“Ancora una volta” by Pope Ven. Pius XII Address to the Faithful
Rome; Sunday, February 20, 1949
Romans! Beloved sons and daughters!
Once again, in a grave and dolorous hour, the faithful people of the Eternal City has rushed to its Bishop and Father. Once again, this superb colonnade seems barely able to embrace with its gigantic arms the crowds, which like waves driven by an irresistible force, have flowed to the threshold of the Vatican Basilica, in order to attend the Mass of Atonement in the central point of the whole Catholic world and to pour out the sentiments with which their souls are overflowing.
Among the unanimous condemnations of the civilized world, the sentence imposed upon an eminent Cardinal of the Holy Roman Church on the banks of the Danube has raised on the banks of the Tiber a cry of indignation worthy of the City.
But the fact that a regime opposed to religion has this time attacked a Prince of the Church, revered by the vast majority of his people, is not an isolated case; it is one of the links in the long chain of persecutions which some dictatorial States have waged against Christian doctrine and life.
A well-known characteristic common to persecutors of all times is that, not content with physically crushing their victims, they want also to make them appear despicable and hateful to their country and to society.
Who does not remember the Roman martyrs, of whom Tacitus speaks (Annals 15:44), immolated under Nero and made to appear as arsonists, abominable criminals, enemies of mankind?
Modern persecutors show themselves to be the docile disciples of that inglorious school. They copy, so to speak, their masters and models, if, indeed, they do not surpass them in cruelty, clever as they are in the art of employing the most recent progress in the technical sciences for the purpose of a domination and enslavement of the people which in the past would not have been conceivable.
Romans! The Church of Christ is following the road traced out for her by the divine Redeemer. She feels herself eternal; she knows that she cannot perish, that the most violent storms will not succeed in submerging her. She begs no favours; the threats and disfavor of earthly authorities do not intimidate her. She does not interfere in problems purely economic or political, nor does she occupy herself with debates on the usefulness or banefulness of one form of government or another. Always eager, in so far as she is able, to be at peace with all (cf. Rom 12:8), she renders unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s, but she cannot betray or abandon that which belongs to God.
Now, it is well known what the totalitarian and anti-religious State requires and expects from her [the Church] as the price for her tolerance and her problematic recognition. That is, it would desire:
- a Church which remains silent, when she should speak out;
- a Church which weakens the law of God, adapting it to the taste of human desires, when she should loudly proclaim and defend it;
- a Church which detaches herself from the unwavering foundation upon which Christ built her, in order to repose comfortably on the shifting sands of the opinions of the day or to give herself up to the passing current;
- a Church which does not withstand the oppression of conscience and does not protect the legitimate rights and the just liberties of the people;
- a Church which, with indecorous servility, remains enclosed within the four walls of the temple, which forgets the divine mandate received from Christ: Go forth to the street corners (Matt 22:9), teach all peoples (Matt 28:19).
Beloved sons and daughters! Spiritual heirs of an innumerable legion of confessors and martyrs!
Is this the Church whom you venerate and love? Would you recognize in such a Church the features of your Mother’s face? Can you imagine a Successor of the first Peter, who would bow to similar demands?
The Pope has the divine promises; even in his human weaknesses, he is invincible and unshakable; he is the messenger of truth and justice, the principle of the unity of the Church; his voice denounces errors, idolatries, superstitions; he condemns iniquities; he makes charity and virtue loved.
Can he [the Pope] then remain silent when in a nation the churches which are united to the center of Christendom, to Rome, are snatched away through violence or cunning; when all the Greek-Catholic bishops are imprisoned because they refuse to apostatize from their faith; when priests and the faithful are persecuted and arrested because they refuse to leave their true Mother Church?
Can the Pope remain silent, when the right to educate their own children is taken away from parents by a minority regime which wants to alienate them from Christ?
Can the Pope remain silent when a State, surpassing the limits of its authority, arrogates to itself the power to abolish dioceses, to depose Bishops, to overturn the ecclesiastical organization, and to reduce it below the minimum requirements for the effectual care of souls?
Can the Pope remain silent when the point is reached of punishing a priest with imprisonment, guilty of refusing to violate the most sacred and inviolable of secrets, the secret of sacramental confession?
Is all this perhaps illegitimate interference in the political powers of the State? Who could honestly affirm anything of the kind? Your exclamations have already given the answer to these and many other similar questions.
May the Lord God reward your fidelity, beloved sons and daughters. May He give you strength in the present and future struggles. May He make you vigilant against the attacks of His and your enemies. May He illumine with His light the minds of those whose eyes are still closed to the truth. May he grant to those hearts, which today are far from him, the grace to sincerely return to that faith and to those fraternal sentiments whose denial threatens the peace of humanity.
And now may Our lavish, paternal, and affectionate Apostolic Blessing descend upon you, the City and the World.
Sources: Speeches and Radio Messages of Pope Pius XII , X, Tenth year of his pontificate, March 2, 1948 to March 1, 1949, pp. 389-391, Vatican Polyglot Press, https://w2.vatican.va/content/pius-xii/it/speeches/1949/documents/hf_p-xii_spe_19490220_popolo-roma.html.
English translation adapted and edited from excerpts provided on the official website of Pope Pius XII’s cause for canonization.
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