This zucchetto and document of authenticity verify that this is a zucchetto belonging to Pope Pius XII. The document states, The white zucchetto accompanying (this information) was used by his Holiness, Pope Pius XII. The card was signed on August 6, 1957. His signature is not legible, but he describes himself as a “secret waiter to the Pope.”
A zucchetto is a small skullcap worn by clerics of the church. It consists of eight panels sewn together with a stem on top. It was first adopted to keep the tonsured (shaved heads) of clergy warm in damp, cold churches but it has survived to the present day. All ordained clergy are entitled to wear a zucchetto. The color denotes the wearer’s rank: the pope’s is white; cardinals’ are scarlet and bishops’ are a shade of purple. Priests’ are black. Deacons are also entitled to wear zucchettos. The zucchetto comes from the Italian word, zucchetti, meaning a small gourd or zucchini and is indicative of its shape. Bishops wear the zucchetto throughout the Mass, removing it at designated times.
The Collection has a zucchetto from every pope from as far back as Pius IX, who reigned from 1846 – 1878.
On October 11, 1954, Pope Pius XII in his encyclical letter, Ad Caeli Reginam, decreed and instituted today’s feast to be celebrated throughout the world every year on May 31. Likewise, he decreed that on that day, “there be renewed the consecration of the human race to the Immaculate Heart of the Blessed Virgin Mary.”
The feast was celebrated on May 31, the last day of the Marian month. The initial ceremony for this feast involved the crowning of the Salus Populi Romani icon of the Virgin Mary in Rome by Pius XII as part of a procession in Rome (pictured below). In 1969, Pope Paul VI moved the feast day to August 22, which is within the octave of the Assumption of the Blessed Mother.
Since August 22 is the former feast of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, it was a logical step to ask the people of God to consider this date as a time of consecration to her Immaculate Heart.
Here is a link to the encyclical letter, Ad Caeli Reginam, which announced the institution of the feast of the Queenship of Mary:
Pius XII was a tall, slender and ascetic man known for his friendly manner. He made a profound impression on the millions who flocked to Rome for the Holy Year of 1950 and the Marian Year of 1954 and on the thousands who attended his innumerable audiences. He was the first pope to become widely known through radio and television. From 1944 he acted as his own Secretary of State and increasingly diminished the role of the cardinals. In his last years, this authoritarian policy coupled with serious illness placed undue power in the hands of a very narrow circle of people on which he chose to depend. He died at Castel Gandolfo in October 1958 and is considered to be a great teacher, a strong leader, a holy man and a prophet who helped lead the church to reform and renewal. Pope Paul VI who had collaborated closely with Pius prior to 1955 opened his cause for canonization in 1965. In 2009, Pope Benedict XVI declared both Pius XII and John Paul II Venerable, the first step toward canonization.
He is buried in the Vatican Grottoes. A bronze monument was erected to him in St. Peter’s Basilica.