Thursday, 12 May 2011
Last year, the Vatican Archives published the first volume of the minutes of the papal audiences (fogli d'udienza) granted by Pope Pius XI (Achille Ratti) to his second Secretary of State, Cardinal Eugenio Pacelli, who was to succeed him in the papacy in 1939 as Pius XII. Pacelli served as an official in the papal Secretariat of State from 1904 to 1917, when he was named apostolic nuncio to Bavaria. After an agreement with the German state was reached in 1920, Pacelli was transferred to the newly-created nunciature of Berlin. In 1929 Pius XI summoned him to Rome to receive the cardinal's hat and the following year he was named to replace Cardinal Pietro Gasparri as Secretary of State, more or less the equivalent of a papal prime minister.
Each day the Pope received in audience one or more heads of his curial departments or their second-in-command, but the cardinal secretary of state was received daily and sometimes even on Sunday. Eugenio Pacelli imposed his own style and regimen on His Holiness' Secretariat of State. In the Vatican Archives and other archives of the Apostolic See, audience minutes were usually filed together with the matter to which they pertained. But Pacelli ordered that, after his subalterns had executed the Pope's decisions, the minutes were to be returned to his office where they were retained for reference. Even after Pacelli became Pope in March 1939, he retained the minutes of the audiences with his predecessor. After his death in 1958, they were returned to the archives of the Sacred Congregation for Extraordinary Ecclesiastical Affairs (AES- Affari Ecclesiastici Straordinari), an affiliate of the Secretariat of State that dealt with matters in which civil governments were involved.
The minutes themselves are written in Cardinal Pacelli's clear and meticulous hand, on small sheets of paper. Each has the date of the audience at the top centre of the page and each issue has a topic heading, usually indented, followed by Pacelli's account of Pius XI's decision. Pacelli often took dictation, reporting the Pope's very own words on a given subject. Many of these quotations reveal the spontaneous reaction of the typically irascible Pius XI.
Pope John Paul II declassified the first series of documents from Pius XI's pontificate (1922-1939) and Pope Benedict XVI extended this permission to most of the archival collections of the Apostolic See. In 2010, the Vatican Secret Archives published the first volume of the Pius XI-Pacelli audience minutes in its Collectanea Archivi Vaticani series, for the audiences of 1930, Pacelli's first year as papal secretary. The volume contains three important introductory articles by the archives' prefect, Bishop Sergio Pagano, it's vice-prefect, Jesuit Father Marcel Chappin, and the expert scholar, Dr. Giovanni Coco. Coco's biographical article on Pacelli's first year as Secretary of State represents the most important and accurate work on that topic to date. Among other things, with highly intuitive historical analysis, Coco chronicles the transition of power between Gasparri and Pacelli. Following the three articles, the text of the minutes proper is enriched with a rigorous historical apparatus, for instance, copious footnotes which provide background information pertaining to the persons and issues mentioned. Cross references and exhaustive quotations are also provided from correspondence mentioned but not explained in the audience minutes. This publication also contains several useful appendices including short biographies of persons mentioned in the minutes. The Vatican Archives is preparing to publish a volume each year of the audience minutes from 1931-1939.
I was fortunate enough to acquire an autographed copy of the first volume of the fogli d'udienza earlier this year. However, this morning I had a opportunity to consult the original minutes, written in Pacelli's hand, for the years 1933-1934. They are found in the AES archives, which was relocated from the Vatican Secret Archives to the Secretariat of State in December 2010. I did not find the particular reference for which I was searching, but I did stumble upon other interesting issues.
Below is a sample of the minutes from three particular audiences. These excerpts yield a glimpse of the mind of Pius XI on certain political and ecclesiastical issues of the day. His reluctance to see Göbbels certainly reflects an unease towards the emerging regime in Germany.
Papa Ratti's views were coloured by his personal experience in Poland, where he had served as apostolic visitor and nuncio (1918-1921). His 'explosion' about the Pro Russia commission was provoked by Government and ecclesiastical opposition to his Byzantine-Catholic evangelization program. Notably, Marshall Piłsudski refused to permit the creation of two Byzantine-Rite bishoprics:
Audience of 14 March 1933. Possible nomination of an auxiliary Bishop for the Lemkos. Write the nuncio to examine the issue objectively and not to trust one or the other side, since statistics are often false.
Audience of 25 March 1933. Pastoral Letter of the Bishop of Podlachia. On page 23 [he says that] the Pro Russia Commission is useless here [in Poland]. [Pius XI to Pacelli]: And You also know where the opposition is coming from (it’s the Government which even Bishops and priests are colluding with. ... These Poles think only of Polonizing and Latinizing. They don’t want to understand anything. ... Even the Bishop of Podlachia is a Pole and a chauvinist.
Audience of 13 May 1933. Possible Audience for Minister Göbbels (See the report from the Nunciature of Berlin No. 7801). The Holy Father regrets that he is unable to receive him.