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BY Sister Margherita Marchione
The world at
large will note the 70th Anniversary of Pius XII’s coronation on March 12,
2009, and commemorate the day Eugenio Pacelli received the papal tiara as Pope
Pius XII. His coat of arms showed the symbol of peace: a dove with an olive
branch. His motto indicated peace to be a fruit of justice: Opus
justitiae pax (Isaiah 34, 17).
The bells of St. Peter’s pealed.
There was a blaze of light at the foot of Bernini’s four bronze columns and
beneath the baldacchino prepared for the coronation
ceremony in St. Peter’s Basilica. The bronze image of St. Peter was adorned in
pontifical vestments, a tiara on the head, an ancient emerald on the finger,
clasping the keys of the Kingdom.
The procession moved down the Scala
Regia, with Pius XII dressed in white wearing his jeweled pectoral
cross and miter. This was the most solemn and elaborate liturgical rite of the
Catholic Church. It was a display of a brilliant past: 16th-century helmets,
high-collared breastplates, halberds and pikes; black jackets trimmed with
purple; peaked caps, gold-braided and crested; deep blue uniforms; high scarlet
collars; golden epaulettes and cordelettes, cuffs and facings.
Silver trumpets sounded and
acclamations rose as Pius XII, carried in the sedia gestatoria, approached
the main door of the basilica. Kings, queens and princes followed the
patriarchs, archbishops and bishops, and the abbots and superiors general of
religious orders who were in the procession. They were followed by more than a
hundred representatives of many nations.
The Pope took his seat on the
throne. Cardinal Canali removed the silver, gem-studded miter on his head.
Cardinal Caccia-Dominioni replaced it with the papal tiara and prayed: “Receive
the tiara adorned with the three crowns and know that you are the father of
princes and kings, the sovereign of the world, and the vicar on earth of our
Savior Jesus Christ, to whom is honor and glory, now and forever. Amen.”
The multitude cheered as everyone
bent the knee in homage to the Holy Father. The Pope blessed the crowd: “May
Almighty God, the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost, bless you all.”
The strains of “Tu
es Petrus” proclaimed the Roman Catholic faith. There was an
explosion of applause. The crowd, estimated to be a million strong, swirled
like a human sea in the piazza and all the
way down to the Castel Sant’Angelo
and the Tiber. The ceremony was indeed impressive.
Immediately after his election, Pius
XII issued a call for a peace conference of European leaders. His peace plan
was based on five points: the defense of small nations, the right to life,
disarmament, some new kind of League of Nations, and a plea for the moral
principles of justice and love.
Pius XII’s first radio message to
the world was, “Peace, gift of God, desired by all upright men, the fruit of
love and justice.” In his first address to the cardinals, Pius XII spoke about
peace: “We invite all men to have peace in their consciences; calm in the friendship
of God; to have peace in their families, united and brought into harmony by the
sacred love of Christ; and, lastly, to have peace between nations by the
interchange of fraternal assistance.”
On Aug. 24, 1939, in a last-minute
appeal to head off the outbreak of World War II, Pope Pius XII stated: “I
appeal again to governments and their peoples; to governments that they lay
aside threats and accusations and try to settle their differences by agreement;
to their peoples, that they may be calm and encourage the efforts of their
government for peace. It is by force of reason and not by force of arms that
justice makes progress. Empires not founded on justice are not blessed by God.
Immoral policy is not successful policy. … Nothing is lost by peace. Everything
may be lost by war. … Let men start to negotiate again.”
Sadly, the Pope’s appeal was not heeded. Soon
after, World War II began.
Sister Margherita Marchione, Ph.D.,
written more than 50 books.
lectures widely in
North America and Europe.