On popular acclamation

Someone recently said to me (or did I read it somewhere?) that they can understand the cause of John XXIII and John Paul II and Mother Teresa being pushed along at the rate of knots because of popular veneration and cult (the historical way in which canonisation was driven), but they could not understand why Pius XII was being pushed for canonisation. They said that when they visited the tombs of the popes in St Peter’s, there were always flowers and crowds at the tombs of John XXIII and John Paul II, but non and no-one at that of Pius XII. There is, they said, no cult of Pius XII that would indicated a popular desire for his canonisation.

But consider these two statements:

“The position of the successor of the Prince of the Apostles held, and for many Catholic Christians still holds, a place of great veneration. During the final years of the reign of John Paul II, that veneration came alarmingly clos to a personality cult.”

“Western politicians saw John Paul II as the greatest anti-communist crusader of the day.”

I expect you would not find these two opinions overstated?

In fact, both statements come from Paul O’Shea’s book “A Cross Too Heavy”, and I did the “naughty” thing of exchanging the name of John Paul II for Pius XII, about whom O’Shea actually wrote these things. If we consider the veneration in which John Paul II is now held, and his impact on the politics of Western Europe, as a parallel to the situation in the late 50′ and early 1960’s with Pius XII, we can perhap understand why the cause for Pius’ canonisation was already begun within a few years of his death. BEFORE any of the damning accusations began to be voiced in 1963.

It is worth remembering that there WAS a cult of Pius XII (still is, in some circles) which started the process off. The fact that later accusations, and a change of tenor in the Chuch after the Second Vatican Council, changed the situation somewhat, does not change the fact that the cause had already begun, and was continued throughout the last fifty years. It was inevitable that, once begun, the process of investigation had to continue through to its conclusion as it now has. Where it goes from here is, as I have said before, in God’s hands.

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16 Comments

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16 responses to “On popular acclamation

  1. Terry Maher (Past Elder)

    Change of tenor? Soprano, alto and bass too!

    • Ah, well, you might have a point there. The image of a full choral sound rather than a single unison melody line might be a good one to distinguish the before and after Vatican II character of the Church. Same song, different setting.

  2. I for one prayed at the tomb of Pius XII when I was in Rome in January and last September.

    (And ditto for JPII.)

    I must say, I greatly enjoyed Rome: you can run from altar to altar, with relics and whole bodies of saints, blesseds and those on the way here there and everywhere. And the relics of the Passion at Santa Croce! And in St Mary Major’s, the Crib of Our Lord.

    • I kissed the relic of the True Cross at Santa Croce last Good Friday. A memorable experience, because even if they are not certifiably pieces of the actual cross on which Jesus was nailed, they are at least 1700 year old bits of wood from Jerusalem brought back by St Helena. Which is still something.

  3. We’d all still be able to enjoy the extravagant flourishes of late mediæval piety and cultus if certain revolting persons hadn’t done away with that world of faith.

  4. (Reading descriptions of the English and the Germans just on the cusp of the Reformation, whether by Catholic or Protestants, I always feel that I would have thoroughly enjoyed things as they were, and utterly detest the ruination brought by purse-lipped fanatics. The Old is better.)

    • Weeeell, things were certainly a bit messier then, before Trent tidied them all up. A bit more like the Eastern Church. I don’t know if that is quite what the Traddies want.

  5. PM

    Before the systematisation of canon law in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, saint-making was largely a matter of popular acclamation and recognition by local churches. Some of the cults spread to the local churches, but many remained local. EW Kemp’s classic study, Canonisation and Authority in the Western Church, traces the stages of the process.

  6. Christine

    Before the systematisation of canon law in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, saint-making was largely a matter of popular acclamation and recognition by local churches. Some of the cults spread to the local churches, but many remained local. EW Kemp’s classic study, Canonisation and Authority in the Western Church, traces the stages of the process.

    Exactly right.

  7. Gareth

    From what I remember, the tomb of Pius XII is only accesible on the Scavi tour whilst the other tombs are open for full public access.

    Contrary to popular opinion, Pius XII was not an aloft and sombre figure, he had great charisma and was equally adored by the people of his time as any other popular Pope.

    Youtube – Pius XII, the last Prince of God.

  8. Terry Maher (Past Elder)

    I’m embarrassed to say I wasted my time seeing any of that stuff.

    • “Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works, or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place—unless you repent.” Rev 2:4-5

  9. Terry Maher (Past Elder)

    Assumed and unexamined is an identity between the “first love” of which the book fka Apocalypse speaks, and the Catholic Church the Catholic Church the Catholic Church.

  10. Terry Maher (Past Elder)

    OMG. No it was not David; it was his use of the quotation from Apocalypse wrt me.

    Oy.