This artifact is a portrait of Pius XII giving a blessing in a common pose of his and containing the contents of the blessing with his signature at the bottom of the portrait.
The blessing is in English and is addressed to Miss Lizzie M. Ghio. You may enlarge the picture to view the contents of the blessing and to see more clearly the embellishments to the photo, which are the four main basilicas in Rome as well as Saints Peter and Paul.
The item is in perfect condition attesting to its importance to its owner.
Eugenio Pacelli: Pope Pius XII
Eugenio Pacelli was born in Rome on March 2nd, 1876 to an old aristocratic Roman family in service to the Vatican for generations. His grandfather, father and brother all held important positions. Most notably, his brother Francesco, a canon lawyer, helped to negotiate the 1929 Lateran Treaty. Eugenio studied at the Gregorian University, the Capranica College Seminary and the St. Apollinare Institue. He studied philosophy at the University of Rome at Sapienza. In 1899 at twenty-three years of age, he received degrees in theology and in civil and canon law. That same year he was ordained a priest and began a career in the papal service distinguishing himself in the office of the Secretary of State. He was Cardinal Gasparri’s assistant in codifying canon law between 1904 and 1916. During this period he also represented the Vatican at numerous international events such as the Eucharistic Congress in London in 1908, and the coronation of King George V in 1911. It was during this time that his diplomatic capabilities were remarked upon. He taught international law at the Academy of Nobles Ecclesiastics and was an excellent linguist. Pacelli spoke Latin, Italian, French, German, English, Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch, Slovak and Hungarian. Towards the end of his life he also attempted Arabic. Known for his great piety, he was said to possess a devastating combination of saintliness and charm.
During the pontificate of Benedict XV, Pacelli worked closely with him attempting to prevent Italy’s involvement in the First World War. He traveled to Vienna to attempt to persuade the Austrian government to be more understanding of Italy’s position. In 1917, Benedict XV appointed him nuncio to Munich, then archbishop of Sardes and, in 1920, nuncio to the new German republic. Between 1934 and 1936, he visited Argentina and was the first pope to visit the United States. Pacelli was involved in the preparation of the concordats with European countries after the First World War. In 1933, with the help of the now Cardinal Pacelli who had succeeded Cardinal Gasparri as Secretary of State in 1930, Pius XI signed a concordat with Hitler’s government. The concordat with the Reichstag was controversial at the time, but the Pope believed he could better protect the Catholic Church and her priests with a legal document. The government’s prestige was temporarily enhanced by this concordat, which served to curb Catholic opposition to the Reichstag government. Between 1933 and 1936, oppression of the Church steadily increased and with Cardinal Pacelli’s assistance, Pius XI sent thirty-four notes of protest to the Nazi government followed by his famous encyclical, Mit brennender Sorge in 1937, which denounced the repeated violations of the concordat and Nazism as fundamentally anti -Christian.
Cardinal Pacelli’s diplomatic style was in contrast to that of Pius XI’s who fully intended to publish his encyclical denouncing the Nazi government’s atrocities. When Pius XI died, Cardinal Pacelli decided against it. Unitus humani generis, denounced anti-Semitism. While his reasons are not clear as to why he chose not to publish it, it is clear that both men demonstrated a sincerity of intention in the language they used. Neither was successful when dealing with a government involved in the genocide of an entire race and an attempt to conquer the world.
Upon the death of Pius XI, one of the shortest conclaves in history convened and within a day, on the third ballot, Eugenio Pacelli was chosen as the next pontiff. He was the first Secretary of State chosen since Clement IX, Giulio Rospigliosi, in 1667, and he obtained forty-eight out of fifty-three votes. Taking the name Pius XII, he was elected on his sixty-third birthday and would rule for nineteen years during one of the most chaotic and devastating times of history. Much of his papacy, like Benedict XV’s during World War I, involved difficult diplomatic decisions and humanitarian aid of enormous proportions. Pius XII was chosen not only because he was the best known of all the cardinals but also for his diplomatic experience. While his predecessor believed compromise was not possible, Pius XII, noting that that approach was to no avail, and more cautious by nature, wanted to assure the countries involved that he was not assuming a neutral stance but an impartial one. No matter the sincerity of the language or the pontiff, no approach had any affect on the conflict that had become worldwide.
More biographical information about Pope Pius XII is featured on Papal History/Pius XII.