of the dogma of the bodily Assumption of Mary and with the impetus given to Marian piety, he restored honor to Mariology and Marian devotion.
Great figures who approached Pius XII have compared him to Leo the Great, to Gregory VII, to Leo XIII. Without doubt he contributed, as few have done, to giving the Church strong moral prestige after its marring since the French Revolution and the rise of liberal regimes in the nineteenth century.
I shall not dwell, then, on Pius XII as man of charity, understood as core and underpinning of justice. I will only mention a book, certainly not one of the most circulated, by Don Primo Mazzolari whom some people, also under Pius XII, stubbornly insist was the target of misunderstandings and hostilities that they claim can be traced back to the Pontiff himself30.
In 1956 Don Mazzolari – who had already been reproved in 1934 by the Holy Office for La grande avventura [The great adventure], his commentary on the parable of the Prodigal Son – accepted an invitation from Monsignor Ferdinando Baldelli, president of the Pontifical Benefit Society, to describe the ministry of charity of Pius XII.
Pius XII proclaiming the dogma of the Assumption in body and soul of Most Holy Mary into Heaven, 1 November 1950

Pius XII proclaiming the dogma of the Assumption in body and soul of Most Holy Mary into Heaven, 1 November 1950

The book La carità del Papa [The charity of the Pope] is perhaps the finest portrait of Pius XII, Pope of charity. I shall limit myself to one quotation from Don Mazzolari’s book: “Our generation had a life full of tribulation, but no one like us had the grace to see the maternal devotion of the Church arise over so much evil, hence, narrating it, we feel we may repeat with St. John: ‘What my eyes have seen, what my hands have touched of the Word of charity, this we now proclaim’”31.
I met Pope Pius XII for the last time on 6 October 1958, three days before his death. Despite his poor health, he decided to speak to the participants at the 10th National Congress of the Italian Society for plastic surgery. On that occasion, in an intensely modern insight, he described plastic surgery as “a science and an art, shaped, in themselves, for the benefit of mankind and likewise, for the person of the surgeon, a profession in which important psychological and ethical values are also involved”32. And they were times when people did not make the recourse they make today to plastic surgery!
In 1957, with Professor Luigi Gedda, I had received agreement from the Pope that he would personally write a “Preghiera del medico” [Prayer of the doctor]. He decided to deliver it in his own handwriting. A prayer that welds together in admirable fashion Hippocratic ethics and the Christian view of life. The prayer was read for the first time by Padre Pio of Pietrelcina in San Giovanni Rotondo at the end of the 7th National Congress of Italian Catholic Doctors, held in Bari in the month of May in 1957.
Particularly in the last five years of his pontificate Pius XII was seriously ill several times, and there was fear for his life.
There are abundant testimonies about his preparation for the encounter with the Lord and the exemplary courage with which he accepted and lived his suffering.

Rediscovering Pius XII is rediscovering not only a great Pope, a figure who left his mark on the history of the twentieth century, but is rediscovering a saint.
Father Burkhard Schneider, a Jesuit who was the co-editor of the Actes et Documents du Saint Siège relatifs à la seconde guerre mondiale, in concluding his acute profile of Pius XII, wrote: “A tragic fate loomed over the life and pontificate of Pius XII: being unable, first of all, to prevent or shorten the Second World War, with all the horrors associated with it. But those who examine and ponder without prejudice the direct sources, so far recognized, will have to admit that Pius XII wanted the best and committed what was in his power and all his strength, in full, to the service of the Church of Christ and of mankind”33.

