He reigned from 1922-1939 during some of the most turbulent years of the 20th century.
Pius rigorously opposed nationalism, racism and anti-Semitism. Capitalism and communism always seemed to overshadow his equally harsh opposition to Nazism. Both he and his Secretary of State, Eugenio Pacelli, the future Pius XII, would face harsh criticism for their inability to clarify their positions convincingly.
In February of 1939, Pius XI convened all of Italy’s clergy in Rome to deliver a speech he had worked on for months. The speech denounced the violations of the Lateran treaty by the Italian government and the racist persecutions by the German Reichstag. The night before he was to deliver the speech, Pius died of a heart attack. There was speculation that Benito Mussolini had him poisoned because he feared excommunication. This theory has never been proven.
Pius XI was considered to be an able and strident politician who could both smile and scream at dictators throughout the world but knew enough never to attempt a compromise with them. St. Peter’s Basilica.org says the following about Pius XI.
The author of thirty encyclicals, he shed light on the social and spiritual problems of his day and was characterized by his refusal to yield to the evils that threatened to overcome the world in which he lived. Instead he chose to rally the forces of good.
Papal Artifacts honors the memory of Pope Pius XI.