Benedict XVI Lauds Pius XI's Opposition to Nazism

Affectionately Recalls the «Pope of His Childhood»

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VATICAN CITY, FEB. 16, 2009 ( Benedict XVI is recognizing Pope Pius XI’s work in opposition of Nazism and totalitarianism in the 1930s.

The German Pope recalled the papacy of Achille Ratti (1922-1939) in an address Saturday on the 80th anniversary of the creation of Vatican City State.

He acknowledged Pope Pius XI as «the first and main architect and protagonist of the Lateran Pacts,» which led to the birth of the Vatican state. At this moment, the Holy See was given sovereignty over this small piece of land, ensuring the pope’s governance of the Church outside of the taxation policies of Italy, which was then ruled by Prime Minister Benito Mussolini.

Benedict XVI recalled «the Pope of my childhood, whom we looked upon with so much veneration and love.»

He continued: «Precisely in these days his name has resonated on several occasions, as with the lucidity of a lofty outlook and indomitable will he was the real founder and first builder of Vatican City State.

«Moreover, the historical studies on his pontificate, which continue to take place, make us perceive increasingly the greatness of Pope Ratti, who guided the Church in the difficult years between the two World Wars.»

The Holy Father acknowledged how his predecessor «stimulated ecclesial action in its many dimensions: Let us recall the missionary expansion, attention to the formation of God’s ministers, promotion of the activity of the lay faithful in the Church and in society, and the intense relationship with the civil community.»

He added: «During his pontificate, the ‘librarian Pope’ had to address the difficulties and persecutions that the Church was suffering in countries such as Mexico and Spain, and the confrontations triggered by totalitarianism — national socialism and fascism — which arose and were consolidated in those years.

«In Germany, his great encyclical ‘Mit Brennender Sorge’ has not been forgotten, as a strong sign against Nazism.» The encyclical’s impact was so evident that Adolf Hitler ordered Reinhard Heydrich, head of the Gestapo, to seize and destroy all copies.

Benedict XVI asserted: «The wise and strong work of this Pontiff truly awakens admiration, who only wished for the Church the freedom that would allow her to carry out her mission integrally.

«Vatican City State […] was also considered by Pius XI as an instrument to guarantee the necessary independence from all human authority, to give the Church and her supreme Pastor the possibility to fully comply with the mandate received from Christ the Lord.

The usefulness and benefit of this small but complete reality for the Holy See, for the Church, as well as for Rome and the whole world, was seen just 10 years later, when World War II broke out, a war whose violence and sufferings reached the doors of the Vatican.»

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