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Soldier of Christ: The Life of Pope Pius XII
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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on 10 May 2013
Despite his (seeming) intentions, this book does nothing to dispel the popular prejudices concerning this controversial figure. Aloof and remote, authoritarian, with a fondness for authoritarian regimes,he was shatteringly silent during the Holocaust which was happening under his nose but voluble post-war against socialism and communism in Italian elections and beyond. This book gives nuance to this widely shared judgement, but really confirms it, and adds his complicity with "Catholic" fascist atrocities in Croatia and Hungary. Though there is always someone reporting how he "grieved" for the (always unnamed) victims and suggesting that he worked hard behind the scenes but this is largely undocumented. What is starkly shown up is the "Wizard of Oz" nature of the Papacy - behind all the grandeur and grand words, there was precious little influence or power. I found Pacelli's interest in Quantum Physics interesting, and was surprised to find he was the first Pope since St Peter to claim to have had visions of the Lord. (This explains his Dogmas on Our Lady, perhaps) I was irritated by the excessive detail on Curia gossip about his housekeeper and the attention given to his death, his quack physician and his embarrassing funeral. I was disappointed that the post-war period was dealt with so sketchily. The author makes a good case for seeing Pius XII as the first "global" Pope and as a precursor to the reforms of Vatican II, but not enough detail is given on these important issues or on his more reactionary doctrinal stances. It is a book worth reading, and is easily read, but it is too episodic and sketchy and the author too uncertain about his judgements to make it a definitive or classic biography.
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