Pius XII was a fascinating guy! Settle in for a rundown of his nearly twenty-year reign.
Born Eugenio Maria Giuseppe Giovanni Pacelli
, he studied for the priesthood as a boy and rose through the ranks of the church. By 1933 he was papal nuncio
and helped broker peace treaties with European governments, including the famous Reichskonkordat.
This was an early treaty between the Vatican and the Nazi government, intended to preserve the church's rights operating inside Germany. Like, well, a lot of things with the Nazis, this didn't work out.
When World War II broke out, Pius XII maintained a shaky neutrality. He tried to use the church to guide humanitarian efforts like Benedict XV did in WWI - but this pope is still accused of not doing enough to aid the victims of the Axis and their Holocaust.
Later, in the 50's, Pius took fairly liberal views on the scientific issues of the day. He cautiously endorsed evolution in the 1950 encyclical Humani Generis
, and told Catholics that science could very well explain the origin of the human body - but the soul is still created by God. A year later, he effectively did the same for the Big Bang theory, noting that the scientist's universal explosion could be in fact God's Fiat Lux
.* Pius was also the first pope to explicitly endorse the Rhythm method as a morally-acceptable form of birth control.
pope's death is legitimately questionable! A 'charlatan' named Riccardo Galleazzi
posed as a doctor, and convinced the pope to allow him constant personal access. For years, Galleazzi
gave Pius poisonous injections, which rotted his teeth and induced constant hiccups. When he was finally dying, Galleazzi
took photographs and tried to sell them to magazines - thankfully they declined to buy. And after
the pope's death, the false doctor somehow managed to embalm the body in plastic wrap and heavy spices, which accelerated the decomposition. It smelt so bad that the Vatican guards stationed near the body needed to change every fifteen minutes!
Pius's successor, when he was selected, quickly banned Galleazzi
from the Vatican, forever.*Fiat Lux? Sounds like a European sportscar, but this actually refers to God's words, "Let there be Light."