Pope Pius XII and Our Lady
Rev. Matthew R. Mauriello

It is generally held by scholars that Pope Pius XII made very significant and notable contributions to Marian theology, public piety and devotion to Our Lady. He was born Eugenio Pacelli in Rome in 1877, was elected to the papacy in 1939 and died in 1958. Pius XII had a deep personal devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary and from early in his pontificate was frequent in promoting love and veneration to her among the faithful.

In the Silver Jubilee year of Our Lady's apparition at Fatima, Pope Pius XII consecrated the world to Mary's Immaculate Heart on October 31, 1942.  On May 1, 1946, he sent an encyclical letter entitled Deiparae Virginis to the bishops of the world to ask their prudent advice whether to propose the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin as a doctrine.

After assuring himself of the "universal, certain and firm consent of the Church's ordinary Magisterium" and by the Apostolic Constitution, Munificentissimus Deus, on November 1, 1950, Pius XII solemnly defined the Assumption as a dogma of faith, stating that: "the ever-virgin Mary, having completed the course of her earthly life, was assumed body and soul into heavenly glory." This feast is celebrated each year on August 15.

With the encyclical letter Fulgens Corona, promulgated September 8, 1953, Pius XII declared a Marian Year 1953-1954 in commemoration of the centenary of the declaration of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception by his predecessor, Pope Pius IX in 1854.

Pius XII was instrumental in establishing the Feast of Mary's Queenship. The liturgical Feast of Christ the King honors the kingly dignity of Jesus Christ and was established in 1925 by Pope Pius XI.  Mary's royal dignity is parallel, although subordinate, and the Feast of the Queenship of Mary was instituted by Pope Pius XII and her queenship proclaimed with the encyclical letter, Ad coeli Reginam, promulgated on October 11, 1954.

This gave doctrinal substance to an idea which recurred frequently in biblical foundations, church teaching and testimony of the Fathers, popular devotion and iconography.  References beginning from the Council of Ephesus in 431 were mentioned to testify to the royal dignity of Mary.  This feast was originally celebrated on May 31, but with the liturgical reforms of the second Vatican Council, is now celebrated on August 22, as a festive prolongation of the Feast of Mary's Assumption.

Pope Pius XII also wrote notable passages on Our Lady in his important encyclicals such as Mystici Corporis, on the Mystical Body of Christ, the Church, and in Mediator Dei, regarding the Holy Liturgy.  He canonized three saints linked with Marian devotion: St. Catherine Laboure, St. Louis Marie Montfort and St. Anthony Mary Claret.

Even after his death, his numerous writings on Our Lady have been extolled.  In the final text of the Vatican II document on Our Lady, the eighth chapter of Lumen Gentium , the Document on the Church, Pope Pius XII is quoted seven times, more than any other non-biblical or patristic author.


The above article appeared in the Fairfield County Catholic January 1996. Reprinted with permission of the author and the publisher.


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