The Holy See has announced that it will undertake two initiatives to mark the 50th anniversary of the death of the Servant of God Pope Pius XII: a Congress on his Magisterium and a photographic exhibition of his life.
At a press conference this morning, Archbishop Salvatore Fisichella, the president of the Pontifical Academy for Life, highlighted the Italian Pope’s 1939 – 1958 pontificate as one characterized by his "great stature, especially in spiritual terms, but also intellectually and diplomatically."
The archbishop continued by recalling that several significant historical situations occurred during the pontificate of Pius XII: “the genocide of the Jews, the communist occupation of various Christian nations, the Cold War, new advances of science, and the innovations of certain schools of theology."
The prelate also noted that although many aspects of the pontificate have already been studied, "what remains largely unknown is Pius XII's influence on Vatican Council II." The bishop brought to mind the 43 Encyclicals "which marked his pontificate, and the many discourses in which he examined the most controversial questions of his time.”
In these teachings, Archbishop Fisichella added, one can identify certain features that can be summarized into three points: “firstly the promotion of doctrine, the definition of the dogma of the Assumption in 1950 being particularly memorable; ... secondly defending doctrine and indicating errors." He also recalled that the Encyclical "Humani Generis" (1950) confronts “the serious problem of theological relativism. Lastly, the prelate added, “Pius XII never failed to make his voice clearly and explicitly heard when circumstances required it."
Fr. Gianfranco Ghirlanda S.J., rector of Rome's Pontifical Gregorian University, spoke of the congress due to take place at the Gregorian and Lateran Universities from November 6 - 8.
The congress, which will be attended by professors from both universities, will be held over two days: the first “will be dedicated to four introductory lectures on the general views of Pius XII and the cultural and historical context in which that great Pontiff developed his Magisterium." The themes will include: "the development of biblical studies, evangelization, religious freedom and Church-State relations, and the social communications media."
The second day will focus on "Pius XII's teaching in the fields of ecclesiology, liturgy and the role of the laity. The afternoon will be dedicated to his vision of relations between the Church and the world, Mariology, medicine and morals and, finally, questions of canon law."
The commemorative photo exhibition entitled “Pius XII: the Man and the Pontificate,” according to Msgr. Walter Brandmuller, president of the Pontifical Committee for Historical Sciences, “will illustrate the life of this great and exceptional Pontiff who was already an object of admiration among his contemporaries.” The exhibit reconstructs the Pope’s life “from boyhood to death, using images (many of them unpublished), as well as documents, personal objects, gifts and clothes: his formation at the Pontifical Roman Athenaeums, his training for a diplomatic career at the Secretariat of State; his mission to Germany (first in Bavaria then in Berlin); his return to the Vatican as secretary of State and, finally, his election to the Pontifical throne."
The exhibition, which will be held in the Charlemagne Wing off St. Peter’s Square October 21 – January 6, 2009, will follow the Pontiff’s life "through contemporary photographs, largely supplied by L’Osservatore Romano, documents and personal effects, provided by his family and by the 'Famiglia Spirituale Opera'."