A Conversation between Pope Pius XII & His Sostituto, Msgr. Giovanni Montini
Throughout the events of WW II Montini was sustained by his genuine love and admiration for Pius XII. If he felt lonely, he could appreciate the still deeper solitude of Pius, cut off by war from the non-Italian cardinals, alone. One vignette sums up Montini’s almost mystical regard for the papal office.
On the evening of 9 February 1941 Pius took Montini down to the crypt of St. Peter’s where the tomb of Pius XI had just been completed, two years after his death. The Pope lingered a long time, Montini wrote, praying and commenting on what he saw. Then he prayed at the tombs of Pius X and Benedict XV. Montini reflects:
Never had the communion of saints and the spiritual genealogy of the successors of Christ been given, it seemed to me, a more moving expression. And that is very consoling. The Church, this living reality, spiritual and visible, is more present than ever, more modern and necessary than ever; may God who unties and teaches us all be praised.
Pius knew he would be entombed here in this crypt; Montini did not yet know that he would be buried here too. But this experience affected Montini’s idea of the papacy forever. It was an exalted idea of the papal office that other Christians found hard to understand. It placed the pope at the heart of the communion of saints. If anything good were to come out of the tragedy of war, it would be a Church purified.
Paul VI by Peter Hebblethwaite, pp. 159 – 160
Pope Saint Paul VI, we remember you in love. Pray for us!
Holy Father, Pius XII, we honor your memory and the gift of your life to our Church.