SOLDIER OF CHRIST by Robert A. Ventresca


The Life of Pope Pius XII
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Another close scrutiny of the pope excoriated for his silence during World War II and no nearer to redemption.

Ventresca (History/King’s University Coll.; From Fascism to Democracy: Culture and Politics in the Italian Election of 1948, 2004, etc.) does a thorough job sifting through the evidence of the complicated life and papacy of Pius XII, while keeping an open mind to the conclusion. Was the condemnation of the wartime pope as uncaring and remote at a time when Jews and others were being exterminated across Europe really justified? Indeed, Ventresca’s laborious examination of evidence makes for painful reading. Eugenio Pacelli was the first Roman chosen as pope in a good century: Hailing from the “black nobility,” meaning, for generations his family had been employed by the Holy See and thus insiders, he was first appointed by Pius XI as his secretary of state, known for his probity and capacity for hard work. His early posts to Munich and Berlin put him at the center of shattering world events, and he developed certain biases that would influence his decisions during the rest of his life, namely his hatred of Bolshevism (and Jews were often viewed as indistinguishable from the revolutionary leaders). Moreover, during his influential time in Berlin, he took up key German advisers who would continually dissuade him from public denunciations of the government, while his 40-year household employment of the autocratic and frequently resented Mother Pascalina set an alarming tone. Cerebral, diplomatic and shortsighted, Pius XII simply could not overcome his habitual discretion and propriety in grasping the gravity of Nazi misery, all of which he was informed about early on. Ventresca’s study damns him as a man mired in the conventions of his time.

An authoritative study of a deeply flawed and tragic figure of history.

Pub Date: Jan. 15th, 2013
ISBN: 978-0-674-04961-1
Page count: 400pp
Publisher: Belknap/Harvard Univ.
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15th, 2012


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