1 G. Siri, Pio XII a 25 anni dalla sua morte, Rome 1983, p. 10.
2 Cf. Concilio Ecumenico Vaticano II. Costituzioni, decreti, dichiarazioni, Edizioni Domenicane, Alba 1996, “Indice del magistero pontificio”, pp. 608-609.
3 G. Caprile (editor), Il Concilio Vaticano II. Cronache del Concilio Vaticano II taken from “La Civiltà Cattolica”. L’annuncio e la preparazione, 1959-1962, vol. I, part I, 1959-1960, p. 15.
4 Ibid., p. 15 note 1: “Having obtained the due authorizations, we have been able to consult at first hand numerous documents kept in the archive of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.”
5 L’Osservatore Romano, 19 March 1979, p. 1
6 Ibid., pp. 30-32.
7 In the many papers and exchanges from the world meeting (Loreto, 9-11 November 1995) on “Gaudium et spes. Bilancio di un trentennio”, the matter of an entire issue of the review of the Pontifical Council for the Laity, Laici oggi (no. 29, 1996, pp. 1-289), there is no trace of this document prepared under Pius XII, who, in the whole thick volume, is fleetingly mentioned just once (p. 228).
8 Pio XII, Discorsi ai medici, edited by Fiorenzo Angelini, Orizzonte Medico, Rome 1961.
9 Carta degli Operatori sanitari, edited by the Pontifical Council of the Pastoral for Health Workers, Rome 1994.
10 One example among the many. In response to the question asked him by the Italian Society of anesthesiology, setting out on 28 February 1957 the thought of the Church, he declared lawful the administration of narcotics to prevent the patient unbearable pain due to inoperable cancer or incurable diseases, even if such drugs favored the shortening of life, provided that there was no direct causal link between the narcosis and the shortening of life. With this teaching, the great Pontiff saw in advance the coming of the problem of euthanasia (cf. Discorsi ai medici, cit., pp. 571-581).
11 Encyclical Letter Humani generis (12 August 1950), in Acta Apostolicae Sedis 42 (1950).
12 G. Siri, Pio XII a 25 anni dalla sua morte, cit., p. 10.
13 Cf. F. Storchi, I documenti di Pio XII sull’ordine sociale, Ave, Rome 1944, p. 142.
14 “It is not an uncommon case that the Catholic worker, for lack of a solid religious training, finds himself helpless when false ideas about man and world history, the structure of society and the economy are proposed to him. He is unable to respond, and sometimes he even lets himself be contaminated by the poison of error. The ACLI must therefore increasingly improve this training, persuaded as they are that exercising in this way that apostolate of worker among workers, which Our Predecessor Pius XI of happy memory wished for in his encyclical Quadragesimo anno” (in I. Giordani [editor] Le encicliche sociali dei papi, Studium, Rome 1956, p. 1041).
15 Cf. F. Angelini, La mia strada, Rizzoli, Milan 2004, pp. 159-160.
16 Cf. A. Bozuffi, Gli uomini hanno trent’anni, Editrice Domani, Rome 1952, pp. 243-244.
17 Quoted from Visión cristiana de la Revolución en América Latina, Centro Bellarmino, Santiago de Chile 1963, special issue of the review Mensaje, 115, 1963, p. 29.
18 Cf. I. Giordani (editor), Le encicliche sociali dei papi, Studium, Rome 1960.
19 Encyclical Letter Divino afflante Spiritu (30 September 1943), in Acta Apostolicae Sedis 35 (1943).
20 Encyclical Letter Mystici Corporis (29 June 1943), in Acta Apostolicae Sedis 35 (1943).
21 A. Bea, L’unione dei cristiani, Rome 1962, p. 203.
22 Cf. L’Osservatore Romano, 22 May 2002, supplement.
23 Ibid. “In 1952, the Pope summoned the presidents of regional Italian Bishops’ Conferences. That decision of 1952 was a turning point. The year 1952 was unusual. In February 1952 began a major mobilization, led by Father Lombardi, for ‘a better world’: the re-awakening of Catholics was to go along with the commitment to make the Church more compact and present. Father Lombardi criticized the fragmentation of initiatives and institutions and, already in 1948, had put forward the idea of a meeting of Italian bishops. Pius XII, without agreeing with the Jesuit in his whole analysis, was concerned about Catholicism holding on, especially after 18 April 1948, in the confrontation with the Left wing in the country and in Rome (1952 was the year of what was known as ‘Operation Sturzo’). He was responsive to the vision of Father Lombardi who was also proposing a reform of activity of the bishops and dioceses. In 1952, with the ‘better world’, Pius XII expressed the hope for a ‘powerful re-awakening’, but also ‘wise inclusion’ and a ‘judicious use’ of Catholic forces. In that atmosphere the first meeting of chairmen of the Italian Bishops’ Conference took place in Florence under the chairmanship of Cardinal Schuster, the most senior cardinal. In Florence, the bishops were called to address the ‘Christian life’ of secular and regular clergy, and laity, according to Bishop Urbani, assistant to Catholic Action and secretary of the meeting. The initiative of the meeting was due to Cardinal E. Ruffini of Palermo, who was the head of a very active regional conference. The cardinal had spoken of it to the Pope: ‘... and why not? All right. It’s done in other countries’, Pius XII is alleged to have said. Cardinal Siri had supported the idea. Ruffini explained the function of the meeting: ‘To hear the wishes of all the bishops, to reach a common agreement on some issues; to present the conclusions to the Pope. He cannot but take it into account. Ready to obey. It is a fine occasion for initiatives, for reforms’. Those were the aims of the first and subsequent meetings. There was some hanging back by the bishops who did not want to go beyond an advisory role. When, a year later, discussing the possibility of a collective letter of the episcopate, Ruffini himself was contrary: ‘A document of the Italian episcopate without the signature of its Primate, would be an incomplete act...’. In Italy – he stated – the situation was special. Here the bishops have never engaged in collective activity separate from the Holy See. Siri was favorable as were Lercaro and Roncalli. The years of the beginning highlight a reality: it is the Holy See that felt the need for greater accountability of the bishops. Perhaps the prevalent issue was internal consultation among the episcopate. The first public act was the letter of 2 February 1954 for the Marian Year, signed by the presidents of the council regions. And there is no signature of the Pope. The signees claim to express the opinion all the Italian bishops.”
24 The document was published on 23 September 1950 (cf. Acta Apostolicae Sedis 42 [1950], pp. 617-702).
25 25 Ibid., “Practical norms
26 Cf. E. Colagiovanni, Crisi vere e false nel ruolo del prete, Città Nuova, Rome 1973, pp. 133ff.
27 “Utique errores – quod officii Nostri conscientia postulat – damnavimus atque reiecimus, quod athei comunismi fautores praedicant, ac summo cum civium damno summaque iactura propagare enituntur: sed errantes, nedum respuamus, ad veritatem ad frugemque bonam redire cupimus” (apost. lett. Carissimis Russiae populis, 7 July 1952, in Acta Apostolicae Sedis 44 [1952], pp. 505-511).
28 Ernesto Buonaiuti, recalling the day of his first mass in the Chiesa Nuova in Rome (19 December 1903), writes: “At the same altar of St. Philip not long before a Roman priest who also lived in the neighborhood of the Chiesa Nuova and whom I met frequently under the arches of the church and admired for his edifying piety had celebrated his first Mass: the priest Eugenio Pacelli”. (In Pellegrino di Roma. La generazione dell’esodo, Laterza, Bari 1964, p. 46)
29 Ibid., p. 395.
30 P. Mazzolari, La carità del Papa. Pio XII e la ricostruzione dell’Italia (1943-1953), Edizioni Paoline, Cinisello Balsamo 1991.
31 Ibid., p. 134.
32 Pio XII, Discorsi ai medici, cit., p. 717.
33 B. Schneider, Pio XII. Pace, opera della giustizia, Edizioni Paoline, Rome 1984, pp. 104-105.

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