Benedict XVI Notes Pius XII's Impact on Vatican II

Says Faithful Should Thank God for Gift of Late Pope

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VATICAN CITY, NOV. 11, 2008 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI says it is impossible to understand the Second Vatican Council without Pius XII's pontificate -- his writings are the second most cited source in the council documents.



The German Pontiff spoke of his predecessor Saturday when he received in audience participants from the Thursday-Saturday conference on "The Heritage of the Magisterium of Pius XII." The conference was organized by the Pontifical Gregorian and Lateran Universities and marked the 50th anniversary of Pius XII's death, Oct. 9, 1958.

Benedict XVI's address focused on Vatican II as a continuation with the past and Church tradition, as carried on by the pontificate that immediately preceded the council's convocation.

"Certainly the Church, the Mystical Body of Christ, is a living and vital organism, which is not stuck in what it was 50 years ago," the Pope affirmed. "But this development happens with continuity. That is why the heritage of the magisterium of Pius XII has been taken up by the Second Vatican Council and proposed to successive generations of Christians."

The Holy Father noted that in the oral and written interventions from the council fathers, there are more than 1,000 references to the magisterium of Pius XII.

And, though not all of the council documents have footnotes, in those that do, he said, "The name of Pius XII appears more than 200 times."

That means, the Pontiff said, "that with the exception of sacred Scripture, this Pope is the authorized source that the council cites most frequently."

"Moreover," he continued, "the references to these documents are not, in general, mere explanatory notes, but rather frequently are authentic integral parts of the conciliar texts; they do not just offer justifications in support of what the text affirms, but further offer an interpretive key."

The German Pope explained that he offered a broader look at the late Pontiff, given that "when [Pius XII] has been spoken of in recent years, attention has been concentrated excessively on one problem, generally dealt with in a rather unilateral way."

Modern press reports regarding Pius XII are generally about accusations that the Pope lacked zeal in condemning the Nazi regime and the Holocaust, despite the fact that historians and witnesses have provided ample evidence to the contrary.

"Independently of other considerations, this has impeded an adequate vision of a figure of great historical-theological depth like that of Pius XII," Benedict XVI added. "His teaching continues giving light today in the Church.

"In the person of the Sovereign Pontiff Pius XII, the Lord has given his Church an exceptional gift, for which all of us should thank him."