The following commentary by Giovanni Montini, the future Pope St. Paul VI, was written in response to a play about Pope Pius XII, called, The Deputy.
The play slanders Pope Pius XII’s decisions and supposed “silence” during the Holocaust, and Montini’s unabashed defense of the Holy Father is evident in the words he wrote just before he himself became the new Pontiff.
Papal Artifacts is grateful to these two Holy Fathers whose lives were dedicated to our Church.
From Paul VI, The First Modern Pope by Peter Hebblethwaite, pp.165-166
Much has been written about the supposed silence of Pope Pius XII during WW II, particularly concerning the Holocaust. In a heartrending move, just a day before the conclave that elected Giovanni Montini to the throne of St. Peter, he issued a statement to the editor of the Tablet, which speaks of his love, devotion and support of the Holy Father:
It is not true to say that Pope Pius XII’s conduct was inspired by a calculating political opportunism…As for his omitting to take up a position of violent opposition to Hitler in order to save the lives of those millions of Jews slaughtered by the Nazis, this will be readily understood by anyone who avoids Hochhuth’s mistake of trying to assess what could have been effectively and responsibly done then, in those appalling conditions of war and Nazi oppression, by the standard of what would be feasible in normal conditions—or in some hypothetical conditions arbitrarily invented by the young playwright’s imagination. An attitude of protest and condemnation such as this young man blames the Pope for not having adopted would have been not only futile but harmful: that is the long and short of the matter.
Let us suppose that Pius XII had done what Hochhuth blames him for not doing. His action would have led to such reprisals and devastation that Hochhuth himself, the war being over, and he now possessed of a better historical, political and moral judgement, would have been able to write another play, far more realistic and far more interesting that the one he has in fact so cleverly and ineptly put together: a play, that is, about a Stellvertreter who, through political exhibitionism or psychological myopia, would have been guilty of unleashing on the already tormented world still greater calamities involving innumerable innocent victims, let alone himself.
Lead Seals & Chains from the 1963 Conclave Electing Giovanni Montini, the Future Pope St. Paul VI
One of the most interesting parts of papal history for me are papal elections. There is so much intrigue when it comes to elections, and now a days, we see, with the recent election of Pope Francis and Benedict before him, the whole world watches. With the twenty-four hour news service that we have, it really is the whole world watching. The whole world cared before, but they couldn’t follow along. They didn’t have the media.
The history of papal elections is one of those things where truth is certainly stranger and more interesting than fiction.
The items presented here are two seals that were used to seal the doors of the Sistine chapel during the conclave following the death of Pope John XXIII. So it says, “conclave” on one side, and on the other side, it has the date, 1963, which is the year John XXIII died.
These are often associated with Paul VI because he was the one elected, but they’re equally associated with John XXIII, because, obviously, were it not for his passing, we wouldn’t have the conclave seals.
One thing that comes to mind when we think of the conclave is one will walk out of the Sistine chapel as the pope. Certainly, that individual must be overwhelmed, and imagine if family and friends from his native land see a native son come out on the loggia.
In John XXIII’s case, he was the third of thirteen children from a good Catholic family up in Bergamo, a little town north of Milan. Just imagine their awe and wonder and the excitement of it but also the fear.
Yes, there is a recent picture of Pope Francis as he’s leaving the Sistine chapel and the door is half open, and as he’s walking out, I’m thinking, “What’s going through that guy’s mind?”
Is he scared to death?!
These seals are interesting in that they are witnesses to a very unique history, the election of a pope. These things sealed the doors of the Sistine chapel. In the Collection, I have seals from three different conclaves, two in 1978: John Paul I and John Paul II, and these two after the death of John XXIII. —Father Richard Kunst
Additional Information about the Rarity of These Items:
These lead seals are some of the finest items in Father Kunst’s collection. They are nickel size seals that held the chains blocking one set of doors of the conclave. On one side the year is noted, 1963; the other side simply says Conclave.
When the cardinals go into conclave in the Sistine Chapel to elect a pope the doors are sealed shut using these lead seals. There is only one pair used per door making them an exceedingly rare item.